The recently-launched third-generation Honda Jazz has already captured the imagination of the Malaysian public, and with good reason – sporty new looks, a cabin that’s as spacious and as flexible as ever, a fuel efficient engine and drivetrain package and competitive pricing and specifications.
Of course, as detailed as these may be, there is still much that can be learnt about the new car that cannot be gleaned from poring over a brochure. Honda Malaysia arranged an interview with Assistant Large Project Leader for the new Honda Jazz, Daisuke Uragami, for us to ask our most burning questions regarding the latest B-segment fighter.
The new Jazz looks much sportier than the friendly-looking previous generation, both inside and out. Why was such a drastic change in styling made, and how has the new look been received by customers so far?
If you recall, the first- and second-generation Jazz had bigger headlights, which made them look cuter. Those models were primarily designed for the Japanese market in mind, but for the third-generation model we wanted to expand its appeal to cater for broader markets. The feedback from global studies suggested that the previous faces were actually too cute and feminine, so we gave the new Jazz a more masculine image.
When we first introduced the new model in Japan last year, we were a little afraid that we would alienate traditional buyers, particularly females and the older generation. However, we were surprised that we have been able to sell over 200,000 units so far in Japan, and the feedback from the customers in Japan has also been very good.
Higher-end models of the Jazz get touch controls for both the infotainment system and the climate controls. Were there any concerns regarding the functionality and the safety of such controls, and what has Honda done to address these issues?
In terms of the layout of the infotainment controls, we moved all the main buttons to the right-hand side closer to the driver, so you can operate them even without looking at them while driving. The audio controls on the steering wheel also enable you to control the system without lifting your hands off the steering wheel.
As far as we can tell, the new Jazz does not come with an ECON mode or cruise control for the Malaysian market. Could you share with us why these features have been removed? Were there studies done on Malaysian driving styles that led to such a decision being made?
This is more to do with the position of the product in the Malaysian market. Of course, we do study the usability of the model locally, and from there we thought that the current specification of the new Jazz is the best package that we could offer for the Malaysian market.
When we drove the Jazz in Thailand last month, we found that the new car rode slightly firmer and had more responsive handling than the City. Has there been any changes in suspension and/or steering tuning compared to the City?
Yes, there have been changes compared to the City, a little bit on the stiffer side.
Why does the ASEAN-market Jazz not get the direct-injected 1.5 litre engine that the Japanese-market model gets? Are there plans to introduce this type of engine in the ASEAN market at some point in the future?
As we have said, we are looking for the best overall package in the market segment, and the current engine is the most suitable for local driving conditions.
The development of the direct injection engine for each region is being carried out, but at the moment we cannot mention when exactly will we introduce the engine to the Malaysian market.
The Jazz’s Ultra Seats aren’t available on the rest of Honda’s products. The City doesn’t have them, and neither does the Vezel. Is there a reason why they are exclusive to the Jazz?
The Ultra Seats require requires the fuel tank to be positioned in the centre of the car, something only the Jazz has.
The new Jazz has a few accessory packages such as aerokits available as cost options. How crucial do you think they will be for the car’s sales?
The Jazz has been very popular among the younger generation who liked to soup up their cars, and there were a lot of aftermarket parts to cater for these people, and we felt it was a lost opportunity [that we did not sell any tuning parts]. This time around, we are offering a Modulo kit as well as a Mugen kit for the first time, and while they may not be cheap, they are approved by Honda.
The unique part is that these kits are part of the Jazz’s price list itself, so they can be included in the car loan. Hence, for each monthly payment, the buyer would only have to pay about RM40-RM50 more for these kits.