If you were a product planner at Honda with all its technical resources and you were asked to come up with an efficient city runabout, you'd probably apply some lateral thinking.
What the urban family needs is a small, MPV-style car with flexible seating that can take a mountain bike or a bunch of kids to school. The Jazz fits that bill.
It needs to be economical and have low pollution levels – the Insight's got that with its 1.4-liter 88 bhp engine augmented by a 14 bhp electrical motor. And it needs to be easy to drive around town, so installing the latest CVT should be the answer to that.
Mix it altogether and you have the Honda Jazz Hybrid I recently spent sometime driving on a mixture of open country roads interspersed with market towns.
The electric motor, which acts as the gasoline engine's starter, ensures immediate, silent starting and will also power the car for short distances and at low speeds best suited for city crawls.
Out on the open road the electric motor adds a bit more grunt to the gasoline engine but at the expense of your green credentials. To encourage you to do your bit in saving the planet, the instrument panel glows green to show you're driving economically and fades through turquoise to blue when you're being an environmental hooligan. There's also an `Econ' setting that delivers tortoise-like performance and is only recommended for those who have nothing better to do with their lives than sit in a slow car.
The CVT is well silenced so there's not too much of that irritating whine intruding into the cabin and, in any case, it's a significant improvement over the jerky i-Shift robotized manual.
In response to criticism over the previous Jazz, suspension settings have been adjusted for an improved ride while the electric power assisted steering has more on-center feel than before.
Honda wants hybrids to be "just another" powertrain rather than to be considered something special.
The trouble is, to achieve that costs are going to have to come down markedly. In the UK the Jazz costs a tad under £16,000 ($26,000) and while its CO2 figure of 104 g/km impresses, it is beaten on both counts by rivals like the , and VW's Polo 1.2 TDI BlueMotion.