Honda, after a considerably long time has finally given it’s entry level hatchback the Brio a much needed mid-cycle facelift. For starters the modifications made to this vehicle seem to be on the right track, taking care of all existing faults that the car had in the past. But the segment that this vehicle currently falls under has seen multiple new introductions in recent times, which were a notch up in comparison to the Brio in terms of their design as well as the magnitude of creature comforts on board. Nevertheless, we got the opportunity to put the all new Honda Brio facelift to test. So here is our detailed first drive report of this vehicle where we strive to find out how much of an improvement is the new model over the previous one.
DESIGN AND STYLE
The Brio certainly is a looker. In this segment where classical designs are more appreciated than anything radical, the Brio has everything working in its favour. While it doesn’t have the sharp, funky lines of its rival, the Chevrolet Beat, or the radical futuristic styling of its elder sibling, the Jazz, it still manages to stand out in a crowd quite easily. The well proportioned stance with short overhangs is something that really gives the car a dynamic look. While Honda’s designers might want to describe the styling as ‘double triangle’ or the like in the language only automobile designers can speak and very few apart from their ilk can understand, what is clear to understand is that the Brio does look like it’s moving forward at a good clip even when its standing still, especially when viewed bang-on from the side.
This is accentuated by the slashed crease just below the shoulder line and a parallel crease near the bottom of the car. Then there is there is a wide stance with its flared wheel arches, reminiscent of more sporty cars which really improves the appeal by leaps and bounds. This wider track combined with the car’s relatively short wheelbase of 2,345mm as well as the lack of overhangs at either end, and the Brio comes across as a little rally car that would be more at home spewing dust on special stages rather than pootling about town. The front of the car bears the typical Honda traits that we’ve come to accept now, such as the large ‘H’ badge on the grille
CABIN AND SPACE
The other reason for the roomy feel in the cabin is the amount of light that comes in from the large glass area. The steeply raked windscreen, the large front windows and the all-glass rear hatch gives the cabin an airy, well-lit feel, even on a cloudy day, as was the case during my test drive.
The other feature of the Brio’s interior that has enabled Honda to free up more space, especially knee-room, is thinner seat backs. By optimising the S-spring, Honda officials claim that thinner squabs were constructed without any compromise on the support provided to the passenger. The seats at the front are bucket-type with impact mitigating integrated headrests.
The dashboard layout also bears the Honda signature – simple, focused on practicality and uncluttered. The interior has a two-tone theme, but is dominated by light beige. The top half of the dash is grey, as is the centre console and steering wheel. Good fit and finish and quality plastic used gives the interior an upmarket feel which is free of compromises.
Triple analog 3D instrument meters, the trio of airconditioner controls on the centre stack and the exclusive 2-DIN audio system with USB and aux-in are noteworthy features. The chunky steering wheel fits neatly into ones hands and also offers audio system controls in the top-end variants. The glove box is narrow and a bit cramped, but there are a number of cubby holes to store all sorts of stuff on the go.
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION
On the mechanical bit, the Brio Automatic has a 4 cylinder 16 valve 1198cc engine which borrows the automatic transmission from its elder sibling sedan, the City. This unit produces a power of 88 PS at 6000 rpm and a torque of 109 Nm at 4500 rpm.
The manual version is my favorite. Its compact dimensions, awesome steering feedback and precise handling gives amazing confidence. In addition to that is the error less gear shifts. Since the torque is well distributed, the manual Brio does seem out of breath across the rpms. The i-Vtec is a wonderful engine and it does its job pretty well.
Of the 700 odd kms that I did in the Brio from Ahmedabad to Pune, there was no fatigue at all going to the extent of proving this is indeed a superb offering in its segment. On this trip itself, I had told the Honda team about my wish of a possibility of an automatic variant of the Brio which they politely declined to accept then only to send the invites of the automatic Brio drive later.
Inside the city with bumper to bumper traffic, the automatic gearbox is a blessing in disguise. Shift it to the drive mode and just forget about it. The automatic variant just vanishes the hassles of the often manual shifts in tight traffic. Since Brio weighs just 970 kgs, it offers superb handling.
The automatic earns its due appreciation inside the city however on the highways; there is a slight lag in the output. This lag is evident only while we overtake as the engine revs hard but then the vehicle doesn’t move in sync with it. Except for this, there are no big setbacks felt. Throw any surface and the Brio happily takes it on with a always smiling front face. The Honda Brio AT is on the lazier side of performance compared to its manual counterpart but then it will appeal to the commuter type. In city traffic one hardly gets time and space to test the acceleration of the car.
RIDE AND HANDLING
The 88 bhp engine is responsive and is quick off the mark. Zipping around in city traffic is effortless especially with the automatic. The suspension is soft and takes care of most of the bad roads, undulations and speed breakers unless the car is heavily loaded with people, by that I mean all 4 people. The soft suspension does lower the car quite a bit. The car has a low centre of gravity still due to the soft suspension can’t be thrown around corners. If the signal is your start line you may be the 1st to heave a start.
The automatic is responsive but the manual is quicker. If at all Honda had a glitch it would be the CVT automatic. That feels like a drag. The Brios overtakes efficiently too. Honda have ticked all the right boxed. 88 bhp, responsive throttle and 19 km/l. What else could you ask for in a small car. As I have mentioned before this would be an IDEAL car for Mr Bean in today’s world.
The Honda Brio facelift is available with ABS and dual front airbags but only on the range topping VX variant. Honda should have offered the safety features at least as an option for lower variants considering the rising awareness of these features in India. Nonetheless, Honda’s badge is very well known for its after sales and reliability. They are offering a standard 2 year/40,000 km warranty with the new Brio.
The Honda Brio is a brilliant small car that excels in most departments while keeping up with the rest of the competition in others. It is a great value proposition, providing comfort, space, fuel economy and performance, all at a justified price, keeping in mind that it wears the big H badge.
However, we felt that the interiors could have been better and the suspension more passenger friendly. But this is just looking for needles in a hay stack, for the Brio is otherwise a brilliant all-round package. Also, do not forget that when one buys a car, one builds a relationship with not only the car but also the manufacturer.