Previewed last month, the 2017 Honda Jazz facelift has just been officially launched at the KL Convention Centre. This midlife ‘minor change’ comes three years after the third-generation GK made its debut here in 2014. It also sees the return of the Jazz Hybrid to our shores.

Let’s start with the new Jazz Hybrid. Malaysia is the only market outside of Japan to get the hybrid variant of the Jazz, and Honda Malaysia (HM) officials say that this is due to our country’s Energy Efficient Vehicle (EEV) incentives as well as high market acceptance of hybrid cars.

Honda was a hybrid pioneer when launching the Civic Hybrid here 10 years ago, and the 2011-2013 “golden era” of tax-free CBU hybrids saw the company introduce the Insight, CR-Z, Civic Hybrid and Jazz Hybrid in Malaysia. The latter was also sold as a CKD model in 2012, when it became the first locally assembled hybrid car. By the end of 2013, Honda had 55% share of the local hybrid market, before the tax-free CBU hybrid window closed.

Now, the market is dominated by premium brands and their plug-in hybrids, and HM sees an opportunity in offering an affordable hybrid model. The company raised its hands, so to speak, in wanting this model.

Enter the new Jazz Hybrid powered by a Sport Hybrid i-DCD system, which stands for Intelligent Dual-Clutch Drive. The i-DCD, which replaces Honda’s original Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system, consists of a 1.5 litre petrol engine, a seven-speed (dry) dual-clutch automatic transmission with integrated electric motor, and a lithium-ion battery. The system also includes an electric servo brake system (improved energy regeneration) and an electric driven compressor.

The engine isn’t the one in the regular Jazz, but a unique Atkinson cycle DOHC i-VTEC unit with 110 PS and 134 Nm of torque at 5,000 rpm. Combined with a 30 PS/160 Nm motor, the system produces a combined 137 PS and 170 Nm of torque.

In contrast, the 1.5L petrol Jazz is powered by a SOHC i-VTEC engine with 120 PS at 6,600 rpm and 145 Nm at 4,600 rpm. The Hybrid’s electric motor provides all its torque from rest, which should translate to significantly improved performance over the petrol car.

Honda says that the Jazz Hybrid’s i-DCD produces 1.8 litre NA levels of power (Civic 1.8 makes 141 PS) while returning claimed fuel consumption of 4.0 litres per 100 km. That’s 25 km/l, versus the 17.2 km/l for the 1.5L petrol. Compared to the old IMA-powered Jazz Hybrid with a Ni-MH battery, this one has two times the output and 1.5 times the energy capacity in a smaller and lighter package. It also has the IMA with Li-ion package (CR-Z facelift and FB Civic Hybrid) beat.

Reliability is a main Malaysian concern when it comes to hybrids, and Honda is confident that the Jazz Hybrid can withstand Malaysian usage. This confidence is from two years of real world testing in Malaysia over various roads and conditions (over 7,000 km) that are unique to our country. According to the car’s Japanese project leaders, such unique situations include heavy traffic jams with constant stop-start traffic (they joined a Hari Raya balik kampung exodus) and trips to Genting Highlands.

Keen car industry observers might remember that the dual-clutch system encountered some problems in its home market in 2014 and was recalled. Honda set out to improve the robustness and reliability of the system, and the lessons learnt from the demanding tests in Malaysia was incorporated into the improved i-DCD.

So, not only do we get a gearbox that has been refined to our unique requirements (“sportier gear ratios” compared to the original), Japan gets a more robust system too – JDM and Malaysian cars share the same hardware and tuning.

Unlike IMA cars, the Jazz Hybrid fires up in EV mode without the engine, which kicks in when needed. There’s no button to force the issue, but EV mode is possible at speeds of up to 80 km/h (engine always on in IMA except when idle) and when driving gently at 40-50 km/h, the Jazz can travel one to two kilometres without the engine. The electric compressor feeds on the Li-ion battery, which means that the air con continues to run when the car is idle (engine stopped), which is not the case with IMA.

Powertrain performance aside, the Jazz Hybrid promises a sportier drive over the petrol. It comes with a “performance rod” for better stiffness, unique spring/damper rates and quicker steering (14.7 vs 16.7 ratio). The hybrid model also gets added insulation behind the dashboard.

The Jazz Hybrid may steal the headlines, but it’s the regular Jazz 1.5L Petrol that will take the lion’s share of sales. As mentioned, it’s powered by a SOHC i-VTEC engine with 120 PS at 6,600 rpm and 145 Nm at 4,600 rpm, the same engine under the hood of sedan sister City. The transmission is an Earth Dreams CVT automatic, with paddle shifters in the top V grade.

Speaking of grades, there are three for the petrol like before – S, E and V. The Hybrid is sold in a single grade and largely shares the same specs as the E, with the addition of some hybrid-only items such as the unique meter panel with hybrid displays (energy flow, Sport meter, Eco display) a different gear selector (S button switches to sporty shift logic, kills off EV mode) and cruise control.

Previously, the entry S stood out with its steel wheels and caps. Now, it gets the same (new design) 15-inch alloys as the E and Hybrid, as well as keyless entry with push start. There’s also a “standard audio” non-touchscreen integrated factory head unit, replacing the old single-DIN unit. These upgrades mirror those of the City S facelift.

The mid-spec E gets some equipment from above, too. The previously V-only touch panel auto air con and 6.8-inch touchscreen “display audio” head unit with phone buttons are now here, and the airbag count is up to four from two with the addition of side airbags. As before VSA and Hill Start Assist are standard from the E onwards.

The top V gains part leather seats, cruise control and steering paddle shifters. As before, the V is the only Jazz to have 16-inch alloys, six airbags (including side and curtain), turn signals on the power retractable wing mirrors, leather on the steering and gear knob, and six speakers.

Click to enlarge

There are some new-to-Jazz features as well, and they are the ECON button (standard), LED daytime running lights (from the E), multi-angle reverse camera (from E) and cruise control (Hybrid and V). No LED headlamps as per the City V – halogen reflectors are standard issue. Like Thailand, we don’t get the rear LED light bars of the JDM car – the rear lamp clusters are unchanged.

The Jazz petrol is available in five colours – Lunar Silver Metallic, Tafetta White, Carnival Red, Modern Steel Metallic and Crystal Black Pearl. Lunar Silver Metallic made its Malaysian debut with the Civic FC, and is new for the Jazz. The Hybrid can be had in Lunar Silver Metallic, Modern Steel Metallic and White Orchid Pearl – the latter is new to the Jazz and exclusive to the Hybrid for a RM300 premium.

The Jazz facelift range starts from RM74,800 for the S, rising to RM81,000 for the E. The range-topping petrol V is yours for RM88,400. The Jazz Hybrid meanwhile retails for RM87,500 (CKD Jazz Hybrid was launched in 2012 for RM90k), which makes it the most affordable hybrid car in Malaysia. HM targets sales of 150 units per month for the Hybrid.

Prices are on-the-road with insurance. There are accessory packages available, as seen in the image above, although the Mugen pack isn’t available until October. By the way, compared to the pre-facelift, the S is priced at RM1,000 more, the E’s price has been maintained, while the V’s price is RM1,000 lower. As detailed above, all grades get more equipment.

The usual Honda Malaysia warranty of five years/unlimited mileage applies. The Jazz Hybrid gets an eight-year unlimited mileage warranty for its hybrid battery, and the battery’s cost isn’t exorbitant at RM5,500 should it need replacement outside of the warranty.

GALLERY: Honda Jazz 1.5L V


GALLERY: Honda Jazz Hybrid

GALLERY: Honda Jazz Mugen accessories prototype