Pardon my analogy. Both the Honda Jazz and the Seiko 5 are close to my heart: I own a first-generation example of the former, and I have several pieces of the latter. I love both because they offer unbeatable value for money. Other than that, I also see a lot of similarities: Both are made by Japanese manufacturers, both are excellent products in themselves, and both are pretty reliable. I guess you could say that the Jazz is the 5 of cars, or that the 5 is the Jazz of watches.
These are the thoughts that run through my mind as I try to make sense of the fourth-generation Jazz (or Fit, as it is officially called in Japan), unveiled at the 46th Tokyo Motor Show and scheduled to arrive at Japanese showrooms in February 2020. Why? Because just like the recently introduced multi-flavored line of Seiko 5 Sports, the Jazz is now being made available in five versions: Basic, Home, Crosstar, Luxe and Fitness. The reason for this, according to Honda, is so that “customers can select the variant that is right for them depending on their lifestyle and life stage.”
The other highlight of the all-new Jazz is its hybrid propulsion, which is said to be a two-motor hybrid system.
Now, let’s cut to the chase: The new Jazz sports an exterior design that is being bashed left and right at the moment. People are literally laughing at the styling on social media. Defenders of the car are saying: “Wait until you see it in the metal.” Well, I have some not-so-good news for these apologists: The new-gen Jazz isn’t much better-looking up close. What you see is definitely what you get. There’s just this distinct weirdness to the overall appearance, especially at the back. It’s as if Honda designers consciously made a decision to make this hatchback unmistakably cartoonish. Which might work if you’re familiar with Japan’s kei cars.
The new Seiko 5 Sports series had likewise been derided by critics before its launch. And yet I actually know friends who bought one. That’s probably because these folks already knew what they were getting—Seiko quality in spite of the product’s polarizing design. Which, I think, is exactly what’s going to happen with the new Jazz. It will have many haters, but it will still sell well.
Here are the five flavors of Honda’s new subcompact hatchback:
Basic. The main variant of the line. It’s basically the Jazz as we know and use it today.
Home. For families or homemakers. It’s the variant that’s most qualified to serve the general needs of every member of the household.
Crosstar. Designed for the adventure junkie. Equipped with 16-inch wheels, this variant is a bit taller and is essentially positioned as somewhat of a crossover vehicle.
Luxe. Boasting leather seats, this variant is supposedly the refined and most elegant one of the lot.
Fitness. As the name suggests, this variant is for the sporty or athletic type. Water-repellent interior materials should protect the cabin from salty human sweat.
It remains to be seen whether global markets will eventually warm to the all-new Jazz. My guess is that, yes, they will. But I don’t expect this Honda to be the iconic, best-selling model the original car was before it.