Honda and affordable cars? Did I make a mistake here? Yes, a few months back, you could literally term me as mad for saying that Honda cars in India are affordable. Infact, even used Honda cars in India are very costly. The trend has changed now with the recent spate of rise in petrol prices plus the fact that even diesel variants are being doled out by other manufacturers at the price of Honda’s petrol engined cars. The Honda City, the company’s proud unabashed proclaimer of success in India, was thrown from its podium position by diesel engined competitors. Wisely enough, Honda resorted to huge price cuts to bring the City back to number one spot plus they also made the Jazz a lot more affordable, so much so that the price difference between the City and Jazz now stands at a cool Rs 3 lakhs. The company’s new baby, the Honda Brio was launched last night with a killer price tag. Now, this would stand to be the new bread and butter model of the company and hence is a very important model in Honda’s Indian lineup. This is before they actually get down to launching a diesel engine in their portfolio, somewhere down the line in 2013. Here is a test drive/review report of the Honda Brio and how actually Honda’s built to price car should fare in the Indian automobile market.
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I had already discussed the looks of the Brio in the Honda Brio In India Preview article and there isn’t much deviation from it for the looks department. Mention must be made of the paint schemes that Honda has chosen for this car. I was never a fan of the Civic or either the City’s paint schemes; however the Brio’s paint scheme is a definite attraction. As with most of the Honda cars, the cab forward design, which was first introduced in the second generation City, is prevalent here. The new Honda wing type grille makes its presence here. From the sides, from a distance, the Honda Brio in India looks similar to the Maruti A-Star. The rear is the most sensational part of the Brio’s design. Why, even this one outdoes the Chevy Beat by offering a complete glass door pane. Too impractical is what my first reaction was. After all, who would want their luggage as also personal belongings to be seen by others? To add insult to injury, there is no rear wiper or even defogger, even for the top of the line variant. Owners would have to be beware of kids playing in their building compounds, lest the cricket ball hits the back pane and it is shattered. The top end variant gets 175/65 R14 tyres that go well with the unique 10 spoke alloy wheel design.
The first time, I had a look around in the Toyota Liva, it was more like I am seated in a Tata car. For the Brio, however, there were no such feelings. Honda has achieved the low cost of this car by localizing about 80 percent of the components including some of the engine components. The ECU is imported directly from Japan. There aren’t too many distractions on the dashboard by the name of features. The top end variant has got audio mounted controls on the steering wheel. The AC controls look very basic, however they work well. The seats are nicely textured and contoured. Me being tall, there was no reason to check out the driver seat adjustment, however, my colleague was not happy with the seating arrangement and add to it that Honda haven’t put the seat height adjustment for the driver. The dashboard is a scooped out unit and hence my knees didn’t hit it. There is a general perception about airiness inside the cabin and a vast part of this has been achieved due to the huge glass area at the rear. For the rear passengers, fitting in a third passenger in the middle would be a squeeze, however the third one wouldn’t have to complain about the lack of leg space. It would mostly be the shoulder room which would be a problem. This car also gets a fair share of cubby holes in the cabin. The boot space is just about okay for this class with 175 liters of deep space. Unfortunately no split seats are available in here; however, the seats fold completely.
Don’t expect Liva like ride quality here, this small Honda carries forward a typical Honda trait. For the front suspension, there are the regular McPherson struts while for the rear suspension, there is a torsion beam in the shape of a H. This Honda is stiffly sprung and in this very state of tune, it doesn’t manage to scrape the speed-brakers either. The steering wheel is light, just like all Hondas; however it also has a sufficient feedback dialed into it. The ride quality is nothing home to talk about and this hatchback just about rides okay. For the handling, this Honda is right up there with the rest of its clan. In cabin noise is also minimum and unlike the other built to a cost options in the market, the engine is also fairly a quiet unit. Highway stability is also fantastic in this car.
The Brio sports the same petrol engine of 1.2 liter capacity. It also gets variable valve timing or iVTEC in Honda’s language. However, unlike the Jazz, this one doesn’t get the 90 Ps configuration and instead comes in at 87 Bhp and 109 Nm of torque. The 5 speed manual gearbox is similar to the one in the Jazz and even the gear knob is an identical thing. Readers would remember me commenting on the Jazz’s weak bottom end. The good news is that the Brio has got reworked gear ratios which ensure that the Brio is er, swift off the line. It can easily touch 145 kmph, what with the iVTEC engine being utter refined. The clutch action, typical of Honda cars, is very smooth. The brakes are also fantastic units. The top two variants get ABS as also EBD along with twin air bags. The base version of the Brio weighs in only at 920 kgs and this in hatchback parlance can be termed as porky. The ARAI fuel efficiency of 18.4 kmpl is also not class leading for a hatchback sporting a 1.2 liter engine. Nevertheless, it should keep the fuel efficiency minded customers sort of happy. Honda has said that they have no intentions of bringing in an automatic version of the Brio, since the market conditions simply don’t demand it.
The Honda Brio has got 4 variants in its fold. The base or primary version would be called as E and it would come with steel wheels and front power windows. The middle line S variant would get the AC and heater, steel wheels with caps and also some other goodies. The one version above it, the S option would have ABS, EBD and airbags as an addition to it. The top of the line V variant would get steering mounted audio controls, keyless entry, alloy wheels and a music system. The Honda Brio price in India is Rs 3.95 lakhs for the base E variant and it would go upto Rs 5.10 for the V variant.
Honda Brio technical specifications, price and variants.