Friday, August 22, 2008

New Honda Jazz: Fit enough to succeed the old one?

Hardyharhar... Lousy play on the Jazz/Fit nameplate, I know.

Anyway, if you checked the August issue of Top Gear Philippines, the second-generation Honda Jazz was their cover story. And since the Jazz's first public appearance would be at the 2nd Philippine International Motorshow, it's understandable if Drew Asuncion said nothing much about the car that wasn't part of Honda's PR release. After all, an hour's test drive around Honda Philippines' test track just isn't enough for one to become familiar, what more to become intimate, with a car's strengths and weaknesses. The few interior photos in the article also left much to be desired, at least in my case, so to address that, here are a bunch of photos (that somehow looks like they were scanned off of the sales brochure) of Honda's newly-coined Fun Utility Vehicle.

Like the first-generation Jazz, the new one will still be available with 2 types of powerplants, the 1.3L and 1.5L that produces around 99hp and 118hp respectively. Unfortunately, for those who loved the first-gen's fuel efficient i-DSI engine, that one has gone the way of the dodo bird.

The second-gen Jazz also comes in 2 variants - the "base" model S variant and the slightly more upscale V variant. The S variant rides on 15-inch wheels and comes with black/blue upholstery while the V variant comes with 16-inch wheels and has an all-black cabin. To differentiate the 2 variants, among other things, the 1.5 comes with turn signal light-equipped mirrors and gets twin tailpipes while the 1.3 makes do with just one.

In today's iPod-friendly generation, the Jazz's in-car audio system features an integrated CD player with MP3 support, as well as an aux input for the said iPod. But the fact that the system looks integrated into the dash could be a problem for those who're looking to replace it with an aftermarket head unit.

And of course, since the Jazz's practicality is one of the prime reasons it became such a runaway hit, the same aspect was definitely not neglected by the engineers behind this, well, practical machine. For one thing, for a small car, the Jazz has 10 cupholders. Now THAT's a lot of cups for a car that sits just 5. Other amenities include a dual glovebox, a front console box, an underseat box under the left rear seat, convenience hooks and a 337-liter cargo capacity that can easily become 346-liters if the rear shelf covering the cargo are is removed. Too bad, thought, that a front arm rest isn't available.

The first-gen Jazz's ULT (Utility, Long, and Tall) seats still soldiers on with the second-gen model, although it's been redesigned to be provide more comfort. And that's a good thing because one main gripe I had with the previous model is that, on long drives, the seats started to feel like lightly padded bench seats - the price you have to pay for the Jazz's utility features.

On the safety side, the Jazz's front brake diameter has also been increased by an inch while the rear brakes have also been upgraded to discs. Anti-lock brake systems are now also standard across both variants, as well as dual SRS airbags.

A significant change that Drew pointed out was that the second-gen Jazz won't have the CVT transmission anymore and will just be available with either a manual gearbox or a 5-speed conventional automatic transmission. According to Drew's article, it's because of the Jazz owners "who prioritize power over fuel efficiency" while another source says that, based on Honda's study, a conventional automatic is the best choice for the Philippine market where a typical driving experience involves a combination of city and highway driving whereas the CVT is best suited to just pure city driving.

Hmmm, now that sounds plausible enough. And definitely a lot more believable than that "prioritizing power over fuel efficiency" schtick which really just sounds like an amateur PR spin to hype up the Jazz. Because with today's fuel crisis and with Honda's target market for the Jazz - the nameplate that served as the steed of choice for Petron's Xtra Mile Challenge winners for so many times - being the budget- and utility-conscious buyer, is power really a priority over fuel efficiency? Puhleeze...

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