Road Impressions – Honda Jazz Sport

The business of motor makers is to sell cars. This we know. In order to do that, they use emotive wording such as ‘Sport’ as a descriptor to entice and intrigue buyers; a word often misused in auto marketing efforts and one that potentially can turn around to bite them in the rear.

The Honda Jazz is something of an enigma on the local market. It has been around for quite a few years and comes with the enviable Honda ethos of superior build quality, refinement and reliability – yet, where it should have been a shoe-in for corporate fleets as well as company car and allowance buyers, it just never quite cracked the nod.

Admittedly, not being a local manufacturer meant Honda South Africa was fully immersed in the currency game, trying to dodge the effects of a devaluing Rand and keep its pricing competitive. Not an easy task.

The Jazz then became a favourite among female buyers, particularly private buyers, because of all those good traits – but it also began to get the reputation of being a ‘girly’ car.

Enter the Jazz Sport.

Known as the Jazz/Fit RS in some markets it is the car that was popularised in the Gran Turismo 6 Video Game and gained an almost cult-like status in the process.

In South Africa, the Jazz Sport is the new flagship of the range, replacing the Dynamic derivatives and is powered by new engine, although available only with an upgraded, specially adapted Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT).

The Jazz Sport has a wider, lower stance thanks to substantial, aerodynamically inspired styling changes front and rear.

The new front-end of the Jazz Sport features a sleeker grille design with gloss piano black and chrome elements, framed by slim LED headlights with LED daytime running lights. Gloss-black exterior mirror housings are standard.

An all-new, sculpted front bumper is home to integrated fog lamps with black surrounds, while a new, more prominent front splitter with red pin striping adds further, Type R-inspired appeal.

The aerodynamic theme continues with smoothly sculpted sill extensions between the front and rear wheel arches, while the 16-inch Berlina black alloy wheels, shod with 185/50 R16 tyres, also serve to emphasise the Jazz Sport’s character.

The rear has also been reimagined with the addition of a bold rear spoiler, as well as a three-strake diffuser with an upper trim line mirroring the same red detailing as the front splitter.

The Jazz Sport’s black-hued cockpit has been revised to match the more extrovert exterior treatment.

The Type R-inspired red accent theme is carried over to the interior, encompassing red stitching on the seats, the console-mounted armrest and the leather-trimmed steering wheel.

Sport pedals are fitted as standard, while the upgraded audio system features six loudspeakers. Also reminiscent of the Type R is the pushbutton start system and smart, keyless entry system.

The ‘Magic Seat’ system remains a vital feature and is central to the Jazz’s space utilisation and overall versatility. The 359-litre boot can be extended to 889 litres by folding the split rear bench seat down.

As the new flagship of the range, the Jazz Sport features an extensive array of standard luxury, convenience and safety features. A new, soft-padded dashboard adds a touch of sophistication to the interior’s sporty aura.

Comprehensive instrumentation is augmented by a seven-inch touchscreen display that controls the infotainment system – including a CD receiver with six loudspeakers, Bluetooth-driven hands-free telephony and USB and HDMI connections. It is also linked to the rear-view camera.

Also standard are multifunction controls on the leather-trimmed steering wheel, a centre armrest, height-adjustable driver’s seat and electrically adjustable and folding exterior mirrors finished in gloss black.

The Jazz Sport is fitted with power windows front and rear, as well as cruise control, automatic air-conditioning, a tilt and reach-adjustable steering wheel and rear parking sensors as standard.

No question then that it looks the part, that is looks like it owns the ‘Sport’ descriptor.

The four-cylinder, dual overhead camshaft 1,5-litre engine is exclusive to this model in the Jazz line-up, and makes use of direct injection and intelligent variable valve timing and lift. Maximum power output is 97 kW at 6 600 r/min, with an accompanying torque peak of 155 Nm at 4 600 r/min.

Interestingly, the power output is identical to that of the Ballade 160i DOHC, 160E and CR-X performance models of the 1990s.

The retuned suspension with revised damper settings, a more rigid steering rack and additional body reinforcement result in a handling package that is more responsive without compromising comfort, while uprated braking system features rear discs instead of the drums fitted as standard to other Jazz models.

 Does it deserve the ‘Sport’ descriptor?

Let me deal with the negative first – I am not a fan of CVT gearboxes at all and certainly not in a car wanting to be a sporty performer. Modern auto box technology has moved so far, it is difficult to understand the corporate thinking behind this decision.

That said, it is a perky little thing and rushes about enthusiastically when asked to do so. For more serious press on motoring, drivers will probably (need to!) opt for manual mode using the paddles on the steering to get the best out of the car.

Moreover, it has much to offer – handling like a go-kart, it points accurately into corners and there is always the feeling it would really like to go much quicker. The tweaked suspension keeps all four wheels firmly planted even with rapid directional changes, while the rear disc brakes add a vital confidence factor to stopping the car from pace.

The Jazz Sport has anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution (EBD) as well as Emergency Stop Signal (ESS), Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) and Hill Start Assist (HSA).

Passive safety is served by an Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body shell that ensures optimised crash safety and passenger safety cell integrity, augmented by six SRS air bags comprising front, side and curtain air bags.

The price tag includes a 5-year/200 000 km warranty and a 4-year/60 000 km service plan, as well as a three-year AA Roadside Assistance package. Services are at 15 000 km intervals.

The Jazz Sport is a lot of fun and I enjoyed my brief time with the car – just that CVT gearbox!


The old and the new

Things are revving up for for the second running of the South Coast Bike Fest – being held from April 27 to April 30 – in Margate with more than 60 000 visitors expected for the music, food and, of course, the motorcycles.

Some 50 pristine examples of classic motorcycles will be on display at the Classic Open Stand.

The event is presented by Ugu South Coast Tourism with endorsement and support from Ugu District and Ray Nkonyeni Municipalities. The South Coast Motorcycle and Car Club has once again agreed to lend its support to the show.

“We are really excited to be a part of the South Coast Bike Fest for a second consecutive year,” says Rod Thomas, chairman of the Classic Motorcycle Club of Natal. “It provides our club with a great opportunity to showcase what we do while also giving the public a chance to appreciate the beauty of these incredible machines.”

Although the categories are fairly fluid and tend to differ from country to country, there are essentially three biking terminologies used:

Veteran motorcycle – built before 1915

Vintage motorcycle – built before 1975

Classic motorcycle –  20 years or older

Collector and one of the founding members of the Motorcycle Club of Natal, Hank Raatgever, will be featuring two of his classic bikes at this year’s show (from a collection of about 20) – the 1931 Norton and either the 1929 AJS or 1961 Velocette.

“In 1965 I rode my Honda 150cc all the way from Rhodesia to Durban,” recalled the Gillitts resident. “I needed to have transport at university and I thought what better way to get the bike to Durban?”

A journey of just under 1 700 kilometres on a motorcycle sparked a love affair with the machines that has seen the electronics engineer acquire, fix and sell numerous classic bikes over the years.

“There is something about being in the open air, exposed to the elements with no visual restrictions that is just so freeing. It’s the closest thing I can get to flying,” he says “The South Coast Bike Fest is a great chance to expose the younger generations to the joys of the motorcycle.”

Raatgever’s Norton has been fixed up and ridden in several DJ Runs – the annual Durban to Johannesburg rallies – as has the AJS which he displayed last year. He acquired the Velocette a year ago and is hoping to have it in full working condition by April.

Fellow club member, Andrew Mather, has selected two beauties from his 35-strong motorcycle collection – the 1908 Triumph and the 1955 Sunbeam – to feature. Although he is kept busy with a full-time job as a civil engineer, the Durban North resident manages to find time to work on his classic bikes, sourcing parts online or crafting those where he can.

“The Triumph 1908 has limited suspension, no gear box and can only go one speed – maxing out at 30km/h,” explained Mather. “It’s not very practical to ride because you have to switch off the engine whenever you stop, and to start it again, you have to run alongside it until it fires!”

Despite it’s limitations, Mather managed to ride the Triumph 1908 in a Century Run – where the combined age of biker and bike must be at least 100 years – across 290 kilometres, taking 11,5 hours with Mather consuming four-and-a-half litres of water.

Mather also boasts the 1910, 1912 and 1914 Triumphs in his collection but has selected his father’s old motorcycle, the 1955 Sunbeam, to display.

“This was seen as the ‘Rolls Royce’ of motorcycles back in the day but it was a bit of a disaster because it was built with incompatible materials so most of them were scrapped.”

This bike was one of three motorcycles Mather brought with him from Malawi in 1981 when his family emigrated to South Africa, the other two – a 1955 AJS and 1952 BSA – are still in his possession.

The 2018 edition is set to build on the success of 2017 with an even more action-packed line-up of entertainment, tasty cuisine, coastal bars and brilliant biking displays. Some of the highlights include:

  • Stunt shows and Powasol Enduro X in the Energy Zone Arena.
  • Top musical acts at the Jack Daniels Village Pier Rock Stage and Main Beach Stage.
  • Quality fashion shows and Miss South Coast Bike Fest™.
  • A range of food options in the pop-up food villages.
  • A selection of seaside bars.
  • Various parades and outrides including the mass ride.

All bikers and pillions are urged to pre-register online for #freefunseeker tickets which gives free access to the entire event precinct including the main stage featuring all the headline artist performances.

All non-biking pedestrians will be charged a nominal fee of R60 a day, which provides access to the event precinct including the three main beach festival stages, beachfront boulevard themed bars, street entertainment, demo rides, trader and expo zones, stunt shows, food courts, EnduroX staging arenas and all associated motorcycle enthusiast festival activations. For another R150, #fuelyourfun ticket holders can access the Main Beach Stage Golden Circle.

@scbikefest @SCBikeFest @sagmj


Images: Justin Klusener & Colin Windell

Tested – Honda Civic 1.5T Sport CVT

The very first Honda Ballade launched in South Africa was a long-bonnet ugly beast with the handling characteristics of a blancmange pudding.

The next iteration was a wondrous revelation and, I believe, set the course for pretty much all Japanese-built Hondas from then on. It was perfectly proportioned, sat square and confident on the road and – most importantly – because you could clearly see both front corners, the ideal point and squirt gymkhana car.

Moving forward to the latest generation of the Honda Civic – the ninth in the series – that sense of proportion (and the fact the front corners are clearly visible) carries through, even in a much more modern design style.

Either cars tug at the heartstrings or they do not. Liking them is a purely emotive reaction and no amount of design-speak will change that. I like the look. A lot. Well, more than a lot…

The Civic 1.5T Sport is not, and never will be, a Golf GTI muncher. It was not designed or intended to take on the hot hatches. Rather its intention is to provide just enough to make the corpuscles break into a gallop when asked, yet take cognisance of fuel efficiency and daily traffic grind needs to pootle along in Eco mode.

In aiming for high levels of design and comfort, the challenge for Honda engineers was to combine a sleek and aerodynamic exterior with D-segment levels of spaciousness and comfort.

Its styling carefully reflects a low silhouette for a four-door sedan, creating the overall impression of a sleek sports coupé.

This gives the Honda sedan a more aggressive, athletic and dynamic appearance, while also creating more interior room compared to the outgoing model. Overall, the wheelbase has been increased by 30 mm, and the total length by 109 mm, while the height has been lowered by 20 mm.

The reduced height and the more dynamic aesthetic appeal also translate into a lower centre of gravity for greater on-road stability, boosting cornering confidence and encouraging sporty, engaging driving.

Advanced full LED headlights and LED daytime running lights are fitted to the 1,5-litre Turbo models for the first time while, at the rear, the Civic’s characteristic bracketed tail light design has been re-interpreted with eye-catching LED light bars on either side.

The Civic’s interior treatment embodies Honda’s ‘Daring ACE Design’ concept, combining high-quality materials with an ergonomically intuitive centre console and a sporty yet comfortable driving position.

The uncluttered interior design features extensive use of attractive soft touch and accent materials that heighten the sense of premium quality. On an ergonomic level, it offers refined, user-friendly access to the various controls.

Overall, Honda has managed significantly to reduce noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) to achieve high levels of on-road quietness.

Leather seats (heated in front) are standard on all but the entry-level model and the steering wheel offers tilt and telescopic adjustment.

Rear-seat knee space has increased by 55 mm, along with further gains in shoulder room for the rear occupants. Boot capacity has also improved by 20%.

One of the new features is the advanced interface provided by the high-resolution, 7-inch- WVGA LCD display that forms the centrepiece for the digital audio system. The expansive IPS display can be viewed from both driver and passenger seats and the air-conditioning can also be operated on the display panel.

The system enables connection with numerous smartphone functions, including maps for ease of navi operation. This makes it the most convenient and connected Civic ever.

Honda’s first-ever 1.5 VTEC Turbo engine produces 127 kW of maximum power at 5 500 r/min, along with 220 Nm of maximum torque – the latter available in a broad range between 1 700 r/min and 5 500 r/min.

These outputs are comparable to a 2,4-litre naturally aspirated engine, but offer the equivalent fuel economy of a Honda Jazz. The engine achieves Euro4 emission requirements, making it one of the most environmentally friendly engines in its class.

With an engine bore pitch of only 80 mm, this unit is extremely compact, and achieves a substantial weight reduction compared to a conventional naturally aspirated engine.

In line with Honda’s ‘Earth Dreams Technology’, it is paired with a new series of CVT gearboxes as standard.

Even though it is one of the better CVT gearboxes around, I really wish Honda would look at a ‘proper’ automatic gearbox along the lines of Volkswagen’s DSG or the Porsche PDK.

However, this combination achieves a combined cycle fuel consumption of 5,9 l/100 km for the 1.5 VTEC Turbo when run in Eco Mode. Switching over to Sport mode does kick this up to 6,3 l/100 km or 7,9 l/100 if full hooligan mode is used.

Underpinning the Civic is a lightweight, low-inertia and high-rigidity platform. Through the expanded use of ACE technology and high-tensile materials, significant improvements have been achieved in the dynamic performance, handling and safety of the new model, while reducing the body weight by 22 kg.

The front MacPherson strut and rear multilink suspension systems have been newly designed, including the addition of a sub-frame to the rear. Linked to the increases in body and chassis rigidity, the new platform ensures substantial performance and safety improvements.

Steering technology adopts dual-pinion electric power steering (EPS) to create a linear and smooth feel with an integral sense of security. This is further enhanced with the adoption of a variable ratio that adjusts constantly according to the driver inputs and driving conditions – thereby giving the driver the perfect balance between high-speed stability and low-speed agility and responsiveness.

It works. All too often ‘nanny’ systems in modern cars are irritatingly intrusive and on brisker drives actually detract from the driving experience.

 On the Civic, the Agile Handling Assist (AHA) feature is integrated with the Civic’s EPS and vehicle control systems to facilitate driving enjoyment, as well as overall control and stability.

AHA anticipates a loss of control during cornering and helps to prevent it by continuously modulating brake and throttle inputs in small, imperceptible increments to assist overall driver control. For the average driver, if this kicks in you have exceeded the limits of your ability anyway.

An additional safety net is provided by means of the Vehicle Stability Control, which is standard on all models, incorporating Hill Start Assist, along with anti-lock brakes and electronic brake force distribution (EBD).

All models are equipped with dual front, side and curtain airbags, complemented with a reverse camera and rear parking sensors on all but the base model.

The recommended retail pricing includes a 5-year/200 000 km warranty, a 5-year/90 000 km service plan, as well as three years of AA Roadside Assistance.

Key Facts

Engine:             1 498 cc

Power:              127 kW @ 5 500 r/min

Torque:             120 Nm from 1 700 r/min

0-100:               8,2 sec

Top Speed:       194 km/h

Boot:                424 litres

Tank:                47 litres