Nifty new delivery boasts an interior you can adapt to many purposes
On TV One at the moment is the series One Born Every Minute, a British show based in a labour ward, but after visiting Honda's new manufacturing plant at Yorii I reckon the Japanese company could make its own version of the programme.
Birth place of the Fit hatchback -- known in New Zealand as the Jazz -- Yorii isn't quite producing a car a minute but is getting closer to a fast turnaround with Honda Motors producing 250,000 units a year at the nearly one-million-square-metre facility.
While One Born Every Minute features midwives, at Yorii it is robots in charge of the "delivery suites" and human interaction is minimal, with us visiting motoring writers only seeing a few white lab coat-wearing workers.
The only interaction with us was from the stroppy translator and her too jovial security guard whose job was to stop us taking photos of the robots at work -- unlike One Born Every Minute where cameras are encouraged.
Having seen Honda's hatchback being "born" in Japan, I was excited to attend the recent New Zealand launch of Yorii-built Jazz.
Honda NZ is bringing in four models (see right) while the hybrid is on the horizon, and hopes to take on the segment-busting Suzuki Swift and second-placed Toyota Yaris in the small car category.
The third generation Jazz has a revised interior and exterior styling, increased sound-absorbing material, increased aerodynamic performance and a redesigned suspension system.
The Jazz has increased in length by 55mm to 3955mm, with a height of 1525mm and width of 1695mm but has lost 55kg over the previous model due to the use of high tensile strength steel.
But it's the exterior look of the Jazz that is the most notable -- the company has pushed for a sporty feel with an extremely angled look around the front and rear lights and sculptured panels.
Inside the car gets a technological makeover with a touch screen infotainment unit that includes a reversing camera screen, plus a cleaner more mature dash.
The standard features in the Jazz are impressive. The entry level S has the touch screen, reversing camera, satnav, bluetooth and sits on 15in alloys. The other models also gain cruise control, push button start, and day running lights plus 16in alloys.
Honda Jazz RS 2014. Photo / Ted Baghurst.
At the press launch, Driven tested the RS Sport CVT that Honda used to shows sporty side
replace last generation's five-speed auto. The CVT has been designed to reduce excessive revving and felt its most comfortable in top gear.
This week Honda NZ gave Driven the first drive of the six-speed manual version in the attention-seeking Attract Yellow Pearl hue.
The 1.5-litre petrol engine produces 97kW over the previous model's 88kW and 155Nm, an improvement over gen-two's 145Nm.
But it's the six-speed manual transmission that won me over. Last year I tested only one manual car, but this year I've already driven five, with the Jazz being the most impressive.
Gen-two had a five-speed manual transmission, but the new Jazz had sixth gear added -- that works well at motorway speeds.
Photo / Ted Baghurst
The ratio between the third, fourth and fifth gear has been shortened to improve accelerating, and the strokes feel smooth and precise with an ease that I hadn't expected, making even motorway rush hour driving simple.
The interior space is impressive thanks to the magic seats (see above) though my adult front passenger said that his seat didn't move back far enough for him and his legs felt cramped.
While the performance, interior looks and space are impressive, I'm still adjusting to the car's angular appearance. Maybe it has a "face" that only a mother could love!
Seats add a little magic inside
The Honda Jazz has "magic seats" that can be configured to hold an object up to 2.5m long, like a surfboard.
Honda NZ is launching seven models of the Jazz when the hatchback goes on sale on July 7.
The entry level version is the perky Jazz S ($23,700) that comes with a 1.3-litre engine and only as an auto while the RS is powered by the 1.5-litre engine and is available with a six-speed manual ($25,500) or auto ($26,900).
Things then get sporty for the Jazz - with four variants powered by the 1.5l engine and taking inspiration from Honda's motorsports heritage.
The RS Sport is priced at $27,000 and comes in a manual (as reviewed by Driven) or add $1400 for an auto. These two versions get Sport front and rear bumpers and side skirts plus badging to make it stand out.
Then there are the two Mugen designed Jazz models that Honda NZ is hoping will attract younger buyers. They feature 16in alloys plus more dynamic front and rear bumpers and side skirts.
Photo / Ted Baghurst
The RS Mugen manual is priced at $29,500 with the auto at $30,900.
Honda NZ is offering a five-year warranty and roadside assist with the Jazz or you can pay $1500 more for a five-year service plan.
Honda is also keen to promote the Jazz's "magic seats" that can fold into four configurations: utility mode (the rear seats folded flat to carry large objects); long mode (fold down the rear and front passenger seat to give 2.5m room to carry a surfboard); tall mode (the seat base folds back to allow up to 1280mm-high objects); and refresh mode (remove the headrests, tilt and the seats back and you have a bed).