Honda has created the first hybrid supermini with a new eco version of its Jazz, says Andy Russell.

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If Honda wanted to get the message across about the new green version of its Jazz supermini it certainly succeeded.

With its lurid lime green metallic paint, the new Jazz Hybrid positively glowed like some mysterious energy source, but there is nothing mysterious about its power supply.

Its launch coincides with a mild mid-life makeover and suspension and engine tweaks for the popular Jazz – consistently the UK’s third best-selling supermini. The Jazz becomes Honda’s fourth hybrid following the old Civic and the current Insight family hatchback and CR-Z coupe and the world’s first hybrid supermini.

The Jazz Hybrid becomes the new flagship of the range, sitting above the 1.2 and 1.4-litre petrol models, and uses the same powertrain as the Insight – a 1.3-litre petrol engine with a CVT automatic gearbox and electric motor sandwiched between.

The Jazz Hybrid does not have an ‘electric vehicle’ mode but under certain low-speed conditions can run on electric motor alone but it is more a case it being there to work in tandem with the engine, so reducing load on it to save fuel and cut emissions hence why Honda calls it Integrated Motor Assist.

In the smaller Jazz it performs well with decent acceleration and cruises comfortably at 70mph. The standard CVT gearbox, now also a £1,000 option on 1.4-litre models, makes light work of city driving but put your foot down hard and the engine becomes unpleasantly vocal. Fortunately paddles behind the steering wheel allow the gearbox to be used manually with seven set ratios which I found a better option for getting the revs up to overtake.

I never set out to maximise economy from the Jazz – but used the ‘econ’ button, which puts the Jazz into ‘super economy’ by adjusting the management system, in the city but switching it off on the open road and keeping my foot on the brake pedal when stopped so the engine cut out – and was pleasantly surprised to get a respectable 55mpg overall. To help promote economical driving Eco Assist alters the backlighting of the speedo from green to blue as you put your foot down harder.

The Jazz’s suspension has been tweaked to refine the ride and improve handling and further fine-tuned for the Hybrid which is 70kg heavier. The Jazz is not a car you are going to throw around and will not attract that kind of owner. The ride is supple and composed around town but can be a little bouncy at speed on poor roads while the handling is safe and predictable although the light steering, a boon when parking, lacks feel when driving fast.

The real selling point of the Jazz is its versatile, spacious cabin. There’s enough head and legroom in the back for large adults not to feel the squeeze but it’s when you want to carry loads that the Jazz really ticks the boxes. With the drive batteries for the electric motor tucked away in the back of the car, the Hybrid has the smallest boot of any Jazz and doesn’t have the two-tier system – standard on the 1.4 – but it’s still a useful 300 litres and easy to load with the floor level with the load sill. The clever 60/40 split rear seats see the cushions fold forward and the backs drop flat to give 883 litres to the window line and 1,320 to the roof. But the Jazz’s trump card is the ability to store soft bags under the back seats and flip the cushion upright against the seat back to stand tall items in the rear footwells.

The cabin is well finished, but there’s a lot of hard plastic. Tall or short, the driving position has all the adjustment you’ll need, clear instruments and an huge, big-buttoned audio system but I found the series of heating and ventilation controls stacked to the left of the steering wheel rather fussy and not intuitive.

Available in HE, HS and HX trim levels, the Jazz Hybrid has decent equipment and safety kit, especially the top two specifications, with the range-topping HX including leather upholstery and a huge panoramic glass roof.

It’s no surprise Honda has increased its environmentally-responsible image by introducing the Jazz Hybrid but it’s not cheap. Even the entry-level model is £15,995 – the same price as the range-topping 1.4 EX model with the optional CVT gearbox and more kit. Even if you opt for a normal 1.2 or 1.4 petrol-engined manual model you’re going to get around 50mpg.

So it’s a case of paying the price of being green but there will always be those willing to do so and, to some extent, the cost will be offset by the Jazz’s strong resale values.

HONDA JAZZ 1.3 i-VTEC HX HYBRID CVT

Price: £17,995 (hybrid range from £15,995; Jazz from £11,295)

Power units: 1,339cc, 88PS four-cylinder petrol engine and 14PS electric motor assisting the engine

Performance: 0-62mph 12.3 seconds; top speed 109mph

MPG: Urban 61.4; extra urban 64.2; combined 62.8

CO2 emissions: 104g/km

Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 10pc

Insurance group: 16 (out of 50)

Warranty: Three years or 90,000 miles; IMA (integrated motor assist) five years

Will it fit in the garage? Length 3,900mm; width (including door mirrors) 2,029mm; height (including aerial) 1,655mm.

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