2003 Ford Fiesta Zetec v. 2003 Honda Jazz 1.4 DSi used car test.

I was pondering on my drive home from Hastings yesterday what a good little car the Fiesta is. I bought it used last year and it's taken some time to grow on me. Essentially it does 40mpg, starts, stops and isn't uncomfortable. About the bare minimum you need from a car. During the journey I commented to my wife that I thought it a better car than the Jazz that we owned, and she just ummed in what I took to be agreement. Certainly we've never looked at Honda again for our cars.

The Jazz we bought new in 2003. It was to be my wife's first car, so she wanted something small yet big - aha! The Jazz does that, so we bought one. I get bored looking at cars - especially back then as I was running a nice big Suzuki motorbike. The Jazz was the only car we really liked, but from day one I wasn't that impressed. Honda's perceived quality differs from real quality by a margin. The paint literally falls off it in places, and when we chopped it in 7 years later every single panel had a dent in it from supermarket car parks - no other car before or since has shown such. At 5 years old the boot started to fill with water and Honda couldn't be arsed to find the fault - it took me six months and a chance conversation with an Honda mechanic to find out that the body sides pull away from the roof, hence the water ingress. That didn't fill me with confidence. And the engine was just plain noisy at start up; I kept taking it back to complain until Honest John informed me they were all like that. But considering my motorbike was air-cooled and quieter I wasn't impressed. The steering was also dull and lifeless, being over electrically assisted.

The car did do 41mpg though - we never did get the 60mpg the oldies seem to. The Fiesta gets 40mpg in London, and 50mpg in the country so is perhaps slightly better on the fuel. Guess the problem here being the Fiesta can pull at 2,000rpm where the Honda needed 4,000rpm all the time. At the end of long journeys involving hills not only was there no petrol left, you were deaf as well.

Servicing was a pig as well for the Honda. At 4 years old we had to change the transmission fluid; a part of a normal 36,000 mile service. That service cost £700. For a routine service. No way would I buy an automatic Honda again, no way. I've not had to service the Fiesta yet, but can't imagine it being much.

Both cars oversteer to an hilarious degree, but at least the Fiesta tells you about it. On the M25 one day the Jazz oversteered at 50mph into the next lane. The same corner I can do at 75mph in any other car. The Jazz was quite dire in that department really. By the end at 50,000 miles I was understeering it into corners at will.

So, if you are in the market for a small 1400cc car, avoid the Jazz. The Fiesta won comparison tests at the time and for good reason. The Jazz was a good car as we kept it for seven years. It's just that now having also owned its' competitor I know that it wasn't the best car available.

Oh and we never used the flappy paddles ever, and I doubt anybody ever has. So if you are determined to buy a Jazz, get a manual 1.2 litre. But don't expect to get 60mpg out of it.....