I really don’t understand why everyone is bangin’ about high petrol prices and that diesel cars are the future and stuff. Having said that, I’ve always loved the low end grunt of the oil burners. It is actually the torque at the bottom end that keeps you going in bumper-to-bumper traffic in the cities. You can even do without shifting much as is the case with some small cars these days. Having said that, I’m not here to scream about how I enjoy driving a diesel car on our crowded roads. I’m here to tell you the amazing story of my date with the Honda Brio. The journey that started from the Temple city of Jammu and ended, well at least for me in Chandigarh- the only planned city in India.
I would also like to clarify beforehand that, this will not be a usual road test review of the Brio. Coming up is the first hand account of the first leg of the ‘Drive to Discover 3’ tour of India which will take two Honda Brios draped in special livery from one end of the country to the other. As part of the third edition of the ‘Drive to Discover 3’ or (D2D3) top automotive journalists from the online media will drive the Brio from Jammu all the way up to Trivandrum in the south. I was among the lucky few who got the chance to drive the cuddly little city car that er...‘loves you back’, as they say. We shall find out whether I really fell for the Honda Brio over the 400 km that lay ahead of us.
My day started as usual. It was a weekday and like any other day I had to rush to office. Soon, I was to be ferried to the Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi to board the direct flight to Jammu, J&K. I have been in this profession for a while now and have been visiting different parts of the country for some reason or the other. However, this time it was a bit different. I had never been to Jammu and was seriously excited to visit the city of Temples for the first time. The added bonus was that I was going there to drive the Brio from Jammu to Chandigarh which again was something I’d always wanted to do.
I reached Jammu by late afternoon which gave me ample time to freshen-up and get out of the hotel to explore parts of the city. My style of exploring a city, if you ask me is by strolling down crowded city streets alone. The bridge over river Tawi that cuts across the city is a very good vantage point. Upstream you have the 3000 year old Bahu Fort built by Raja Bahulochan. Cross the river and you pass Jammu University and onwards to Jammu Tawi railway station. The next morning, I was driven to Hill View Honda just outside the city on the repaved Jammu-Udhampur bypass. The rain gods however, weren’t on our side as they kept on with their relentless barrage of torrential rain.
Two Honda Brios were prepared over night for the flag off the next morning. The heavy showers did ruin the fun to an extent though. Still, after a quick flag off event we were on our way. Soon, we had a dry patch of tarmac ahead of us and within the next 30 minutes we were on the outskirts of Jammu. Now, I guess would be the right time to tell you my first impressions about the Honda Brio. Given that, the car which we were driving was the Brio V- the top-of-the-line variant, it had all the gadgetry we needed for the journey that consisted of four-lane highways to twisty mountain roads leading up to Dalhousie which was to be our halt for the night.
The Honda Brio V i-VTEC comes with an audio player with USB/AUX input which came in handy on the boring stretches of the NH-44. By the time we moved away from Jammu and its suburban towns the roads had dried out completely but the sky above was still full of monsoon clouds. Before it could get any worse, I quickly pulled out my camera for some tracking shots. Having completed the first session of photography, our convoy barreled towards the J&K state border and eventually towards Pathankot. On our way we stopped for a light snack before crossing into Punjab. All throughout our journey through J&K the Brio performed exceptionally well. The acceleration above 3000 rpm is relentless and the handing immaculate. Thanks to the lightweight construction the car to reached triple figure speeds without breaking sweat.
The engine under the hood is a tiny 1.2 liter petrol i-VTEC that puts out 88PS of peak power @ 6000 rpm and 109 torques @ 4600 rpm. The 5-speed gearbox slots-in perfectly and each time you change a gear the car lunges forward. You do have to work the gearbox to keep the engine on boil, however the engine still offers decent low end grunt to keep you happy. Of course, being a Honda the quality of the materials is superb. The interiors are well put together and feel way more premium than any of the competition. The only grudge I have is the rear power window switch which seems oddly unconventional. That said the rear passengers get arm rests (not a center arm rest but neatly placed extrusions on the door trims). We did miss one in the front though. There are lots of cubby holes to store stuff with a couple of cup/bottle holders on the front door trim and near the center console.
Our planned route took us through some of the finest parts of the country. The part I enjoyed the most has to be the climb up to Dalhousie. We left the NH-44 behind and took a left turn onto the state highway that winds its way up the mountains culminating at Dalhousie. The road was not in the best of shapes, however this gave us the chance to exploit the Brio’s awesome suspension. The car rides over potholes and the short overhangs make sure you overcome the obstacle without trading paint with nature. On the twisty roads up to Dalhousie is when, what started out as my first crush changed into a full-blown romance. The Brio is kind of car that would spend most of its time tootling around town but take it out on the back roads and you have a really capable hot-hatchback with a punchy engine and extremely well sorted out handling.
Now, our halt for the night was Hotel Mount View. The next day we were up early, prepped-up for the long drive ahead of us. Both cars had got a thorough wash the previous evening. We filled our tummy with some fresh Lychee juice and an egg omelet and were on the road by 8.30 am or so. The drive down the ghat section we came up the other day was nothing short of exhilarating. On our way, there was the odd broken piece of tarmac which was taken care of by the Brio’s superior suspension. The weather on the hand was awesome with a light cloud cover and cool temperatures. The route that takes you down to the plains can be a bit confusing if you're new to the area, which was the case with me. That said, with my fellow journo at the wheel we soon hit the plains.
Our aim was to reach Jalandhar by noon and after finding our way down the hills of Himachal Pradesh and on to the plains of Punjab we soon hit the NH-44. Apart from a few diversions en route, the NH-44 is a great road to drive and with almost 90 horses under the hood, it couldn’t get any better. The tiny Brio even took on some of the high-spec hatches on the open highway. Of course, a low-revving Hyundai i20 CRDi couldn’t keep up with the Brio’s top-end grunt and we soon found ourselves on the outskirts of Jalandhar. The plan was to rendezvous at the local Honda dealership for a quick ceremonial flag-off. We drove into Prestige Honda just off the National Highway. Mr. Saravdeep Lally, the owner of the dealership warmly welcomed our convoy and was kind enough to offer us some snacks. Still, we had to miss out on some authentic Punjabi cuisine for lunch which Mr. Lally had proposed, since we were on a tight schedule. That said, I would've certainly liked to try some paranthas with desi ghee, lassi the next time I visit the place.
Our convoy was flagged-off from Prestige Honda, Jalandhar at the hands of Mr. Lally. Next stop for us was the gorgeous city of Chandigarh. We soon, left NH-44 behind and on to a single carriageway. Throughout our trip, the Brio’s onboard computer had displayed a steady 16 km/l. With me at the wheel and a well-paved road ahead I was tempted to shift down and floor the throttle once in a while. The frequent highway blasts did take a toll on the fuel consumption which soon dropped to 15 km/l. The last time I came close to visiting Chandigarh was with Team Gaadi en route to Leh, Ladhakh in the Tata Aria. But, we had to take a detour back then. After moving to Gaadi.com I was finally in India’s most beautiful city and indeed I was amazed. Chandigarh deserves to be among the top cities to live, no doubt. This is where I was to handover the keys of the car to the next batch of journalists who were in-line to drive the cars to Jaipur the following day.
Bidding adieu to the Brio was not easy. The car had impressed us throughout our journey across the northern plains of India. After being at the wheel of the Brio for such a long time and over miles and miles of tarmac, I was very much in love with the car. To summarize: the Brio is well-built and being a Honda promises to be extremely reliable. It is economical, be it in the city or the open highway. It is spacious and the cabin is a nice place to be in with comfortable seats. It looks great and goes like stink and believe me- it does 'Love You Back'.
Text and images by: Tushar Kelshikar