THE Honda Jazz has always been something of a misfit in the supermini sector.

Yes, it’s comparatively small when measured against most SUVs, but – and here is its joker card – the Jazz is a perfect example that small does not have to mean impractical.

For starters, it still utilises what it calls magic seats – one of the key selling points when it was launched a couple of decades ago – that flip at the touch of a lever to reveal enough space to manage most loads.

What now impresses in equal measure is its improved powertrain – hybrid only now – the more comfortable ride (and seats) and the use of softer materials in the cabin that are that much nicer to the touch.

There’s even a Crosstar version that is a jazzier Jazz with roof rails and raised suspension, but here we concentrate on the regular model.

Built around a hybrid powertrain which takes the average fuel economy past the 60mpg mark, this new Jazz also takes the 0 to 62mph sprint time under ten seconds and reduces CO2 emissions to a mere 104g/km.

Roomy, versatile and with bulletproof reliability, the Jazz has proved equally popular with families and senior citizens.

The hybrid system means that for a large part of city driving the car will run on electric power alone. There’s no instant response, such as experienced in a fully electric car, but the 1.5-litre petrol engine now has enough shove to provide a more relaxed climb to higher speeds. The electric vehicle mode will return at higher speeds when you ease off the accelerator but for the most part you will be relying on the 109PS combination of the electric motor and Atkinson cycle engine.

The cabin is so well thought out, from thinner A-pillars, the uncluttered dashboard, info-packed instrument cluster and huge windscreen through to the plethora of storage options, ample rear legroom and boot space, which jumps from a capacity of 304 litres to 1205 litres when the magic seats trickery is deployed.

That dashboard is packed full of the latest technologies to ensure safety and there’s a nine-inch touchscreen. Choose the EX or Crosstar versions and you get satellite navigation too.

The combination of a more comfortable ride, the EV hybrid technology, intuitive technology and seamless in-car connectivity make this such an easy car to live with and enjoy.

The e:HEV system comprises two compact electric motors connected to a 1.5-litre DOHC i-VTEC petrol engine, a lithium-ion battery and an innovative fixed-gear transmission which all work harmoniously together to provide a smooth response.

There are three drive modes – which the system selects – and these are EV Drive, Hybrid Drive and Engine Drive.

In most urban driving situations, optimum efficiency is achieved through seamless transitions between EV Drive and Hybrid Drive. For driving at highway speeds, Engine Drive is used, supplemented by an on-demand peak power ‘boost’ from the electric propulsion motor for fast acceleration.

In Hybrid Drive, excess power from the petrol engine can also be diverted to recharge the battery via the generator motor. EV is also engaged when the car is decelerating, harvesting energy through regenerative braking to recharge the battery.

Apart from the in-car connectivity, which allows for infotainment services to be accessed via the touchscreen or are voice activated, there’s an upgraded suite of safety features and driver aids as standard.

These include a collision mitigation braking system with night-time operation to detect pedestrians and cyclists, auto high beam headlights, traffic sign recognition and adaptive cruise control, and blind spot information with cross traffic monitor on executive grades.

The lowdown:

Honda Jazz EX

Price: £21,385 (Jazz range from £18,985)

Powertrain: 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol with electric motors, producing 109PS

Transmission: Automatic, driving front wheels

Performance: 0 to 62mph in 9.5 seconds; top speed 108mph

Economy: 61.4mpg combined

CO2 emissions: 102g/km

Star ratings:

Performance: ****

Economy: ****

Ride/Handling: ****

Space/Practicality: ******

Equipment: *****

Security/Safety: ****

Value For Money: ****