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First Drive Review: Honda Brio Facelift 2016

  • Oct 17, 2016
  • 1781 Views
Disclaimer: If you like to make the most of every penny spent then you probably should not be reading this review. This is what you should read, instead. Value-for-money is not Honda Brio's forte.

However, if your priorities include:

  • A (really) small car for city usage

  • A peppy engine

  • An automatic transmission

  • Reliable mechanicals and fuss-free ownership

  • Refinement with the power of i-VTEC

  • Adequate space for four passengers

  • Premium badge

  • Fit and finish that’s on par with cars in the Rs 9-10 lakh price bracket...


...then you should read on to find out if the refreshed Brio meets your expectations.

IMG_2525Design

First things first, the changes to the car’s design aren’t extensive. We’ll come to those in a bit, though. To us, the Brio used to be like a fun-loving teenybopper, who wore bright shades of blue and green that look great on a Hawaiian shirt. The car has now grown up and that’s also reflected by the colour options in Brio’s wardrobe. It is available in slightly more mature shades including – allow me to use the shades as called by the manufacturer – Alabaster Silver, Urban Titanium (grey), Pearl White (metallic) and Taffeta White (non-metallic). There’s also a Rallye Red shade for the weekends.

IMG_2459Talking about changes, the front now wears a thick, piano-black grille with a thin chrome strip and a new, edgy bumper. The bumper is the biggest change to the design. It isn’t something new though and is the same as what the refreshed Amaze gets. The rest of the car is pretty much the same with minor changes at the back, including a revised design for the tail lights and a nice looking roof mounted spoiler on the fully-loaded variant. The Brio’s compact proportions are retained, so, it’s still a very small car that’s super easy to park and can dart through small gaps in traffic.

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The rear hatch is still all-glass. Some find it attractive while others find it quirky. I can only hope that the rear bumper is up for the task ‘coz if the impact goes past its threshold, you can say sayonara to the glass lid. A broken glass also leaves the car’s insides accessible until you get it fixed. Dent on a metallic boot lid wouldn’t call for immediate attention.

Interiors

Inside there’s a new dashboard that looks thoroughly modern with silver accents and faux carbon fibre panels. Opt for the VX trim and you’ll also get the sporty-looking, all-black interiors that won’t show its age even after five years of abuse. This again is the same unit as the updated Amaze and the BR-V.

IMG_2474The feature list now includes a climate control (available as standard) and a redesigned, Bluetooth-equipped music system. Steering-mounted controls are present to manage your music but call controls on the wheel are still absent. The dummy buttons on the dash will also keep reminding you of the missing keyless entry and push button start system, which should’ve been offered at this price point.

There’s a good number of cup and bottle holders; one in each front door pocket and two in front of the gear lever. One more cubbyhole is placed behind the handbrake lever for rear seat occupants.

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The car is easy to get in and out of even for tall people. Finding the perfect driving position is also easy with the seat height adjuster, which isn’t available on the base variant. Tilt steering is offered on all models just like the digital climate control.

IMG_2516Because of the well-thought-out interiors, space is enough for four 6-footers. The rear seat is best suited for two passengers only due to limited shoulder room. Cabin area is good at the cost of boot space, which stands at 175 litres. To get your toddler’s stroller, you’ll need to remove the parcel tray and even then you may not be very lucky at shoving it in without flipping down the rear seat. The rear seat backrest skips on the 60:40 split to make it even more inconvenient.

Engine and Ride

It’s the same story as before. Mechanically, nothing has changed. It’s the same 1.2-litre, 4-cylinder petrol motor with variable valve timing that races to the red line like a hungry kitten. Its 88PS of peak power is delivered at 6000rpm and max torque of 109Nm comes at 4500rpm. Fuel efficiency figures are also same at 18.5kmpl for the manual and 16.5kmpl for the automatic variant. Refinement is fantastic and the 4-cylinder layout also helps. At idle, it’s hard to tell if the car is running.

IMG_2472The 5-speed manual shifter is a joy to use with short and precise throws and it is complemented well by the light, short-travel clutch.

Unlike the updated Amaze, the Brio hasn’t moved to the fuel-efficient Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) and carries forward the same old, 5-speed torque converter. It does have an upper hand though as Hyundai’s Grand i10 and even the i20 are still stuck with a 4-speed unit.

IMG_2488The mechanical side of the car is known for its legendary Japanese reliability. A small car with wheels pushed out to the extremes and a peppy motor like the 1.2-litre i-VTEC makes for a great package to throw around the twisties. When you do start chucking the car into a corner after corner you’ll also realise that body roll is dialled in just enough to get your heart racing.

The steering is thick and well-contoured and therefore feels great to hold. It’s light in the city and weighs up sufficiently on the highway to inspire enough confidence so you don’t shy away from flicking the car.

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While driving the automatic, I did appreciate the convenience of not having to deal with the clutch and gears in tight city traffic. Out on the expressway, I hated not being in control as the gearbox dropped gears every time I kicked the accelerator. Push it halfway at 70kmph and it selects the fourth gear. Push it all the way and you’ll see it drop to third. Mostly, the downshifts weren't necessary and the engine could've pulled clean even in higher gears. On open roads and twisties, I’d pick the manual any day. For city commutes, the automatic works like a charm but the light clutch and short-shifting manual gearbox in the Brio aren't scary enough to push me over the fence for the automatic. Besides, if you value fuel efficiency, then the manual transmission on the Brio should be your best friend.

IMG_2529Safety

ABS and dual airbags are available only on the top end, VX trim. Sadly, the lower variants don’t get the safety kit even as an option. It’s one area that is closely looked at by Brio’s target buyers. I’d personally like to see Honda prioritise ABS and airbags over climate control and Bluetooth music system.

Pre-tensioners for front seat belts are also reserved for the top variant and so are fog lamps. Lack of parking sensors and rear-view camera, even on the top variant, could be potential deal-breakers for the elite crowd that the Brio targets.

Verdict

If you’re in love with Brio’s compact dimensions and cute face, chances are good that you’ll also love it once you step inside the cabin. And if you do love it, rest assured that it’ll love you back.

IMG_2438Not all cars are purchased based on the value they offer. Sometimes it’s best to let the heart lead the way. As you drive the Brio more and more, the connection between your heart and the machine will only get stronger. The Honda badge on the front also promises a relaxed ownership experience for several years to come.

Pricing (Ex-Showroom Delhi):

E MT: Rs 4.69 lakh

S MT: Rs 5.20 lakh

VX MT: Rs 5.95 lakh

VX AT: Rs 6.82 lakh

P.S.: Before you take delivery, don’t forget to get the parking sensors and the front centre armrest installed from the dealership. The armrest is a must-have accessory, especially if you opt for the automatic transmission. Parking your left hand in the centre is the best option as there isn’t much you can do with it while driving.
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