HONDA is considering a harder, faster RS version of its Jazz city car to take on the Ford Fiesta ST and Volkswagen Polo GTI.
The performance-focused hotter hatch, which is already on sale in Japan, would likely get a light engine tune, bolstered sports seats, unique suspension and a more aggressive body kit similar to the Mugen Fit RS shown at January’s Tokyo Auto Salon.
Japanese-spec RS variants use the same 1.5-litre atmo four-cylinder engine as the regular Jazz (which in standard spec produces 88kW/145Nm), mated to a six-speed manual.
“Look, there’s a market for it and I think it’d make sense here,” Honda Australia director Stephen Collins said. “We haven’t decided anything, but we could possibly do a limited run of them or something like that.”
Collins hinted that prices for the RS could start in the mid-$20,000 bracket, putting it head-to-head with Ford’s Fiesta ST, but pricing it below the more expensive Volkswagen Polo GTI, which starts from $29,540.
“[Pricing would] have to start with a two,” he told Wheels at the launch for the regular, third-generation Jazz on the Gold Coast this week. “Personally I love sports cars and I love sporty cars so it’s definitely possible, we’ll have to wait and see.”
A Jazz RS would make sense for Honda. After a flat start to 2014 – Honda sales are down 31.4 percent year-on-year for the first six months of 2014 – Collins says the brand needs an injection of excitement.
“We’re trying to bring in more sporty cars and more excitement to the brand,” he said. “We want and we need more sporty cars and we’re going to deliver on that. We’ve had some ups and downs, which have been very well documented, but we have a very clear path now to address that and really get our mojo back.
“My job is to make sure we get that back and get it back in spades. So over the next few years what you’re going to get from Honda is going to be very exciting.”
Collins also revealed the revived NSX, which recently burst into flames while testing at the Nurburgring, will not go on sale in Australia until at least 2016.
“It hasn’t been confirmed but what I do know is it won’t be 2015 for us,” he said. “I’m still waiting on confirmation but hopefully it won’t be too far after that.
“We want it as soon as we can get it. Everyone asks about pricing and I truthfully answer I have no idea what it’s going to cost. I wouldn’t want to guess because I’d be wrong.”
Performance-focused models, though, are not the only way Honda will target new, younger buyers, Collins said.
“Sporty cars is one thing with the new NSX and our return to F1, but the other youthful injection we’re trying to deliver is with things like connectivity and standard reverse cameras,” he said.
“This is the type of thing young buyers want, particularly the connectivity that’s very important. It’s not just about sportscars, but it’s about delivering the technology young buyers want.”
The third-gen Honda Jazz, which boasts even greater packaging, a new platform and thriftier engines, is now on sale. Prices range from $14,990 for the base VTi and stretch to $22,490 for the range-topping VTi-L.
Click here to read the full range review of the Honda Jazz