Anyway, compared to other Honda models like the Civic or Accord, the Jazz hasn’t been around quite as long and doesn’t possess the same heritage. How long exactly? Well, let’s rewind back to the birth of the Honda Jazz about 20 years ago.
Honda Jazz GD (2001)
In Japan, the first-generation Honda Jazz (let’s just stick to Jazz from now) was introduced in 2001 as an alternative to the smaller MPVs. It was the first car to be underpinned by the Global Small Car platform that was said to provide unparalleled cabin space.
And it did. It’s deceivingly spacious inside considering its exterior dimensions, and really lived up to its slogan. One of its tricks to free up space at the rear of the cabin lies in the fuel tank location, which is placed underneath the front seats.
This enabled a feature called Ultra Seats, which allows a wide range of storage configurations to ferry objects of various shapes and sizes. This level of flexibility or practicality is arguably the best-selling point for the Honda Jazz.
Also read: This is how useful the Honda Jazz’s Ultra Seats are! Myvi what?
It was a huge hit in Japan, dethroning the Toyota Corolla as Japan’s No.1 selling car. For 33 years, the Corolla has held the top spot unchallenged, until the Jazz came along. In 2002, Honda sold 250,790 units of the first generation Jazz. The Jazz held its title as Japan’s best-selling car for nearly a decade.
The first-gen Honda Jazz arrived in our shores in 2003 with only one variant available that came fully-imported (CBU) from Japan, powered by a 1.3-litre i-DSI engine. In 2004, Honda Malaysia introduced the 1.5-litre i-DSI variant that came from Thailand, as well as the 1.5-litre VTEC which came from Japan.
The 1.5-litre i-DSI engine makes 88 PS/131 Nm while the 1.5-litre VTEC engine makes 110 PS/143 Nm, both are mated to a CVT with 7 virtual ratios.
The facelift exercise that came about in 2006 brought about mainly cosmetic changes such as redesigned bumpers, LED taillamps, and new wheels. Prices for the i-DSi and VTEC variants were RM 94,800 and RM 103,800 respectively.
Honda Jazz GE (2007)
Come 2007, the second-generation Honda Jazz was globally unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show. It offered even more interior space, courtesy of the slightly larger exterior dimensions in terms of length and width, with a 50 mm increase in wheelbase.
Structural rigidity is claimed to be improved by 164 percent over its predecessor, which aids ride and handling. Cabin noise levels have also been reduced for added refinement.
In Malaysia, the second-gen Honda Jazz was launched in 2008. It no longer came with two engine options like its predecessor, and offered two trim levels with the same engine instead.
The 1.5-litre engine received the i-VTEC treatment which combines VTEC with Honda's VTC (Variable Timing Control). The uprated engine produces 120 PS/145 Nm and is mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission.
It carries on the proprietary Ultra Seats with multiple modes, just like its predecessor. Although Relax mode, which allows the front back rests to be fully reclined to join the rear seats for a long flat area, have been removed. This has allowed the front seats to be redesigned with increased comfort.
As for prices at launch, the S variant went for RM 104,800 while the V variant was priced at RM 109,800. Both are fully-imported from Thailand. In 2011, the facelift model arrived with minor cosmetic revisions, sold in a sole Grade V variant at the same price as before. A year later, it was replaced by the Grade S with a reduction in price and equipment level.
In the same year, the Honda Jazz Hybrid was also introduced. It came as a import (CBU) model and was subsequently locally assembled (CKD). Powering it is a 1.3 litre i-VTEC engine paired to an electric motor, called the integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system. It’s basically a mild hybrid, with outputs of 88 PS/121 Nm.
In 2013, the non-hybrid CKD Honda Jazz joined the range. It was the cheapest Honda at the time, priced at RM 74,800, and mostly mirrored the CBU Grade S variant in terms of features.
Honda Jazz GK (2013)
Not too long after the CKD second-gen Honda Jazz was launched, the third-generation Honda Jazz made its global debut in the same year.
The third-gen Honda Jazz looked radically different from its predecessors. The exterior and interior design is more angular than before and loses a bit of the cutesy look. It’s longer than the previous model with a 33 mm increase in wheelbase. Boot space has been increased as well.
Also read: Ratings: 2018 Honda Jazz 1.5L V - Excellent score in space and practicality, 170/250 overall
In 2014, the third-gen Honda Jazz was launched as a CKD model from the get go. There were three variants available, priced from RM 72,800 to RM 87,000.
Unlike in some other countries, we got the carried-over port-injection 1.5-litre SOHC i-VTEC engine with identical power outputs of 120 PS/145 Nm. However, the 5-speed automatic transmission was dropped in favour of a CVT.
The facelift model came about in 2017 and apart from the usual cosmetic and slight bump in features, it also saw the return of the Jazz Hybrid.
This time, it’s a full-fledged hybrid called the Sport Hybrid i-DCD (Intelligent Dual-Clutch Drive) system. The 1.5-litre i-VTEC engine is a DOHC unit that runs on the Atkinson cycle and is mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission.
The hybrid powertrain produces a combined output of 137 PS and 170 Nm of torque, to which Honda says is the equivalent to the power level of a 1.8-litre NA engine. Price? RM 87,500.
Also read: Used 6-year old Honda Jazz (GK) for the price of a Myvi - how much to fix?
Honda Jazz GR (2019)
The fourth-generation Honda Jazz was unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2019. However, most markets in the Southeast Asia region will not see its introduction. Instead, the Honda Jazz will be replaced by the City Hatchback.
Also read: SEA countries dropping Honda Jazz for City Hatchback, except Singapore, why?
We would love to talk more about it but in the context of Malaysia, this generation isn’t relevant to us so we’ll give this a miss.
Also read: Here to conquer cityscapes worldwide, this is the all-new Honda Jazz
On a personal note, if I were to pick a favourite among the three generations of Honda Jazz that was sold in Malaysia, I’d pick the second-generation Honda Jazz.
Why? To me, it’s a polished version of the first-generation Jazz, with improvements made here and there whilst keeping the revered space and practicality. It received a new engine that soldiered on in Honda’s staple for over a decade, which proves its reliability.
Also, it’s the only generation with a conventional 5-speed automatic transmission. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one to despise CVTs but give me an option, and I’ll pick the good old-fashion gears any day.
But that is perhaps just me. What would your pick of the generation be? Shoot away in the comments section.
Also read: Goodbye Honda Jazz, it’s been a great run