Honda Brio: The Small wonder

The Brio is Honda’s first attempt at the cutthroat budget-end hatchback segment. Is it good enough to climb the top of the hill?

autos Updated: Sep 18, 2011 15:12 IST
Shapur Kotwal
Shapur Kotwal
Hindustan Times

Honda is banking big on the Brio for huge volumes. This baby hatchback is the cheapest that Honda has ever made in India, and it will sit below the Jazz in the range. Also, it is squarely aimed at the Swift, the current segment benchmark, and all its competitors.
The Brio has a futuristic look to it and the car will surely stand out in a parking lot. The lines are fresh, the stance is aggressive, the detailing sporty; and the car has a compactness to it that’s quite appealing.

Looks a bit small
The biggest handicap Honda could face is that, visually, the Brio looks smaller than some of its rivals, which could create the perception that fits into a lower sub-class. What’s clearly evident in this car is Honda’s brilliant packaging. The 1.2-litre motor is squeezed really tight in the engine bay, the design of the dashboard is very shallow and Honda has concentrated on making the best use of the short 2,345mm wheelbase.

Since fuel economy, performance and rigidity are all important; the Brio is pretty light too, tipping the scales at only 925kg. But this is not at the cost of rigidity, as plenty of high-strength steel and reinforcements in key areas have been used. The suspension is quite absorbent and silent and even really bad patches are sponged up without too much fuss. The short wheelbase, however, does mean it tends to get a bit choppy over some bad roads.

Engine same as Jazz
The 1.2-litre i-VTEC engine is the same fabulous unit used in the Jazz and produces a scarcely believable 88bhp. There’s a noticeable spike in power around 4,500rpm and, like all Honda engines, its snarl tells you that it enjoys being wrung hard all the way to the 6,500rpm redline.

The cabin is not as spacious as the Jazz or the Vista, but it’s so much larger than you expect, and after looking at the car’s compact dimensions, it comes as a surprise. The rear seat is pretty substantial and comfortable as well. Thigh support is good, the short backrest is reasonably supportive and there’s plenty of space for your feet under the front seats. The dashboard, with its two-piece and offset centre console, is unusual and may not to be to everyone’s tastes. Also, it has a Spartan feel to it and you can see that equipment levels aren’t very generous.

Doesn’t feel low-cost
However, what’s really impressive about the Brio is that despite being designed with tight cost targets in mind, it doesn’t feel like it is built using the lowest cost materials available, unlike Toyota’s Etios Liva.

There are cost-cutting signs though, like no height adjustment for the driver’s seat, no rear parcel-tray, no CD player and no rear demister, which is a critical omission. The boot too is quite small but again, Honda has carved out every millimetre of the Brio’s limited luggage area.

Using the light and accurate gearshift to keep the engine on the boil makes using the Brio very enjoyable. The engine is smooth and silent, but it does tend to get a bit vocal at higher engine speeds.

Honda Brio
Price: Rs. 4.3 lakh (est, ex-showroom Delhi)
Dimensions: 1680x1480x1465mm
Tank size: 35 litres
Fuel: Petrol
Engine: Front, transverse
Type: 4-cyls in-line, 1,198cc,
Bore and stroke: 73/71.6mm
Compression ratio: 10.2:1
Power: 88bhp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 11.11kgm 4,600rpm
Transmission: Front-wheel drive
Gearbox: 5-speed manual
Construction: Five-door, monocoque
Weight: 925kg
Wheels: 5J x 14 (f/r)
Tyres: 175/65-R14, tubeless, MRF ZVTV
Suspension (f/r): Independent MacPherson struts, Non-independent torsion beam axle
Brakes (f/r): Ventilated discs/drums

Honda’s baby hatch is spacious, comfortable, looks good, has a fabulous engine, should deliver class-matching fuel economy and will be well serviced and looked after too. The Brio is well built and when the time comes to sell it, we are quite confident the Brio will hold its price well. There’s talk of a starting price of Rs. 4.3 lakh, making it excellent value for money.

(Autocar India)

First Published: Sep 18, 2011 14:11 IST