The Hyundai i10 is easy to drive, has a strong fuel-efficient engine, a well-appointed cabin and thus a strong favourite in the small hatchback class. With regular revisions and facelifts it has managed to distance itself from the rest.
The Honda Brio though is keen on upstaging the Hyundai with its premium positioning. Both have 1.2-litre engines and what the Honda wins with size, the Hyundai claws back with content. With less than Rs. 20,000 separating the top-end versions, which car should you put your money on?
Design and engineering
The bigger Brio is 25mm longer and 85mm wider than the i10 and these dimensions give it a wide and squat stance, while the high-mounted headlights and a low grille give it a distinctive look. The 14-inch wheels and the sharply rising window line gives the Brio a very pitched-forward stance. The rear of the Brio, the full-glass tailgate looks quite funky and the fit and finish of the bodywork on the whole looks and feels great.
The i10’s looks on the other hand are not as sporty as the Brio’s, but its crisp detailing like the hexagonal grille and sharp headlamps mean it still looks quite fresh. The i10’s tall profile also points towards a well-packaged cabin and decent luggage space. A deeper floor in the boot also means larger bags can be squeezed in.
The Brio’s boot is comparatively small but once you get past the high load lip (for better chassis stiffness) you will be surprised how many bags you can load into it.
Under the skin both the cars are similar with a front-wheel drive, electric power steering systems, transverse motors and independent front suspensions with torsion beams at the rear.
Step into the Brio and you will be surprised by the amount of passenger room on offer, which is more than many bigger hatchbacks. The driver gets a fantastic view and the driving position is spot on.
The i10 is tighter on the inside in comparison, but is reasonably spacious, with decent headroom. The i10’s high-set driver’s seat, though good for visibility, lacks thigh support and, like in the rear, the cushions feel a touch too hard.
The dashboard on the Brio is well built but it is clear where the fat has been trimmed. The absence of a full centre console and plastics and the colours on the dashboard don’t do the Brio any favours.
The i10, in comparison, has a fuller dashboard with a neatly laid air-con and music system and the dash-mounted gearlever leaves some storage between the front seats. The top-end i10 Asta offers you more features like Bluetooth connectivity, CD player, parking sensors and rear wash and wipe as standard.
Engine, gearbox and performance
The Brio uses the same 1.2-litre i-VTEC, single-cam motor as the bigger Jazz albeit in a milder state of tune in the interest of economy. It makes a healthy 88bhp and is compliant when you want some extra performance. However, it does lack some low-speed punch and the slightly taller first, second and third gears also mean you have to downshift more frequently. That said, the Honda motor is easily the more refined of the two.
The i10’s Kappa2 motor, on the other hand, is much more responsive and the car jumps off the blocks with just an inch of throttle travel. Though the motor will rev till its 6700rpm redline, the problem is, past 4500rpm, the engine feels strained and doesn’t pull as cleanly to the top as the Brio.
Flat out, the i10 dispatches 100kph in 12.04sec, while the Brio takes 12.47sec to do the same. It’s same story with the in-gear acceleration times; the i10 is a nose ahead in the third and fourth-gear slogs
Ride and handling
As expected, both cars with their compact dimensions and light steering are easy to drive in the city. The Brio is fairly pliant and bad roads are soaked up quite well. The i10’s suspension, on the other hand, isn’t as well sorted as the Brio’s. It’s fairly comfortable at slow speeds but up the pace, especially on a bad road and the i10 doesn’t feel as settled as we would like, and this bobbing motion is enhanced when the car is loaded up.
But when in the mood, the Brio’s the one to choose. With its willing top-end performance, confidence-inspiring brake pedal and eagerness to tackle corners, the Brio feels a special little car. The steering has a slight dead zone at the straight-ahead position, but once you push the car harder and load up the suspension the Brio displays a poise, balance and confidence rarely found in a car of this class.
The i10 on the other hand makes you think a bit before pushing on – it’s got too much body roll, loses its poise quite easily and those ultra-thin, 155-section tyres run out of grip alarmingly early.
Despite having 9bhp more, the Brio is slightly more efficient than the i10. City figures of 12.6kpl and 17.0kpl and a highway number of 11.7kpl and 16.0kpl for the Brio and i10 respectively reveal a small, but crucial victory for the Honda. Both cars though have 35-litre tanks which somewhat limits their range.
The i10 is a thoroughly engineered product with good performance and practicality. Its appeal has always been its versatility and this still holds true. The top-spec i10 is superbly kitted and sets the standard for equipment and features in this class of car. It is decent value for money and promises a hassle-free ownership experience. The i10 though is nowhere near as fun to drive as the Brio and can’t match it in key areas like passenger comfort and ride and handling. The interiors are well built but point to a pared-down car. However, you can’t get away from the fact that the Brio is and feels like a car in a higher class and this big-car feel for small-car money is what clinches it for the Honda.
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