As well as making cars, Honda has a happy habit of turning out contented car owners.

None more so than the drivers of the company’s compact Jazz supermini, which has been a solid seller since its launch.

With its clever flip-up rear seats, the car’s versatility has often proved a clincher when lined up against its legion of rivals.

For anyone looking for a car that takes up little space, but is capable of gobbling up loads of luggage, the Jazz has proved a consistent winner.

As well as presenting a gently sharpened exterior to the world, the new generation Jazz’s well-built cabin has been refined, the car's ride and handling performance has been revised to boost driver appeal, and improvements have been made to its efficiency.

Existing Jazz owners will be familiar with the car's 1.2 and 1.4-litre petrol engines, which deliver 50+mpg, and remain competent performers. But in the 1.4-litre trim with the new automatic CVT gearbox, the new Jazz adds tangible refinement over its predecessor, delivering plenty of smooth, steady power, making it even better on the road.

The CVT gearbox also appears in the new petrol/electric hybrid version of the Jazz which manages 62.8mpg and boasts a 104g/km CO2 rating. A clear instrument display keeps you informed on fuel consumption and also on the combination of engine and electric power.

Dave Hodgetts, managing director of Honda (UK), said: “We have boosted the car’s appeal with the addition of the CVT transmission and introduction of leather upholstery, while retaining all the features customers loved about the outgoing model including Magic Seats and a huge boot.

“The hybrid variant shows how driving down emissions and running costs doesn’t mean a sacrifice in other areas – the car retains all the practicality that can be found in the petrol range.”

While the Jazz range, which is priced from £11,295, has been a consistent winner with private buyers, it has also been a hit with company car drivers who need to carry a lot of gear but do not want a big, thirsty car.

Honda frankly admits it missed a trick in the fleet car market, particularly with the Accord range, by not producing cars specifically to fit the UK’s new CO2 emissions league table.

But the firm aims to put that right with the new cleaner, sharper Accord range that goes on sale in the UK on July 1.

Both saloon and tourer models offer improved fuel economy and reduced emissions compared to their reliable predecessors, with the popular 2.2 i-DTEC ES and ES GT manual saloon’s emissions level of 138 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre, and the automatic variant at 159g/km now fitting in below the all-important 160g/km mark for company car drivers.

I put the ES GT saloon through its paces and it proved just as precise, quiet as its spacious predecessor, while still delivering a powerful punch.

Standard equipment across the range is impressive and includes everything from Bluetooth hands-free telephone, to cruise control and dual-zone climate control air conditioning.

Top of the range EX and Type S models gain DVD Satellite Navigation, leather upholstery, electric and heated front seats with two-stage memory function and ten-speaker audio. Prices start at £21,695 on the road for the 2.0 i-VTEC ES saloon and £23,050 for the tourer.

Auto facts Honda Jazz EX CVT

  • Price: £15,995
  • Insurance group: 17 (1-50)
  • Fuel consumption (Combined): 51.4mpg
  • Top speed: 109mph
  • Length: 390cm/153.5in
  • Width: 169.5cm/66.7in
  • Luggage capacity: 14 cu ft
  • Fuel tank capacity: 9.2 gallons/42 litres
  • CO2 emissions: 128g/km
  • Warranty: 3 years/90,000 miles