The hybrid Honda Jazz Crosstar is a frugal and clever small car - with a big price

Jazz fusion hits the wrong note - the meek Jazz is a brave choice to be given pseudo-SUV styling

Honda Jazz Crosstar
The innocuous Honda Jazz isn’t an obvious candidate to be given the SUV styling treatment, as lavished on its ‘Crosstar’ version

It isn’t only your favourite bar of chocolate that has been hit by shrinkflation, that phenomenon where you end up paying more for smaller packages.

The car industry has also become ruthlessly efficient at increasing its prices. How else to explain the fact that this Honda Jazz nudges £29,000? Time was, that sort of money would have bought you one of the hottest ­- and expensively engineered - Ford Fiesta ST, Renaultsport Clio or Hyundai i20 N models, and left you with plenty of change.

There is, it should be said, plenty of clever engineering - presumably of the expensive variety - beneath the nondescript exterior of the Jazz, though all of that wizardry has been deployed with the goal of making the little Honda as determinedly unexciting as possible.

It is the essence of ‘easy to drive’. Making a car this easy to live with is actually hard… Open the large driver’s door, settle yourself behind the steering wheel and, from a driving position that is relatively elevated, you are presented with a fantastic view out - perhaps as close as you’ll get to sitting in a goldfish bowl that meets all the crash safety regulations cars are now subjected to.

Because the Jazz is an automatic, you can slot the lever into ‘drive’, meaning you won’t have to worry about that tiresome business of changing gears as you tootle along. It’s time to get going; squeeze the throttle and the Jazz picks up speed at a leisurely pace. It’s quiet, though. Really quiet…

Honda only fits a hybrid drivetrain to the Jazz, and it’s a quite brilliant set-up that blends a 1.5-litre petrol engine, two electric motors - one a generator, the other for propulsion - and a small lithium-ion battery. In practice, you’ll rarely know if the engine or electric motor is driving the car. You’ll also get 60mpg without trying.

Honda Jazz Crosstar
From its light controls to great view out, the Honda Jazz is the definition of 'easy to drive'

The brakes are light to operate but powerful; the steering lacks feel but requires no effort when it comes to manoeuvres. The dashboard is a model of clarity, with a digital display in front of the driver and a large but simple ‘infotainment’ screen in the mounted centrally. And because Hondas are both designed by and bought by sensible people, they have still have old fashioned but utterly superb knobs and switches for functions like the heating and ventilation.

Honda Jazz Crosstar
Crosstar versions of the Honda Jazz get a slightly higher ride, roof bars and some extra plastic trim

You don’t need to go too far before you begin to appreciate that this is a comfortable car. Despite its diminutive footprint, there is loads of space, even for 6ft-plus passengers. They’ll be able to get into the back seats too, believe it or not.

The ‘Crosstar’ is a Honda Jazz that has pulled on Timberland boots and a Gore-Tex raincoat in, it has to be said, a pretty feeble attempt to look like an SUV

It’s a kind of magic

Those back seats can also be folded in an interesting way - the cushion can be flipped upwards, a bit like a cinema or theatre seat, giving a full height space. This would be handy if you needed to carry children or shorter adults in a standing position, though a more realistic - and legal - application would be for carrying taller plants and shrubs.

Honda Jazz Crosstar
Clever engineering abounds in the Jazz, including the ‘magic’ back seats which fold upwards to create a tall load space

Honda says the luggage space is 304 litres with the seats upright, swelling to 1,205 litres when they are folded - that’s not far off what you’ll get in a larger car, like a Volkswagen Golf or even Honda’s own Civic.

The Jazz comes in two varieties these days. There’s the standard car, priced from a still-steep £26,395. It’s available in ‘Elegance’, ‘Advance’ (from £27,550) and ‘Sport’ (surely a misnomer? From, gulp, £28,695…) trims.

Honda Jazz Crosstar
No small car has more room for passengers than a Honda Jazz

And then there’s the model I’ve been experiencing, the from-£28,550 ‘Crosstar’. It’s a Jazz that has pulled on Timberland boots and a Gore-Tex raincoat in, it has to be said, a pretty feeble attempt to look like an SUV. It’s hard to disguise the fact it’s still wearing slacks underneath, though. Given the source material, all the plastic wheelarch surrounds and roof bars in the world aren’t going to transform the Jazz into a Land Rover Defender. The Crosstar does ride a little higher than the regular Jazz - by 37mm, apparently - and it does get water repellent upholstery, a useful addition.

There is an enormous amount to like about the Jazz, to admire even, and that’s even without considering its bombproof reliability. Honda doesn’t half know how to charge for it, though…

Honda Jazz Crosstar
Honda Jazz Crosstar