It is small but spacious, puny but peppy, compact but chic. That was the Honda Brio for you when it made its debut in 2011. Five years down the line, nothing had changed and it is a really long time for a car, especially amongst the hatchbacks, to be left untouched. Of course it aged faster with time. Also, with Honda being able to build limited numbers back then, subsequent new products meant that the previous ones had to play second fiddle.
Nonetheless, Honda finally remembered they still had the Brio and decided to bring it back into contention. So, would a few nips and tucks and a new dashboard prepare the new Brio for a trial by fire? Let’s find out.
Well, it is the same body shell that has been carried over and hence the Brio looks the same. Except for the fascia, though. The Brio gets a brand new bumper which it now shares with the new Amaze. The sculpted bumper with its three part air dam looks sporty and adds a touch of muscle. The BR-V-like thick horizontal slat radiator grille gets black treatment with a chrome lining.
The profile, again, is exactly the same but now the Brio gets turn indicators on the retractable wing mirrors and a new alloy design (only for the top-spec car). The glass tailgate continues and now gets a big spoiler and reworked rear bumper. And yes, the tailgate glass is quite strong and does not shatter unless hit.
You will know why Honda calls this Brio all-new only when you step inside the cabin. The dashboard is all-new and comes from you know where - the Amaze. The all-black dash is busy with silver accents, carbon finish applique, piano black for the centre console and its angular design that focuses on the driver. It looks and feels nice. Even the plastics are better than before but the piano black does look a bit out of place. The handy three-spoke electric power steering has been retained and is tilt adjustable across the range. The Brio VX gets all four power windows and climate control system is standard and along with the max cool function. The infotainment system finally gets Bluetooth connectivity but still loses out on a touch-screen option.
The seats are comfortable, have good ergonomics and the upholstery is not as boring. While the VX gets all black interiors as against the E and S trims which get beige, the new upholstery pattern makes the Brio cabin look premium. Honda claims the 1380mm shoulder room of the Brio is best-in-class, we shall be able to tell you better when we get our detailed road test out. But till then, three full-size adults are a squeeze in the back – a segment standard. The driver seat is height adjustable and the view from the driver seat is largely unhindered. The legroom though is enough for a six-footer to fit in the driver seat ensuring the one sitting behind will have his legs wedged between the seats in spite of the carved out seatbacks. The boot space of 175 litres is not the best in class and the high loading lip coupled with the tiny dimensions renders it almost unusable except for stowing hand baggage.
Being a petrol, there is hardly any noise from the engine which means a quiet ride. At high revs though, the sweet engine notes are audible but the insulation also allows quite a bit of road noise to come in on rough roads. On the safety front, only the top-spec VX comes with dual front airbags and ABS with EBD.
Honda continues to offer the Brio with the tried and tested 1.2-litre four cylinder i-Vtec petrol engine only which develops 87bhp of power and 109Nm of torque and revs freely to its red-line near 6500rpm. The engine has enough bottom end to suffice in city traffic but feels a tad flat over 4000rpm. The five-speed manual gearbox is smooth and feels positive especially with the short gear throws and a light clutch. The gear ratios are spread nicely and the Brio cruises effortlessly at 100 at less than 3000rpm. The Brio also gets a five-speed automatic gearbox for the VX trim.
The Brio is set up on the softer side like all Honda cars and the ride is comfortable but on the jiggly side. It soaks up road bumps quite well, even at speeds but the soft setup does reflect in cornering dynamics where the body roll comes in. The anti-roll bar across the struts in the front does well to damp it down. In terms of dynamics, the steering, being an electric unit, has less feedback but is direct and precise making it easy to manoeuvre in tight traffic. It does weigh up a little at high speeds to provide firmness and stability. The disc brakes up front and the drums in the back work well and the braking has the right bite and progressive feel to it.
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||87bhp @ 6000|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||109Nm @ 4500|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||35|
|New Instrument console||Yes|
|Music sytem with Bluetooth||Yes|
|New black dashboard||Yes|
|Automatic climate control||Yes|
Competition All Specs
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||87bhp @ 6000||83 @ 6000|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||109Nm @ 4500||115 @ 4000|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||35||42|
Overall, the Brio is a nice package. It retains its USPs like compact dimensions, peppy manners and now looks better as well, making it a good urban commuter. The brand new interior brings it up to date but the equipment is still not at par with the competition. No push-button start, no touch-screen and no parking sensors. On the price front, Honda has done well, keeping it at the lower end of the segment price band amongst Maruti Swift, Hyundai Grand i10 and Tata Bolt. So if you want a fun-to-drive peppy urban commuter and are not fussy about the feature list, the Honda Brio certainly makes a good case for itself.