A fuel-efficient alternative to an SUV for carting your bike around

Many times in recent years I have been asked by people involved with horses what is the best and cheapest vehicle to own if one wants to tow a horse float.

Many people who live in this space don't really care nor have any interest in a particular make or model of vehicle, they simply want to move their horse(s) from A to B. The bottom line for a high number of horse lovers is the passion and money is all wrapped up in the horse and other associated costs, not the tow vehicle, so it's all about transport that will do the job at the cheapest price.

And it's the same with cycling enthusiasts. The sky can be the limit cost-wise when it comes to choosing either a new mountain or road bike and even the mid-priced ones are often treated as part of the family.

I have been one of those enthusiastic cyclists myself for many years and even have a name for my road bike.


It's called Eric, long story ...

So just how and where do you place the newly purchased bike when travelling by car to events or to a specific point to start a favourite ride? Hanging the bike off a rack attached to the towbar or strapped to the rear body panels is okay for some, but for those wanting to share the vehicle's interior space with their bikes it can become a little more difficult.

Reasons to want to place a bike inside a vehicle are varied; a bike mounted to a bike rack can be viewed as being illegal by the authorities (see below), certain weather and road conditions can cause damage to the main mechanical componentry and they can also become easy prey if left in car parks or shopping malls for long periods. They also become a sitting target in the event of a nose-to-tail collision as well.

Securing the bike to a roof rack is another option which is great if you are reasonably tall and can get the bike secured without inflicting damage to the roof panel of the car, however some drivers have been known to have a mind blank and forget what's sitting above them as they enter drive-thrus or even their own garages.

Let's not forget also, the additional cost of purchasing the actual bike rack and, in some cases, having to pay out for a towbar to be fitted to the vehicle as well. Yes, you can buy racks that eliminate the need for a towbar but not every vehicle is suitable and once again it adds cost.

So does a cycling enthusiast have to spend exorbitant amounts of money on a large SUV to accommodate his/her pride and joy? Well the answer is no, with some of the smaller vehicles offering equal or more room than their bigger and more masculine brothers. Combine that with cheaper overall running costs and, hey presto, all bases may be covered and there could be some money left over to upgrade the bike.

The Honda Jazz is one such vehicle. It is marketed with claims of superior interior space over some bigger SUVs but sells in the small car segment of the market.

So rather than pore through all the technical jargon about available space, we decided to put the marketing hype to the test and simply pedal up to Honda New Zealand's head office and ask them to load Eric on board with little to no disassembly.

We will let the pictures tell the story but, yes, you can fit a complete, average-size road or mountain bike into the Jazz with little effort (in some cases seat height may have to be lowered). Multiple bikes can also be accommodated if just the front wheels are removed.

So what makes the Jazz so different to its competitors both big and small? Key is the positioning of the fuel tank. It's been cleverly placed under the front seats which, when combined with a compact rear suspension, allows for a very low floor pan design. In addition, and to maximise interior space, the Honda design team came up with a rear seat that can seat three passengers in reasonable comfort and height but stand a bike up in the boot when folded, creates a low and flat interior floor space. The "magic seat" can turn the Jazz into a five-door hatch or provide a vast amount of useable cargo space. A full-size spare wheel is also retained.

The second generation Jazz is currently sold new with either a 1.3-litre (73kW) or a 1.5-litre (88kW) 16 valve i-VTEC engine mated to either a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. Claimed combined official fuel consumption figures vary from 6.4l/100km to 6.7l/100km depending on model and transmission type. On a trip around the Coromandel (with Eric on-board) we managed to achieve an average of 6.3l/100km in the 1.5-litre S, a five-speed auto variant.

A hybrid version of the Jazz has also just been released on to the New Zealand market and offers 30 per cent improvement on fuel economy in the 1.5-litre petrol Jazz.

The earlier generation Jazz is the same but different in looks and was the instigator of the flat floor and magic seat design which means you don't have to buy the latest model to achieve the same result interior space-wise.

It is also sold as a Honda Fit in NZ (the Fit being a used import). The 1.5l engine is recommended as it is a manual transmission, if you are looking at this option.

Used prices vary from below $10,000 while a new Jazz is currently priced between $24,700 and $29,500 (plus on road costs) depending on engine size and specification level, while the new hybrid model is priced at $29,990.

Racks and rules
1. Bicycles carried in cycle racks mounted on the rear of a vehicle can often cover up the number plate or essential lights on the back of the vehicle. In these circumstances the driver is now legally obliged either to relocate the existing number plate or buy a supplementary plate from an NZTA agent and fit it on the back of the load.

To prevent all the hassle, Best Bars, which designs and manufactures the EziGrip range of bike racks, produce a supplementary plate holder and light board assembly (sold separately) which can be bought from most leading cycle stores.

2. Bicycles carried inside a vehicle should always be securely fastened to avoid possible occupant injury in the event of an accident, sudden braking or when negotiating twisting terrain or other potential hazards.