Small cars account for nearly half the number of overall passenger car sales in the country. Almost every car maker has a presence here and while some like Maruti & Hyundai have done immensely well a few others have seen the kind of success they would’ve desired. Five years back Honda also made its debut in this very competitive segment with the Brio. The Brio then got mixed reactions especially about the way it looked and that could be the reason why the Japanese car maker has decided to alter some exterior and exterior elements of the hatch.
The idea is to make the car look more sporty and stylish when compared to the predecessor. So there’s a new grille now which is a mix of high gloss black and shiny chrome and reminds of other Honda cars from higher segments. The front bumper too has gone for a refresh and we can now see more cuts and lines than before. With these changes Honda has managed to give the Brio a fresh identity despite the overall stance remaining pretty much the same. It’s taken a slightly radical path when it comes to design in a segment where looks matter as much as a few other things like fuel efficiency. The profile pretty much remains the same but the rear sees some important changes as well as additions. The tail lamp cluester gets a refresh while the addition of a spoiler adds some more character to the car. It also comes with high mounted LED brake lights which score well in terms of safety as well. Another thing that got mixed reactions when the Brio was first launched was the unique opening style of the rear windshield. Honda then tried to convince the consumer that it has been tested for its durability and can be used thousands of times. That continues to remain the same and more than the design the main problem here is the access to the boot space. Because of the narrow entry, it gets difficult to utilize maximum available boot space.
Inside the Brio definitely looks more premium than before. The all black theme is appealing and helps in making the car look premium. The dash has different textures with a hint of silver thrown in and Honda hasn’t really compromised on the quality. The entertainment system looks more in sync with the Honda brand now and comes with features like USB and Bluetooth telephony. The instrument cluster is also new and digital yet analog theme works really well for a car that likes to call itself a premium hatch. There is a new 2-DIN audio system and a climate control unit as well. Talking about the AC the circular AC vents as seen on the earlier Brio have now been replaced by rectangular vents. Though the dash is lifted from the recently launched BR-V the car misses out on some features seen the SUV like a touch screen infotainment system as well as Apple car play or Android auto. Space is good on the first row, but the second row, it’s a bit of a stretch more so when 3 occupants are seated.
What hasn’t changed on the Brio is its 1.2 litre petrol engine. It’s a 4 cylinder motor so it ensures better performance. The numbers also are good with the maximum power bring at 88 PS and peak torque at 109 mm. The car is available in both manual and automatic variants, both of which come with manual and automatic gearboxes. And yes unlike a Jazz or an Amaze which come with CVT gearboxes this one is still a conventional gearbox which was the case earlier as well with the Brio. The manual gearbox than we sampled on this drive has got what it takes to take on the tough demands of a city commute. There’s enough torque to avoid gear changes at all times and even when there is a need, the changes are absolutely smooth. At a time when most small cars in the country comes with both petrol and diesel options the Brio still misses out on a Diesel motor. And this in a situation where Honda has a very successful 1.5 litre engine powering almost all of its cars in India.
Honda is also claiming good numbers when it comes to fuel efficiency on the car. On the manual variant the claimed mileage stands at 18.5 km/l and even on the auto variant the number doesn’t go down drastically and stays at 16.5 km/l. The ride quality for a small car is good. But expect some bit of body roll while doing fast maneuvers on the highway. The Brio is made for the urban chaos which means it’s going to spend a lot of time in traffic and here one of the things that matters is the turning radius. Honda says that one the manual variant it stands at 4.6 meters and on the Auto variant it’s a slightly higher 4.8 meters and these figures will aid well in urban commutes.
It was about time that Honda came up with a Brio facelift as the car was launched 5 years back, and that is a long time in the life cycle of specially a small car. The timing of the launch bang in the middle of the festive season may work to Honda’s advantage. This is a time when the buyers throng to the showrooms to buy new cars and bikes and Honda must be hoping a fair share of the pie comes towards the new Brio as well. How the Brio will now fare against its competition only time will tell but Honda has definitely given us a better car than before. They’ve also begun well by keeping the price in check as the base manual variant is priced at Rs. 4.67 lakh (ex-showroom) and the only auto variant will cost you Rs. 6.81 lakh. The new Brio now is certainly a more potent weapon to take on the competition.
Shams Naqvi is an anchor/producer for the News X motor show Living Cars