The King is Here !

In terms of sales volume, a new king was recently crowned in Japan - the Honda Fit ! Introduced in 2001, it was already outselling everyone by the end of the year. Over the course of 2002, the Fit consistently continued its fantastic performance and by the end of the year, it had acheived what no other model by Honda or any manufacturer has managed to do for the last thirty-three consecutive years - it actually out-sold the mighty Toyota Corolla !

Many car fans in general and Honda fans in particular were eager for this model to be introduced in Malaysia after reading about it on the internet. Indeed it has already taken most of Asia by storm with Malaysia being one of the last countries not to feature this fantastic car in its domestic line-up. It took some time for Honda Malaysia to make this happen, but on March 12th 2003, Honda Malaysia finally officially launched it for sale here.

Fit in Japan, Jazz everywhere else

The car is named Honda Fit in Japan but Honda markets it as the Jazz in export markets. Thus it is launched as the GD1 Honda Jazz for Malaysia, fully imported and made in Japan for export, and is currently available in only 1 variant and equipped with the new L13A engine. The L13A displaces 1339cc and is technically classified as a 1.4l. It is of the new generation L-series engine, featuring the new iDSi (intelligent Dual Sequential Ignition) technology which focuses on excellent fuel economy along with good power output. Thus the engine delivers 83ps max power but fuel consumption can exceed 20km/l !

For Malaysia Honda offers the Jazz in a choice of 4 colours; Satin Silver Metallic, Ice Blue Metallic, Nighthawk Black Pearl, and Milano Red. As indicated by their name, the Silver and Blue are metallic colours while the Black is pearl. I think the Red is solid. For the launch, Honda displayed a model of each colour in the Megamall shopping complex. To showcase the optional accessories offered with the Jazz, the Milano Red unit comes with the colour-coded leather seats while the Nighthawk Black unit comes with the Honda Access bodykit - a full complement of front and back lips, side skirts, rear tailgate spoiler and front grill. The car comes standard with steel rims with Enkei alloy 'sports' rims available as option. For the benefit of TOVA readers, I took photos of each car which are showed below. The display area was not very well lit with the result that the photos all came out dark and I had to manually increase their 'brightness' using a photo-editor.

A Complete Array of Features

For Malaysia, the Honda Jazz comes fully equipped. Complementing the 1.4l L13A is a current generation CVT (Continous Variable Transmission). This gearbox operates on the same principle as Honda's excellent Multimatic gearbox that equips the JDM EK3 and ES Civic Ferios (actually Multimatic is a development of CVT) and it is great that Malaysia finally gets this gearbox at last. As usual for automatic-type gearboxes, the CVT offers three modes - D(rive) and S(ports) and L(ow gearing). D-mode is for normal driving which emphasizes well balanced driveability and excellent fuel economy while S-mode is for the occasions where we need maximum performance from the car. L-mode as usual is for very steep uphills or for cases where we need extra engine braking. One of the biggest selling point of the new L13A engine is its excellent fuel economy and for fans of fuel economy, Honda actually equipped a fuel consumption trip computer for the Jazz !

On the safety side, the car's G-CON design is reinforced by dual-SRS (twin airbags). Braking is handled by front ventilated discs and rear drums which are reinforced by ABS and EBD. Rather impressively the ABS unit used on the Jazz is a 4-channels unit. The Jazz also uses the more advanced EPS (Electrical Power Steering) which makes use of an electrically powered servo for steering assist instead of the typical belt driven hydraulic power-steering pump. EPS not only offers less parasitic power losses to engine output (the engine does not need to drive the PS pump) it also allows better control of the steering assist.

Long-Mode, right to below the front dash

Tall-mode, the full height of the interior

Interior-wise, the star is the new Ultra Seat which features a new rear seat design which is superbly flexible and allows three 'modes' to be created for rear carrying space on the Jazz. These are the Utility, Long, and Tall modes. By folding the rear seats in different ways, each mode offers a variation in the rear carrying space which is optimized for different kind of loads - wide bulky loads (up to 6.5 ft wide), very long narrow loads (up to 8 feet long) or very tall loads (up to 5 feet tall). Thus marketing promos for the Jazz will variously showcase its ability to carry unwieldingly wide loads, or an 8 feet long surfboard or a 5 feet tall plant or golf bags ! The true versatility of the Jazz's Ultra-Seat can best be appreciated first hand and since the launch at Megamall lasts until March 16th, Malaysian readers are strongly recommended to make the effort of the trip there to check it out themselves. For those who can't make the trip, I took two photos of the L and T modes to help illustrate the kind of flexibility the Jazz can offer. U-mode is really just a variation of L-mode, by either putting the front passenger seat all the way back and down (for L-mode) or leaving it up for normal seating (U-mode).

Technically the Honda Jazz is classified as a 'small' car - in European nomenclature 'B-segment' class but by clever designing, Honda has managed to create an extra spacious interior more typical of a car the 'next' size up - 'C-segment' class. For Asian readers, this means to say that while the Jazz is smaller than a Civic in overall size, its interior is quite near that of the Civic ! (Of course the Civic itself is constantly improving in this area as well).

Engine Size Does Not Matter !

Well, NOT when you have a CVT gearbox. The typical car owner's reaction upon hearing that the Jazz is 1.4l engine is is it powerful enough ?. But this is a misconception based on experience with regular small-ish engines with normal automatic gearboxes.

The 8V design of the L13A do offer good low and midrange power - max torque comes in at 2800rpm while max power point is 5700rpm (the redline being 6000rpm). But it is the CVT gearbox which makes the Jazz very preppy. CVT allows the full exploitation of engine power for whatever the driving circumstances requires. On cases where power is required, like overtaking or driving up a steep incline, floor the throttle and CVT will modulate the gear-ratios to allow the engine to spin at max rpm. This means max power for as long as required.

For normal driving, the gentler throttle positions are the norm. Engine rpm stablizes at a relatively low rpm but the car will pickup steadily from standstill to quite high speeds. Maintaining constant engine rpm and steady light throttle pressure will lead to very economical fuel consumptions and when power is needed for overtaking or other tight situations, max power and max performance is just a WOT away.

Readers are recommended to read our articles on The Multimatic Driving Experience and the EK3 Civic Ferio Vi to fully understand the power of the CVT gearbox. The articles highlights the Multimatic but the CVT is really just a simpler variation of that reference gearbox

Taking the Market

The launching of the Honda Jazz for Malaysia is a much anticipated and eagerly event. Such is the popularity and reputation of the car that the moment the first batch of 100 units were made available, all of them were taken up by Honda's dealers. Just barely a few days after launching, Honda in fact already has to order its second batch of vehicles ! It really shouldn't be surprisingly actually. More than 260,000 japanese owners who chose the Jazz over every other model to make it Japan's Best-Selling car of 2002 certainly wouldn't be wrong !

TOVA readers who have feedback, comments or questions about the Honda Jazz are most welcomed to share or ask via our Malaysian Honda Jazz thread in our TOVA forums.

March 2003
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