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Honda is hoping its new Jazz is a cut above supermini rivals from Skoda and Nissan. We put it to the test.

Honda has had a bumper year in 2015, already releasing its high-performance Civic Type R model and its all-new compact crossover, the HR-V. But with more than half a million superminis sold in the UK over the first half of this year, the Japanese brand knows it can’t ignore the bulk of British buyers.

Enter the new Honda Jazz – a five-door hatchback with a focus on practicality that aims to blend the best bits of a traditional supermini with downsized MPV versatility.

Which is why we’ve lined up the Jazz next to two of the most functional five-doors on sale today: the Skoda Fabia and Nissan Note. Yet the Honda has a tough fight on its hands. With prices starting at £13,495, it’s more expensive than entry-level versions of its rivals, which cost from £10,600 and £9,995 respectively.

We’ve chosen three trim levels that offer a solid blend of performance, practicality, price and equipment to represent what real-world buyers will be looking for. So, can the Jazz slot straight in at the top, or will our contenders – previous group test winners in their own right – give the new supermini challenger a shock?

Just because you’ve plumped for a practical supermini doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice style. But neither the Honda and Nissan is especially exciting to look at. The Fabia is far more visually appealing with its chunky looks and squat, low stance – and that could be enough to drag customers towards Skoda’s impressive dealerships.

Skoda’s designers have dotted plenty of ‘Simply Clever’ touches around the latest Fabia. These include an ice scraper hidden in the petrol flap and a clip in the window for parking tickets. You also get a bottle holder in the glovebox and a phone pocket on the side of the driver’s seat.

Looks and performance might be important, but practicality is just as crucial. At 4.1m long and with the longest wheelbase, the Note is roomiest with its flexible bench seat. The Jazz takes honours for boot space, but the Skoda is the best all-round combination.

Superior performance, strong practicality and affordable running costs see the Fabia finish first. It’s the most premium choice here and the cheapest. While that might mean you’ll have to add options to match rivals’ kit, it’ll still be the most cost-effective way of tapping into lots of flexibility in the best-driving chassis. Skoda’s excellent aftersales service is the icing on the cake.

This third-generation Jazz is a definite improvement, even though the 1.3-litre engine feels strained next to the Skoda’s 1.2. It’d be better with a manual box, but then efficiency takes a turn for the worse. The Jazz rescues things with strong safety kit and a good brand image. However, a high price, expensive running costs and a lower equipment spec see it fall short.

It might not set pulses racing, but the Note is a solid performer. Trouble is, in this company that’s not enough. The sliding rear seat boosts usability, yet it’s expensive and feels less upmarket than the Skoda. Plus, the Note’s lower CO2 emissions are countered by poorer predicted residuals and high insurance costs. A dull powertrain and bland styling see it relegated to last place.

New: Ford B-MAX 1.0 EcoBoost Titanium - Price: £16,195 Engine: 1.0-litre 3cyl, 98bhp

Ford’s three-cylinder turbo has lots of torque, so the B-MAX is faster than its power output suggests. Plus, for a similar price in Titanium trim you get lots of kit. There’s also more practicality thanks to the pillarless sliding doors.

Used: MINI Cooper Clubman 1.6 - Price: £14,500 Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl, 118bhp

This budget will buy you a well-equipped, low-mileage, used MINI Clubman. This 1.6 Cooper fits the bill thanks to its premium badge and extra practicality over a hatch. Just watch for the third door, as it opens on the road rather than pavement side.