The Honda Brio made quite an entrance into our longterm fleet. Mere days after we took delivery, it was drafted to the Oxford Golf Resort on the outskirts of Pune to be judged for our Car of the Year Awards. And if the smile on a certain N Karthikeyan’s face after his stint in it was anything to go by, there was something special about this car. And that’s exactly what I endeavoured to find out when I snagged the keys to this cheerful little Honda.
The Brio shares its 1.2-litre engine with the Jazz which, coincidentally, was the last longtermer I was using. As a corollary, the ‘ice-breaking’ session between man and machine didn’t last all that long here. I had a fair idea of what to expect from the engine – superb refinement, a slightly restrained bottom end, an impressive build-up of power through the midrange, followed by a manic top end. And that is exactly what I got. Like the Jazz, the Brio isn’t quick from the get go and feels a wee bit hesitant in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Once past about 20kph, things improve and the Honda falls into its comfort zone.
The Brio feels light on its feet thereafter, throttle responses get sharper and you can really feel the additional power released with each millimetre of accelerator pedal travel. It is this pep that really makes the Brio so endearing and a bundle of fun to drive in the city. The light clutch and smooth gearbox only help matters here. And given the space, I simply can’t resist to hold gear and see the engine spin up to its 6500rpm limiter. Now how many small cars can you say that about?
The Brio also rewards sober driving. There is an ‘ECO’ indicator beside the speedo that glows when you drive with a light foot — keeping it lit is a fun way of maximising fuel economy. Our Brio has returned an impressive 12.6kpl in the city so far.
So the Brio is quick and not-so-heavy on the pocket, but for me the best bit of the car is its sheer ease of use. The steering is light and this, coupled with the small exterior dimensions, mean the Brio is effortless to punt around town in. Narrow roads that were strict no-nos are part of my daily route now. I have even been able to tail rickshaws through the colourful by-lanes of Bandra to find some great shortcuts. The suspension is quite absorbent too, so you can take the road less traveled in reasonable comfort. You also get a great view out the front and rear windscreen which removes any guesswork when parking in tight spots. I’m sure first-time car owners will love their Brio for this and, of course, for the space on offer.
Yes, the Brio may be small on the outside but it can seat four adults in good comfort. The deceptively thin front seats are actually very supportive and comfortable. And my passengers were quite surprised by the space in the back too, though the larger-framed of the lot found the seat back a tad short. For me, I just wish the seat fabric was not beige – it is really hard to keep stain-free.
However, I do like the mix of beige, tan and black plastics on the dashboard and the offset centre console has grown on me too. And while some may find the absence of a CD player ridiculous, I’m quite content with the music system’s ability to hook up to my iPod. Sound quality is good too, and the audio control buttons on the steering are nice to use. The chunky steering itself is great to hold and easily my favourite bit of the cabin — the smart hooded instruments come a close second. What’s also nice are the large, round AC vents that have a wide range of movement and make it easy to control the flow of air.
However, the more time I spent in the car, the more I became aware of exactly where Honda has cut corners. For starters, there is no driver’s seat height adjust and no seatbelt height adjust either. The absence of a rear windscreen wiper and defogger is sure to be an irritant in a few months from now. And what’s with the flimsy rear power-window switches? The placement looks like an afterthought.
What also limits the Brio’s appeal a bit is the boot. The all-glass bootlid means stowed luggage is visible to outsiders. And while the boot is deep and can accommodate decent-sized baggage, you really have to angle larger suitcases to get them in. Word of advice – travel light. Getting heavy bags across the Brio’s high loading sill is no easy task.
Luckily, I’ve not had to make any trips to the airport just yet, so my experience with the Brio has been largely positive. I adore the car for its small outside, big inside packaging. The dynamics are just right for city use and there is nothing to complain on the engine front or otherwise. On the whole, a really fun little car, this.
Price: Rs 5.79 lakh (on-road, Mumbai)
Test economy: 12.6kpl (City)