22nd Feb 2013 6:26 pm
Final report. Honda has done a stonking job with the Brio and, after 10 months with it, it's time to say goodbye to this versatile hatchback.
They say that too much of a good thing can be bad. But you don’t need to spend too much time in this little Honda to realise that the Brio is an exception. And after having the car for 10 months, and the countless hours of entertainment it has provided, saying that it is hard to let go of is an understatement.
Right since the day it entered our longterm fleet around 14,000km ago, it was plain for all to see that there was something special about this car. Its cabin space belied its compact exterior proportions – four of us could be seated in it in absolute comfort. Another aspect of the Brio that surprised us was the driving experience. The nonchalant ease with which our Brio handled city and highway conditions alike is something very few cars in this segment can manage, and in true Honda fashion, the 1.2-litre 88bhp motor really came alive in the upper reaches of the rev band. Goading the car all the way to its 6500rpm limiter was an aural treat.
The Brio wasn’t quite that responsive at slow engine speeds, though – its low-end torque isn’t great. But rev it hard and it turns into a completely different animal. The smooth petrol engine made darting into fast-closing gaps in traffic a cinch thanks to its brilliant handling, and highway overtaking manoeuvres were child’s play for the baby Honda. Make no mistake, this is one seriously quick hatchback.
It was on one of my many Mumbai-Pune trips, however, that I found the Brio to be so much more than just a pocket-rocket. A light right foot was rewarded with a glowing ‘ECO’ indicator and a 17kpl out on the highway, while a city run returned 12.6kpl, which is not bad. Its driving dynamics, too, are worth a mention. The light and chunky steering made flicking it around in the city a joy and provided ample feedback. The suspension was absorbent too, and the city’s craters and bumps were dealt with in reasonable comfort. A great view out the front and rear windscreens made parking in tight spots a breeze.
The car’s cabin was a nice place to be in too, with the offset centre console and the mix of beige and black plastics on the dashboard lending the cabin a light and airy feel. Hooking my iPod into the factory-fitted sound system and using the steering-mounted audio controls made life on the move all the more convenient as well.
But the Brio certainly does have its drawbacks. To start with, while the seating arrangement suited me just fine, shorter drivers find it hard to get comfortable, thanks to there being no driver’s seat height-adjust or even a seatbelt height adjuster. And while the beige seats do lend the cabin an airy feel, they are difficult to maintain. Even the slightest hint of dirt makes them look like they’ve been put through some rugged, heavy-duty usage.
Then there’s the omission of a rear windscreen wiper and defogger. This may not pose a problem during summer, but come winter or monsoon, and the advent of rain hinders vision out the back. Also, while the cabin sat four people in ample comfort, the same cannot be said about our luggage. There’s no getting away from it – this boot is tiny. The boot had just about enough space for two medium-sized suitcases, and any extra carry-ons had to be accommodated in the cabin itself. Airport runs, then, won’t be the easiest with a full complement of people in the car. The Brio’s high loading sill made it that much more of an inconvenience.
But in the grand scheme of things, the Brio is a wonderfully capable little car in the city and is among the best there is.
Price: Rs 6.32 lakh (On-road, Mumbai)
Test economy: 14.8kpl (overall)
Maintenance cost: 1st service - Rs 2,317 (Engine oil and filter + labour)