Honda Jazz hybrid engines, drive & performance

Choppy ride and decent-yet-dull handling let down the Honda Jazz hybrid's fantastic powertrain

Honda Jazz Crosstar
0-62mph Top speed Driven wheels Power
9.4-9.9s 108-109mph Front 108bhp

The biggest and most significant development with the latest Jazz is its high-tech hybrid drivetrain – a rare sight in the supermini class. The Jazz uses a 1.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine connected to a pair of electric motors. The first actively drives the wheels, while the second, a generator motor, converts engine power into electricity before feeding it to the first motor. Total output is a modest 108bhp.

Three drive modes are provided to make the most of the drivetrain: EV Drive, Hybrid Drive and Engine Drive. The first, predictably, allows for all-electric running over short distances, while Hybrid Drive sees the petrol engine supply power to one motor, which then powers the second. Engine drive mode allows the petrol engine to take over completely, connected directly to the front wheels.

In practice, the system feels slick and well engineered. Performance isn’t blistering, but it doesn’t need to be: instead, the clever drivetrain is refined and can switch between modes without much fuss. The standard CVT gearbox has been engineered with steps in its delivery, in an attempt to tackle the characteristic, counterintuitive flare in revs without extra forward progress that some lesser units suffer from. On the move, the Jazz is generally smooth, relaxed and quiet; even if you pin the throttle, the engine remains pretty imperceptible.

Honda Jazz hybrid 0-62mph, top speed and acceleration

The Jazz isn't about speed and that shows in its middling performance figures: 0-62mph takes the best part of 10 seconds and top speed, although not entirely relevant, is 108mph. There’s enough torque on hand for adequate acceleration once you’re up and running, however, and the Jazz feels sprightly enough around town.

Handling

The chassis is what lets the Jazz down most on the mechanical side; choppy suspension means ride quality isn’t as good as it should be, while the poise and fun factor offered by cars like the Ford Fiesta is missing. The Jazz still handles tidily and if you’re not pushing it hard it’ll be a pleasant enough companion. Larger lumps and bumps upset the car’s composure however; it’s worth taking a test drive to see how you feel about the car’s ride and handling.