The Honda Brio has been around for quite some time-2011 to be exact and needless to say a refresh was in order especially with new competition trickling in ever so often. Plus it always was in the shadow of the Amaze but finally this fun little hatch has been given a long over due update so should you consider the updated Brio to be your next small car? Read on!
How does it look?
The Brio has always been a radical shape that has stood the test of time well and the basic shape still looks fresh even today. The new styling updates though help a lot. Most of the changes are concentrated to the front most apparent of which is the new front grille that gives the Brio a stronger resemblance to the Amaze compact sedan. The car also gets new tail lamps, new headlights, a remodelled front bumper, a tailgate spoiler and a new LED high-mounted stop lamp. What remains is the all glass tailgate which is a unique design trait and is quite tough in build.
What about the interior and features?
The inside of the car has got its fair share of updates as well, such as a new instrument binnacle with triple analog dials that are backlit in white to make them easy to read. You can have either a black (top-end trim level) or a beige interior colour scheme. Other features include an audio system that supports USB, aux-in and Bluetooth, Bluetooth smartphone pairing plus digital ac controls.
Safety has been given a high priority as well, and as a result, Honda has given the Brio airbags for both front passengers, ABS with electronic brake force distribution (EBD), and impact mitigating headrests, amongst others. Pedestrian safety also has risen in this new Brio thanks to a feature called pedestrian injury mitigation technology in the front body structure of the car that is designed to absorb the worst of front impacts.
We feel the interior is the biggest change and the new look cabin is vastly better than the previous one. Despite its compact dimensions, space has been cleverly extracted thus the front seats are comfortable plus the driving position is excellent. Access to the rear seats is also easy and there is a surprising amount of space here though its best left for two.
What about the driving?
Unlike the Amaze there is no diesel and also the petrol does not get the CVT option. Instead what you have is the same 1.2 litre, 4 cylinder, i-VTEC petrol engine that puts out 87 bhp and a peak torque figure of 109Nm with a 5-speed manual being standard and a 5-speed torque converter optional. Official efficiency figures are 18.5 kpl for the manual and 16.5 kpl for the automatic. It has been ages since I last drove a Brio and driving it again reminds you of what a fun little machine this is. Make no mistake this is not an anaemic 1.2 motor which stays flat in terms of performance as this motor is hungry for revs. 87 horses and the fact that the Brio weighs next to nothing means that performance is brisk and it feels agile. Going beyond 3,000 rpm brings out the best of this engine and you need to keep it on the boil to have fun.
For everyday driving duties when you keep at low revs, you will need to downshift but the Brio does encourage you to use more revs. The clutch is light and the gearbox is precise with nice shift quality. However if you do not like shifting gears yourself, the automatic makes sense. The gearbox is reasonably responsive and driving it in traffic is smooth and relaxed with no lag. Up the speed and the gearbox is quick to ascertain your inputs and responds well. There are no paddle shifts instead you can put it on D1 or D2 where it will hold onto the gear. We would not be surprised if the automatic is popular as here it makes perfect sense.
Other characteristics remain the same and that is one of the USPs of this car. The Brio handles really well with a sense of agility which is unmatched. Its light and quick on its feet plus the steering is something other hatches could learn from- it is best in class. The ride though is firm at low speeds but gets better when the speeds increase however overall around town it is a bit choppy.
Personally I have always adored the Brio since its among the most fun hatches that you can buy without sacrificing anything. It is efficient, practical, reasonably well equipped but along with that the petrol manual brings in a driving experience that is not available at this price bracket. Yes, more features and the diesel would have sweetened the deal further but diesel is losing favour among buyers anyways frankly a rev happy petrol suits this car more. Overall now with better looks and the new interior, the Brio has enough to fight it out in this crowded hatch space as it genuinely brings in something more than what all the other small cars offer.
Photography- Rajeev Bhendwal
Also read- Living with the Honda City CVT