Sport by name, not by nature
Lerato Matebese finds out if strapping a Sport badge on a B-segment hatch injects performance and thrills
The word sport in the automotive realm previously conjured up images of performance and nimble handling, but that all seems to have changed in recent years.
It is now a name also used on things like an SUV (sport utility vehicle) and even, as is the case in this week’s road test, being applied to cosmetic updates.
This brings me to the Honda Jazz Sport and the Toyota Yaris Sport, which are under the spotlight this week and it so happened that both were visiting the test garage around the same time. Both models pander to the B-segment of the market where the Volkswagen Polo is the class leader, so naturally every rival will be benchmarked against it. For the most part, the Polo has managed to blend practicality, quality and value for money.
Both the Jazz Sport and Yaris Sport models seem to want to follow a similar trajectory. Both are based on their respective flagship trim models, but given more visual venom to set them apart. The Jazz, for instance, features a sportier grille and valance with red piping — ditto the rear diffuser, gloss black mirror housings and black 16-inch alloy wheels.
There is also a boot spoiler and, in the instance of our test car, the vivid metallic yellow hue called Helios, further heightening its kerb appeal.
The Yaris Sport is perhaps the least suited-up cosmetically as its aesthetic differences count red piping on the front valance, headlights surrounds and on the boot lid flanking the rear lights, while a red S can also be seen on the boot lid.
The rest of the package is staple new Yaris fare, down to the 16-inch wheels lifted wholesale from the Xs trim model.
Quality-wise, both models have good perceived quality and both sport a touchscreen infotainment system with the requisite Bluetooth connectivity and the like. However, the tactile quality of the plastics feels cheap, something that is further exacerbated in the Yaris by the faux leather stitching on the cheap plastic dashboard.
There is another thing to consider, too, that while this particular Yaris is new to SA, it has been around in Thailand since 2013 from where it is now sourced and we are essentially receiving a facelifted version of that vehicle.
The Jazz, to be honest, is not significantly better and I feel that the overall quality is easily below par of the last generation, largely because our Jazz models, at least the rest of the range, is sourced from India where the quality is not what I would deem exemplary. The Sport variant on test here is sourced from Japan and while the overall quality is slightly better than its Indian-sourced siblings, it is still not class leading by any margin.
Muscle wise, both models are powered by a 1.5l normally aspirated engine. The Jazz puts out 97kW and 155Nm, while the Yaris kicks out a lower 79kW and 140Nm. Alas, the Jazz Sport’s engine is solely paired with a CVT (continuously variable transmission) gearbox, which is definitely a fly in the ointment. The engine, in isolation, is quite a decent performer with a zest to rev, but the incessant droning of the transmission under hard acceleration deters from any sporty intentions the model might have.
The Yaris, sadly, feels decidedly underpowered, a factor that is not helped by the five-speed manual. There is a flat spot below 2,500r/min and beyond that twilight zone, there is little in the way of forward thrust with the engine feeling decidedly coarse as the revs rise.
Space wise the Jazz is the better packaged vehicle with 359l of boot space versus the Yaris’ 310l.
The Jazz Sport looks the part and is well packaged, but is scuppered by the CVT gearbox and a hefty price tag.
Meanwhile, the Yaris Sport only has passenger space as its forte and little else, to be honest.
When all is considered, neither of these two models delivers on the promise of offering a sporty streak. If you want to stand out from the crowd, then I would highly recommend the Volkswagen Polo Comfortline manual fitted with the Beats by Dre optional package (R13,013).
It comes replete with both exterior and interior red trimmings, a thumping 300W sound system and a turbocharged engine that offers superior performance at a price of R264,713.
It duly undercuts the Jazz Sport at R310,000 and the Yaris Sport at R286,000, making it the logical and emotional choice in this segment.