We own a Honda Jazz that’s now about 8 years old and going strong. It’s perfect for around town, nippy, with a great turning circle and good petrol consumption. It has a modest 1.3 litre engine.
Each year Honda ring me and ask me to test drive their latest vehicle. This year they offered a chance to win a new car or some petrol vouchers, so even though we have no intention of buying I took the new 2013 Honda Jazz Hybrid for a 45 minute test drive.
I was impressed, so I thought I’d write about it.
In Wellington you need a car that can handle hills and narrow winding roads. In any city a car will have to handle stop signs, traffic lights and queues of cars. I have no idea how much petrol is wasted when idling at the lights or in a queue, but it must mount up.
The thing is, the Hybrid Jazz effectively has 2 sources of motive power: a petrol engine for the main part and a battery that helps out.
If you need some extra power, for example, when going up a hill, the battery kicks in to lend a hand. A display on the dash shows power going from the battery to the car, while power is also going from the petrol engine to the car.
That makes the car very zippy. It certainly went up Wellington’s hills more speedily than our current Jazz does. I also noticed it when I put my foot down on the straight. In our current car that tends to mean a bit of a pause and then a little extra speed. The Hybrid just got on with the job in the way our bigger and more powerful 2.4 litre Mazda does.
On the other hand, the car feeds the battery when the car brakes, so you never have to actively plug in to a source of electricity to charge the battery:
The theory behind IMA is to use regenerative braking to recapture some of the energy lost through deceleration, and reuse that energy later on to help accelerate the vehicle. This has two effects: it increases the rate of acceleration, and it reduces the work required of the petrol engine. The acceleration boost is important as it allows the engine to be scaled down to a smaller but more fuel-efficient variant while retaining the power of a traditional engine. This smaller engine is the primary reason cars equipped with IMA get better highway mileage than their more conventional counterparts.
Then there’s the thing the dealer warned me about before I drove off. Luckily, or I may have thought the car had a major defect. When you stop and keep your foot on the brake the petrol engine, already very quiet, cuts out. However, the moment you take your foot off the brake it cuts back in.
It doesn’t take seconds as when you start the car from scratch, but is instant. It’s more like you’ve
paused the engine while the car’s standing still.
Additionally, vehicles equipped with IMA can shut off their engine when the vehicle stops and use the electric motor to rapidly spin it back up when the driver releases the brake pedal. They also have a conventional starter as a backup, making it the only production petrol/electric hybrid system that can operate with its high voltage electric system disabled, using only its engine like a traditional vehicle.
As Honda’s web page points out, the subtleties of power savings and lowered emissions are more complex than I’ve described above. They use a clever combination of the electric battery and the petrol engine to maximise power while minimising the use of petrol and the pollution it causes.
The downside of the battery is that it takes up some of the space in the boot. It definitely looked as though there were less space available than in our 2005 Jazz, whose boot holds a surprisingly large amount. It would still hold a lot of shopping though, and the car itself has clever seats that fold up every which way for holding baggage.
I’m no car expert, and not even a car aficionado. I care about the car being able to do what I need it to, the cost to my bank balance and the cost to the environment.
I love the idea of electric vehicles, but we live down a footpath, a long way from the road and have no garage. It would be impossible for us to charge an electric vehicle at home.
I also really like our current Honda Jazz. It’s very different from the 13 year old Mazda People Mover we bought when we suddenly frequently needed to take 2 people, 2 dogs and loads of gear to our new property 100 Km away from Wellington.
The big Mazda has heaps of power and guzzles petrol as you’d guess. It’s great on the open road and holds heaps of stuff. Just yesterday I discovered it easily fit a kayak, with room to spare. It has a terrible turning circle though — I now choose my spots carefully in places like supermarket car parks. It’s not that great at handling Wellington’s narrow, winding roads either, being large and heavy, though it charges up the hills.
On the other hand our little Jazz is easy on the petrol, scoots round corners nippily and turns in tight places. It’s a superb city car, easy to park.
If I were in the market for a new city car I’d definitely choose the Hybrid Honda Jazz. It’s just like our current Jazz but better. It drives a bit better, has more zip, is quieter, and the claimed fuel consumption is better too.
Now all we need is to win the draw for a free car.