If you are in the market for a compact hatchback that is hassle free to drive in the city and puts a smile on your face every time you take it out for a spin, then the Honda Brio automatic should be on top of your list. While newer rivals like the Maruti Celerio and Hyundai Grand i10 might offer more affordable pricing, they don’t offer a 5-speed automatic gearbox like the compact Honda does. So, is the Brio worth the extra cost over the Celerio? Let’s find out.
Honda hasn’t changed much on the car in terms of design from its launch in late 2011, so you get the same bug eyes up front and the cab-forward design. The short overhangs gives it a nice purposeful stance. The Brio looks particularly attractive in this shade of blue pictured here. While the front end looks very stylish, the rear design can split opinion sharply. The hatch door doesn’t open unlike other rivals but only the glass opens up. Honda clearly did this to save on costs but more on this later.
You get a nice circular theme inside the cabin. The dashboard is finished in beige, brown and black. Cost cutting is evident here as well. You get fixed head-restraints for the seats all-across. The steering adjusts for rake but not reach. Quality is decent though. The rear seats have decent space as well. Legroom is average for its class and headroom adequate. But the limited width means that seating three at the rear will be end up in a struggle for elbow room. The light beige fabric on the seats though has a tendency to soil rather easily, so if you have children who eat inside the car, then be prepared to pay for big dry-cleaning bills. Another downer is the tiny boot which at 175-litres is one of the smaller ones in this segment and this along with the high loading lip, can make fitting in luggage a big chore.
Engine, Transmission and Performance
Honda offers the 1.2-litre petrol motor which comes with Honda’s sophisticated i-VTEC technology. The engine develops 87bhp and is easily one of the most refined motors in its segment. Its rev happy nature means you can push the motor to it’s redline and enjoy the experience. The top-end of the power band has plenty of power in reserve.
The five-speed automatic has been borrowed from the one that did duty in the earlier City. The Brio’s automatic unit though has a bit of transmission lag and feels like you are driving a CVT. When you want to push the car hard, and press the accelerator pedal it takes a second to summon the engine for power. There’s a lot of buzz from the engine, and it takes a while to get the momentum going. That’s because the gear doesn’t shift up immediately. You have to lift off the accelerator pedal a bit for the gear to shift up otherwise the revs will just hit the redline in the same gear. This is a car that prefers to be driven sedately in the city than rushed through its gearbox.
On the plus side, the Brio’s cabin remains calm when doing triple-digit speeds. With the car in top gear the engine is spinning at a relatively low 2000rpm at around 100kmph. The gearshifts are largely smooth. You can also slot the gearbox in D3, 2 and 1 manually. As the names suggest, this means the gear won’t go beyond third, second and first respectively. These modes are useful when you're coming down a hill and you want to use engine braking.
Ride and handling
The Brio is huge on agility. The responsive steering, dynamic chassis and minimal body roll means that pushing this small car into corners offers a rewarding experience for the keen driver. Honda have achieved a great level of success with the ride comfort as well, considering that the Brio’s overall wheelbase is shorter than even an Alto’s. The car manages to ride over small bumps and potholes with ease with only the larger crevices making an impact into the cabin. The Brio also feels very stable at highway speeds offering a very confidence inspiring ride as speeds build up making it one of the best cars for overall ride comfort in its class.
Safety and equipment
You get dual front airbags along with Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) and Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) to help in panic braking situations. The stereo comes with an integrated USB and auxiliary port but no CD or Bluetooth. You do get steering mounted audio controls though. Surprisingly there is no automatic climate control and no rear parking sensors either. Honda obviously thinks that the compact dimensions make this an easy car to park in the city, and we agree with them.
The Grand lives upto its name in more ways than one. It comes loaded to the gills with features. The cabin offers tremendous amounts of room and the boot is big enough for a family’s weekend getaway. But the Brio is still more engaging to drive and offers a five-speed auto against the Grand’s four-speed unit.
If you want a hassle-free car around town that’s also engaging to drive then the Brio automatic is just for you. At Rs 5.99 lakh(ex-showroom, Delhi) it might be a bit expensive but what you pay for is a well-engineered and brilliantly packaged small car.
Honda Brio automatic Test Drive Review