Vehicle Comparisons

Honda Jazz

Honda Jazz

An astonishing number of Honda Jazz owners buy another and the revised third generation version we're looking at here aims to keep them loyal. But the Japanese brand also needs to attract new converts to its clever little supermini, something that will be easier to do with this enhanced MK3 model thanks to its smarter looks and the wider variant choice made possible by the introduction of a fresh 1.5-litre engine into the range. For very good reasons, this is the supermini that industry insiders commonly recommend.

Jazz buyers get two petrol engine options, a 1.3-litre i-VTEC petrol unit offering 102PS and a 1.5-litre i-VTEC variant with 130PS. Both are mated to a sweet-shifting six-speed gearbox and both have to be worked quite hard to give of their best. Still, if you push along, performance is reasonable and in the 1.3-litre model that most will choose, 62mph from rest can be covered in 11.2s en route to 118mph. Optional is a CVT automatic gearbox, which enables the 1.3-litre Jazz to return very reasonable efficiency figures - 61.4mpg on the combined cycle and 106g/km of CO2. We'd suggest this variant to be appropriate for urban-based buyers only though.

Around the corners, this third generation model feels reasonably sharp thanks to quite feelsome steering and an 'AHA' 'Active Handling Assist' system that helps get traction down through the bends. Over longer distances, you'll notice the decent refinement too. There's also some clever technology, like the 'Intelligent Speed Limier'. Working in conjunction with a 'Traffic Sign Recognition' system, this set-up knows what the prevailing speed limit is and limits your pace accordingly, so here's no chance of absent mindedly creeping past 30mph and getting zapped by a roadside camera.

Exterior changes align the Jazz with the latest Honda family style, incorporating the 'Solid Wing Face' headlight signature and grille used on the larger Civic model. The front bumper is sharply sculpted, with more aggressive contours around the air vents. At the rear, shallower grille sections are linked by a gloss black trim strip above a trapezoid lower section.

The interior now features a unique pinstripe pattern on the upholstery and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear knob, all of which are enhanced by orange stitching. As before, there's a huge windscreen that imparts a genuine feel of airiness up front. It extends way overhead, meeting the roof panel a good few inches aft of where you'd normally expect that junction. This, along with the large front quarter windows, provides respectable forward visibility. Boot capacity measures 354-litres, with space extending to 884-litres with the 'Magic Seats' folded. The dash is dominated by either a five-inch LCD multi-information display or a seven-inch Honda Connect infotainment touchscreen, depending on model grade. The bigger screen is driven by Android 'phone technology and features smartphone-style 'pinch, swipe and tap' operation. In addition, it offers MirrorLink functionality, which means that it'll replicate the display and workings of your Android smartphone. Those betrothed to Apple will have to buy a clunky aftermarket case.

This smarter third generation Honda Jazz has evolved, with its ethos shifting subtly. One thing hasn't changed though. Ask almost any motoring expert to recommend the supermini they'd buy with their own money and many will still plump for this one. It isn't the feistiest car of its kind on a twisty road, but we'd trade that for this model's excellent ride and superb gearbox. Honda dealers will doubtless also be pleased that with optional hybrid power, this car continues to offer an important and topical selling point.

But at the end of the day, that isn't personally why we'd choose one. For us, it's still the cleverness of this car's packaging that impresses most, with its neat magic seating and tardis-like cabin. It's true that equipment levels could be higher and cabin materials plusher but against that, build quality is excellent and residual values unrivalled. It all explains why this car has such a dedicated following. Try one and you'll understand.

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Toyota Yaris

Toyota Yaris

Toyota has been continually improving its third generation Yaris supermini, but the package of revisions we look at here is the most far-reaching yet, delivering an all-new look, a new 1.5-litre petrol engine and standardisation of the brand's camera-driven 'Safety Sense' package. What was already a class act has just become genuinely hard to overlook.

Toyota has worked to improve the driving dynamics of this car in recent times and the result is that if you haven't tried a Yaris for a bit, you might be surprised by just how well this one handles. Probably the greatest efforts have been centred on improving refinement and to that end, more recent models feature better soundproofing material, refettled engines and sleeker aerodynamics to reduce wind noise.

The big news on the engine front is the introduction of a new 1.5-litre petrol engine to replace the previous aging 1.33-litre unit. Power output is up 10% to 110bhp, which makes the car nearly a second quicker over the 0-62mph sprint (which now takes 11.0s). More important is the news that torque is up to 136Nm, so the crucial 50 to 75mph overtaking increment is a second quicker too. The engine can also be paired with an optional CVT automatic. As before, other Yaris engine options include a 1.0-litre VVT-i petrol unit and a 1.5-litre petrol/electric Hybrid which has been re-engineered for greater efficiency.

And on the road? Well, it depends upon your expectations. Though the ride is better than it used to be, it still gets unsettled over rougher surfaces. And though the steering is a touch more feelsome than long-time Yaris users might be used to, it's still very light and better suited to metropolis rather than motorway use. Which is one of the main reasons why this car remains one of those you'd buy primarily to shoot to the shops and take on the odd motorway trip to the mother-in-law, rather than to speed around Silverstone. That's why traditionally, there have been no hard core hot hatch Yaris variants, though that's now changed since the announcement of a 1.8-litre supercharged 205bhp Yaris GRMN model.

On to design. Toyota has spent over 90 million Euros improving this model, so we're talking about more than just a light facelift here. The front end is completely new, much sleeker and claasier than before. There are revised rear tail light clusters too. It's these days a more assertive-looking design and Europeans like that. The headlights feature projector technology for high and low beams and the clusters incorporate LED daytime running lights. In profile, this improved Yaris displays a smart door belt moulding, door mirrors with an optional folding function and classy 15 and 16-inch alloy wheel designs. A rear bumper and diffuser assembly give the back end a more self-confident look.

The interior features the Toyota Touch 2 multimedia system, complete with a 7-inch screen. This apart, the interior hasn't changed much since this car was launched in 2011. Which means that build quality from the French Pas-de-Calais factory is as strong as ever. And that the controls are sensibly positioned and extremely easy to get to grips with. There's also plenty of interior storage space, though some of the ledges provided tend to deposit their contents onto you once you corner with any speed. The door bins are useful though, able to accommodate a decent sized drinks bottle with ease. The boot offers 272-litres of space. Toyota's impressive EasyFlat rear seats split 60:40, fold and slide bringing a useful degree of versatility and up to 477-litres if you need it.

And in summary? Well the original version of this MK3 model Toyota Yaris was one of those cars that grew on you but it didn't have the force of personality to impress you with sheer showroom wow factor. The latest model ups its game usefully in that regard.

Is that enough to propel it into the top bracket of superminis? In truth, it was already there, but went largely unrecognised by the popular press. These latest changes probably won't impress those who pore over 0-62mph times or wax lyrical about handling adjustability. But what the Yaris lacks at the ragged edge on a Welsh mountain road, it more than makes up for in everyday use. Put down the car magazines, ask yourself what you really need a supermini for and then see if the Yaris doesn't tick every single box.

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SEAT Ibiza

SEAT Ibiza

This fifth generation version of SEAT's Ibiza supermini offers small car buyers a smarter set of more eco-conscious hi-tech talents. It'll need them if it's to distance itself from its Volkswagen and Skoda design stablemates and continue as a credible alternative in this tightly fought segment.

This time round, SEAT has had a good look at the engine range. It's nearly all petrol-powered, things kicking off with the old 75PS 1.0 MPI unit at the foot of the range. Try your hardest to ignore this aging unit and graduate instead to the far-preferrable (and more economic) 1.0-litre TSI three-cylinder turbo powerplant which produces either 95 or 115PS. The four-cylinder 1.5 TSI with active cylinder management (ACT) develops 150PS, while its cylinder deactivation under partial load leads to impressive fuel economy. The feebler engines get a five-speed manual gearbox, with a six-speeder used further up the range, where there's also the option of 7-speed DSG auto transmission on the 1.0 TSI 115PS FR model. The diesel alternative is a 1.6-litre TDI unit with 80PS.

As for on the road driving dynamics, well SEAT says these have been improved thanks to the adoption of a hi-tech MQB platform that is 30% stiffer. As before, there's an optional 'SEAT Drive Profile' system that offers adaptive damping with two modes - comfort or sports-oriented. The Comfort/Sport selector switch also influences the feeling of the power steering and it'll alter the shift times of the DSG gearbox where automatic transmission has been specified.

The MK5 model version of this SEAT isn't available in three-door form any more, but the Spanish maker says it retains plenty of sporty style potential customers tend to want. From a styling perspective, it's clearly an Ibiza, but one that has undergone a process of evolution, with a so-called 'x-shaped' design that looks more dynamic than before. The front and rear overhangs are very short and at the front of the car, triangular full-LED headlights dominate. The longer wheelbase and window graphics accentuate the size of this model too. Under the skin, the car is based on the Volkswagen Group's latest MQB platform, which will also be used in next-generation versions of Volkswagen's Polo and Skoda's Fabia.

The Ibiza is also bigger this time round, 87mm wider than before, while the 2,564mm distance between the axles represents a 95mm increase. As a result, legroom in the back seats has increased by 35mm, while headroom has increased by 17mm in the back and 24mm in the front. The seats are 42mm wider and the boot area is 63-litres bigger, bringing total capacity up to a class-leading 355-litre figure. The loading height has also been lowered. Other things you'll notice inside include the fact that the controls and instruments are now more driver-orientated and the cabin feels of higher quality, thanks to colour-personalisable LED lighting, an 8-inch centre-dash touchscreen and a 'Full Link' connectivity system.

Ibiza's important to Spain - and this one certainly is to SEAT. Over 5.4 million examples of this car have been sold since the original first generation model's introduction back in 1984. If SEAT can promote this fifth generation car properly, then it stands a chance of gaining a place somewhere near the top of the rather over-stuffed shortlists that most browsing supermini buyers will be working through. An inherent product rightness certainly counts in this Ibiza's favour, borne from a real attention to detail that's come through development of this model line over a quarter of a century.

In summary, we're looking here at a car that, like its brand, has matured nicely. One mindful of the fact that modernday Spaniards need to balance Latin spirit with sober sense. In this Ibiza, they've a small car that does exactly that.

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