They are easy to drive, hassle free and practical for city driving, but somehow automatic or gearless cars have never taken off in India.
There are many options in the premium segment, but for among small cars, the number of cars with an automatic variants can be counted on finger-tips.
The big drawback for such cars are high cost, lower fuel economy and relatively less acceleration.
But the ease it brings to driving on congested roads even out things, so when Honda decided to bring in an automatic variant of its smallest car Brio, we had to take a look.Looks, outside and inside
Except for the gear lever, there is little to differentiate the automatic Brio from its manual cousin. Since its launch in the middle of last year, the Brio has drawn divided reactions with its looks.
Some are totally taken in by its cheerful exteriors, while others find it diminutive and toyish. Large headlamps and a thick chrome grille greet you from the front, and the profile is carried on by crisp shoulder lines to a freshly designed rear end.
It is not an overwhelming design, but manages to look fresh and contemporary. The most striking feature is the glass tail gate that makes it stand out.
It has started questions on safety, but that is bunkum. You cannot mistake a Brio from a mile off, and for a designer that is a job well done.
Inside you will find what you expect from a Honda: lots of beige and great eye for detail. The dashboard is minimalistic, but omits nothing.
You may crib about the absent CD player, but the pen drive is today’s future, surely? Ergonomically this is the best car in its class, better than even an i10.
And safety features like ABS, EBD and dual airbags are a given. Space at the back is adequate for two adults, though the 175-litre boot, and the high boot position are a grouse.
Engine and performance
In its segment, Brio has the most powerful petrol engine. In any case only the i10 and A-Star have automatic variants.
And Honda’s 1.2 litre iVtec Jazz engine, which delivers 90 PS power, is head and shoulders ahead of these (see table).
What really tilts things in Brio’s favour is its 5-speed gearbox — a first on a small car. Even the Hyundai i20 automatic, which belongs in a higher segment and costs almost Rs. 1.8 lakh more, only has a 4-speed gearbox.The difference is in your face: while the i10 and A-Star slog around, the Brio whizzes past. It does make a little noise — uncharacteristic in a Honda — but it is still a very refined, responsive — and fun. Floor it hard and it will hold on till the redline at 6,000 RPM before changing gears. Use it normally and it will change to give you the best mileage. The best of both worlds really.
This is the grey area for all automatic cars. By nature, automatic transmission eats into the fuel economy compared to manual transmission.
Standard ARAI figures suggests that Brio with its 16.5 kpl claim is almost at par with A-Star while the Hyundai i10 is ahead at 20.36 kpl.
During our test, Brio gave us a best of 14kpl and worst 11 kpl. In the case of the A-Star there are not too many users around but with the i10, some have complained of low economy of 9-10 kpl and a best of 13 kpl.