After stubbornly refusing to give in to the dominating diesel trend in the Indian market for the longest time, Japanese carmaker Honda has finally succumbed. It made a 1.5-litre diesel motor specially for India and plonked it in the new Honda Amaze saloon.
Honda is dedicating a lot of its resources to ensuring that the i-DTEC powerplant is heavily localised in order to keep the price competitive and to make sure the demand is met. It also makes a lofty promise, claiming this to be the most fuel-efficient engine in the country with a 25.8kpl Indian Driving Cycle rating, despite also being the most powerful in its class.
The Amaze is less than four metres long, its petrol engine displaces less than 1200cc and its diesel less than 1500cc, so it qualifies for the government’s excise benefit on small cars. There are lots of other small but significant features on the car that are a direct result of feedback from Indian customers too, so Honda does seem to have done its home-work. Priced from Rs 4.99 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) for the petrol and Rs 5.97 lakh for the all-too-important diesel, it is very competitive. There is definitely a lot riding on this car, so let’s see how well it fares on the road.
Ride & Handling
A similar MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension setup to the Brio underpins the Amaze, albeit with all-new components, and the decent 165mm of ground clearance means that you won’t gouge bits of the undercarriage off on big speed breakers.
Because of the suspension’s long travel, the saloon handles larger bumps and craters very well, but because it is a bit stiffly set up, smaller undulations do unsettle it slightly. The relatively small 14-inch wheels don’t help either. To find a middle ground, Honda engineers tuned the springs for stiffness and the dampers for comfort, and added a stabiliser bar at the rear. The front dampers and springs have also been retuned for the diesel Amaze to cope with the extra weight of the bigger engine, but the difference is barely perceptible. The suspension itself is pretty quiet, but the car’s poor overall sound insulation means you will hear a lot of road and wind noise – the downside of Honda’s interior space maximising efforts.
All this suspension work has not come at the expense of handling, however. In fact, the longer wheelbase only adds confidence as you go faster, and when you’re going around corners. The electrically assisted steering is very accurate, and although it’s very light at low speeds, it does weigh up a little when you go faster. The diesel’s steering has been given added power assistance to handle the greater weight in the nose, but it still feels a touch heavier, and more reassuring, than the petrol.
Honda’s claim of 25.8kpl for the i-DTEC engine is rated on the Indian Driving Cycle test. The good news is this engine still performs admirably in real-world conditions. Our tests returned 15.2kpl in urban conditions and 20.8kpl out on the highway, which is way ahead of its rivals. Honda says this engine’s efficiency belies its cubic capacity thanks to an ultra-low friction design, lightweight internals and a special ultra-low-viscosity engine oil developed specially for it.
The petrols too return respectable figures. We saw overall figures of 14.75kpl and 13.8kpl for the manual and automatic versions, respectively. The only downside is the small 35-litre tank which limits its range between fill-ups.