United Kingdom

RAY MASSEY: Jazz up your summer with Honda's hit city car

These are challenging times, so what better way to relax than with some Jazz. 

I did just that this week at the Berkshire launch of the fourth-generation Honda Jazz compact city car — powered by a nifty hybrid electric-petrol system.

This was the first UK coronavirus-compliant car launch under strict social distancing and safety measures coinciding with showrooms re-opening.

Birth of the cool: Honda's new Jazz variant, the Crosstar mini SUV has integrated roof rails and 16 in silver and black alloy wheels

The Crosstar accelerates from rest to 62 mph in 9.9 seconds, has a top speed of 107 mph, but will still manage 58.9 mpg and CO2 emissions of 110g/km

Since launch nearly two decades ago in 2001, more than 406,000 Jazz models have been sold in the UK (including 17,000 last year) out of 7.5million globally.

A rival to the Toyota Yaris, Ford Fiesta and VW Polo, it adopts technology pioneered in the all-electric 'Honda-e' and is the first of six new 'electrified' Honda models due by 2022.

For the first time, there's a Crosstar variant with a reduced size SUV-style that is more flexible, funky and practical than the standard version. 

Visibility in the new Honda hatchback is much improved, thanks to a wider windscreen and much thinner pillars. Sound-deadening improvements mean it's also 10 per cent quieter than before. 

Visibility in the new Honda hatchback is much improved, thanks to a wider windscreen and much thinner pillars

This is my favourite. It rides higher than the standard Jazz, has integrated roof rails and 16 in silver and black alloy wheels.

Mine came in fetching 'Surf Blue'. The 109 hp hybrid system combines a 1.5 litre petrol engine with two compact electric motors. 

It can run in hybrid drive, pure electric mode and engine drive and can move seamlessly through all. The smart, contemporary interior has pleasant, soft-touch materials and an uncluttered dashboard.

Comfortable front seats dispense with springs in favour of a slat system to reduce fatigue and relieve back pain. There's also more legroom in the back.

The brake pedal positon has been changed to optimise the foot-angle. To help taller drivers the steering wheel is 2-degrees more upright. 

Occupants are protected by 10 airbags – including a new front-centre bag to reduce the impact of front passengers' heads and bodies colliding. Whiplash-mitigating front headrests are fitted.  

A smart-phone app allows owners to keep in touch with their car when away from it – including tracking its movement and location via GPS satellite and giving you an alert if it exceeds a set distance or 'geo-fence' while someone else – whether off-spring or a partner - is driving. 

It will also alert you if the car's secutity alarm is activated. 

The standard hatchback accelerates from rest to 62 mph in 9.4 seconds up to a top speed of 108 mph, but offers pocketfriendly fuel economy of 62.8 mpg with CO2 emissions of 102g/km.

The standard hatchback accelerates from rest to 62 mph in 9.4 seconds up to a top speed of 108 mph, but offers pocketfriendly fuel economy of 62.8 mpg with CO2 emissions of 102g/km

The fractionally longer, wider, higher Crosstar accelerates from rest to 62 mph in 9.9 seconds, has a top speed of 107 mph, but will still manage 58.9 mpg and CO2 emissions of 110g/km.

Standard prices from £18,995, rise to £20,185 for the SR and £21,385 for the EX variants. The Crosstar, from £22,635, is available only in top EX trim. 

BMW 4-series promises a great knees-up

Wondering if the sleek new BMW 4- Series Coupe is fast? Here's a clue. 

It has knee pads on the centre console to help drivers cope with its 'sporty driving style'.

And with its large-framed kidney-shaped BMW grille exuding brash bling, you certainly won't miss it out on the road. 

Hold tight: The sleek new BMW 4- Series Coupe has knee pads on the centre console to help drivers cope with its 'sporty driving style'

New mild hybrid technology features on the flagship motorsport-inspired allwheel M440i xDrive Coupe version costing £55,875. 

It goes from rest to 62 mph in just 4.5 seconds, right up to 155 mph. 

That's thanks to a 3 litre 374 hp six- cylinder in-line petrol engine with 48v electric motor and eight-speed automatic transmission. 

Yet it manages about 40 mpg with CO2 emissions of 155-163g/km. Prices from £39,870 for October deliveries.

Kia Picanto gets a high tech makeover

KIA'S spicy Picanto just got tastier with a series of new upgrades, telematics and safety features added. 

To improve cornering and braking, it has a range of electronic stability controls. There should be lower emissions from its re- engineered 1 litre and 1.2 litre engines. 

Expect prices from £10,000 with higher-spec models closer to £13,000. Design tweaks are evolutionary, not revolutionary with a more purposeful look and sharper lines. 

Customers have a choice of ten vibrant paint finishes and a range of customised interiors including one in lime green. 

It goes on sale in the UK and Europe this autumn with the Korean car firm's seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty as standard. 

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