THE first British-built Jazz was driven off the production line at Honda’s factory in Swindon this week – promising another boost to Southampton docks as well as the Wiltshire manufacturing centre.

Southampton already handles exports for Honda’s Swindon-built Civics and CR-Vs, alongside Jaguars, Range Rovers, Minis and Ford Transits, as well as imports for Renault.

The five-door Jazz family supermini is one of Honda’s most successful cars in Europe, with over 70,000 sold in the region every year.

Production of Jazz for Europe is shifting from Japan to the UK as Honda has a policy of building its most popular cars in the markets in which they are sold.

In the current financial year Honda of the UK Manufacturing in Swindon (HUM) will build 20,000 units of Jazz.

Although 75 per cent of these will be for the UK market, the other 25 per cent are planned for export to 55 countries across mainland Europe and other regions, including South Africa.

The addition of Jazz to the lines producing the Civic and CR-V – exported to 60 countries – brings the planned total production level for the Swindon plant in this financial year to 100,600 – still well below the plant’s full capacity.

Volumes are expected to increase next year due to the new three-model production line-up.

The start of Jazz production comes just 12 months after the decision to make a third model at the Wiltshire manufacturing facility.

The demand for cars like the Jazz is increasing as car buyers look to downsize from big, gas-guzzling models into smaller, fuel efficient, but practical vehicles.

In the UK, the Government’s scrappage scheme has given Jazz sales a significant boost, with the practical little car making up 70 per cent of all of Honda’s scrappage deals.

Other incentives across Europe have resulted in similar increases in demand.

David Hodgetts, director at HUM, said: “We see this third model as a wonderful opportunity in the current climate and we’re extremely proud to be building the Jazz here in Swindon.

“The car is incredibly popular with customers, and it has won countless awards for quality and reliability.

“Shifting production to the UK is a real vote of confidence in all our 3,400 associates [employees] here in Swindon, and recognition of the high standards which we have been able to achieve at the plant.”