Honda Amaze review, test drive

    Two firsts for a Honda rolled into one — a compact sedan and a diesel

    Published on Jun 10, 2013 07:06:00 PM

    59,145 Views

    We’re familiar with the 1.2-litre i-VTEC motor, having driven it extensively in the Brio and the Jazz. Like all modern Honda petrol engines, it is near-silent at idle and has good overall refinement. Like the Brio, it’s available with either a five-speed manual gearbox or a five-speed automatic.

    The performance is similar too. Responses low down are great (better still with the automatic and its torque converter push) and it gets off the line eagerly. Unfortunately, it is let down by a weak mid-range, and you will find yourself shifting down every time you want to pick up the pace. This can be very annoying when you’re cruising on the highway, and here’s where you’ll really feel this engine’s lack of grunt. Its real strength is in its top end and it gets a second wind if you rev it beyond 4500rpm. However, here’s where things get quite noisy, and we can’t imagine too many Amaze owners will be gunning it to its redline in everyday driving.

    The five-speed manual is a delight to use – very light and accurate, with a compact lever and short throws. The clutch is light too, which should be helpful in traffic. The automatic gearbox is closely related to the one used in just about every automatic Honda car in India. Honda uses a CVT automatic for the Amaze (and the Brio) in Thailand, but has opted to use the five-speed torque converter in India to save on import costs. It’s a good thing they have, too, as this ’box works well with the 1.2-litre i-VTEC engine, with smooth and quick responses off the line. There’s a bit of a flat spot in the middle, however, amplified by the engine’s weak mid-range, so fluctuating your pace in stop-go traffic can result in some hesitation in the power delivery. Although the shifts themselves are quick and seamless, the gearbox doesn’t have the sharpest reactions to your throttle inputs. Punch your foot down to overtake and there’s a noticeable pause before it kicks down a gear, but once it does, it’s happy to let the engine soar all the way to its redline before shifting up.

    Now, on to the 1.5 i-DTEC ‘Earth Dreams’ diesel engine, which has been derived from the larger 1.6 diesel that powers European Hondas. This made-for-India 1498cc motor is a state-of-the-art four-cylinder engine that features 16 valves and twin overhead camshafts. Honda has focussed on reducing friction and weight as far as possible, and to this effect, has worked with Idemitsu to develop a special low-friction oil just for this engine. Also, the block is all-aluminium, which reduces weight considerably, and the engine sits on liquid-filled mounts instead of standard rubber ones to minimise vibration.

    Fire up this engine and what immediately becomes evident is that the great refinement that Honda cars are famous for is more down to its silent petrol engines. You will feel a shudder from the front of the car as the motor rumbles to life, before it settles down to a reasonably quiet idle. But the clatter starts as soon as you get off the line, and it never goes away. The vibrations can be felt in the pedals too. It’s like having a loud, chatty passenger in the car with you. This is a result of the engine block being made of aluminium rather than iron – the less dense material is nowhere near as good a sound and vibration insulator. It’s a bit of a sore point, but thankfully it’s the only one; in just about every other way, this engine is an absolute gem.

    Set off, and you’ll notice there’s precious little turbo lag. That’s because Honda has tuned the engine and the fixed-geometry Honeywell turbocharger for better low-end response. Unlike the compact diesels we’ve become used to, it produces its power in a smooth, linear manner, rather than with a sudden burst, and it has a lot of elasticity for a diesel engine. Peak torque of 20.4kgm is produced at 1750rpm, but there’s plenty of shove right from about 1200rpm, and it pulls strongly to about 3800rpm. The power then gradually tails off till it hits a very conservative 4200rpm rev limit. In fact, this diesel engine doesn’t rev anywhere near as high as some of its competition and this is because Honda’s research has shown Indian drivers tend to upshift early. The Amaze managed an impressive 0-100kph time of 12.97sec, but we feel it could have been faster still if not for the rev lock Honda has installed in the interest of engine preservation (it will not rev past 2000rpm when the car is stationary).

    The Amaze cruises quite well too, thanks to reasonably tall gearing, and the meaty torque spread makes light work of overtaking on highways. The only issue is that, even at cruising speeds, you can’t get away from the engine drone. At 120kph, the 1.5 diesel turns over at a vocal 2,800rpm

    The clutch and gearshift on the diesel car both have a bit more heft to them than the petrol car, but they are still light enough and easy to operate.

    Copyright (c) Autocar India. All rights reserved.

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