The Honda Brio is a car that draws mixed emotions – some like the quirky looks, some not so much. We for one think it’s quite fresh and stands out in the crowd. For a car that looks small, the Brio surprisingly packs in plenty of interior cabin space for the occupants. That, combined with the peppy, yet frugal, 1.2 litre engine are what make the Brio stand out as a great urban car for daily drivers.
A day after launch, CarToq picked up a shiny blue Honda Brio VMT (the top-end variant priced at Rs. 5.1 lakh ex-showroom Delhi) for a complete road test and review. We drove the car through of mix of city and highway conditions, to bring you this road test report. Also read: Honda Brio launch and prices
Looks, fit and finish
All Honda cars in recent years have been designed around the “man maximum, machine minimum” philosophy of Honda. And the Brio is no exception. The sporty, cab-forward stance allows for more passenger room in the car, while the engine is tightly packaged in the short bonnet area, while the boot is pretty tiny at just 175 litres.
The car looks quite nice from the front, though the thick chrome grille may be overkill for this cute looking car. In profile, the car looks spacious thanks to the low-set front windows and rising window line that hides the actual small dimensions of the car.
The rear of the Brio is rather unique. The clever use of an all-glass hatchback (a feature that makes the Brio standout) gives the Brio’s cabin an airy feel that adds to the feeling of space, and also makes rear visibility the best in its segment. However, the panel gap between the rear hatch and the roofline is slightly wide (we’re nitpicking here), in an otherwise well-built car.
Step into the Brio and you are greeted by a premium feel all-beige interior, with a black and chocolate dashboard. The plastic quality is good and feels well fitted. Even though this is the cheapest car in Honda’s line up, the plastic quality feels good and fit and finish is excellent. The front seats have good lateral support, but lack height adjustment. However, the tilt adjust steering allows you to find a good driving position easily.
All-round visibility is excellent in the Brio thanks to the low-set front windows, large rear-view mirrors, thin A-pillars and of course the all-glass rear hatch, which makes reversing or parking extremely easy. There is ample storage space around the cabin in the form of door pockets that can also hold 1-litre water bottles, dual front cup holders, a single bottle holder for the rear and a glove box that can swallow a nominal amount of paper and knickknacks.
Comfort and features
Honda has provided just the right amount of features in the Honda Brio, which is at par at what the competition offers. The top-end variant we were driving has dual airbags and ABS, all-four power windows, central locking with keyless entry, integrated AM/FM/USB/Aux-in MP3 audio system with steering mounted controls, electrically adjustable mirrors, fog lamps and alloy wheels.
The air-conditioning is very effective, but only manually adjustable. It does not offer climate control on any variant. The instrument panel has a three-ring pattern with a large speedometer dominating the console with a semi-circular tachometer on one side and a panel with warning lamps on the other. The multi-information display below the speedometer also has the fuel gauge and shows odometer, trip meter and average fuel economy.
An interesting feature on the Brio is the “Eco” light in the warning lamp panel that lights up when you are driving at a sedate pace in the right gear for maximum fuel economy.
The glass hatch at the rear opens to reveal a 175 litre boot which is good enough for a few bags. The rear seat back single-folds down flat if you want to increase luggage space on occasion.
Performance and handling
The Honda Brio surprises you with its poise. Step into the driver’s seat and all the controls fall easily to hand. The electric power steering feels good to grip and is very light at city speeds, but becomes heavier as you go faster. However, it does feel a little disconnected and video-game like.
Noise-vibration and harshness (NVH) levels in the Brio are excellent. When you start the car you can barely hear the engine. Even at high rpm there’s a sporty note that filters in, that’s not annoying at all. Road noise too is kept at a minimum and we found we could hold normal conversations in the car even at high speed. We think NVH levels are much better than even the Ford Figo and Toyota Etios Liva, and at par with the Maruti Swift.
The gearshift is smooth and slots in easily with minimal effort. But it’s the nature of the Brio’s gearing that surprises you. This 5-speed manual gearbox has altered gear ratios that are more suited for city driving and encourage you to shift up faster. In fact, we found we could easily shift into 5th gear at 40 kmph, and cruise effortlessly thereafter. This kind of driving style was, of course, rewarded by the “Eco” light on the panel lighting up to tell us we were getting good fuel economy.
The Brio shares its engine with the Honda Jazz, but in a slightly altered state of tune for even better fuel economy. The Brio is powered by a 1.2 litre petrol engine with variable valve timing that puts out 87 bhp of power at 6000 rpm and 109 Nm of torque at 4600 rpm. This puts the Brio’s engine power output at par with the Maruti Swift, though the torque is slightly lower. Pick up is brisk if you rev the engine beyond 3000 rpm (a typical Honda engine characteristic).
But since the Brio is an extremely light car it pulls effortlessly. The suspension setup is slightly on the stiffer side which is great for handling, and sharp turns are dismissed with ease. However, on bumpy surfaces the car does tend to pitch a bit because it is so light.
The turning radius of 4.5 metres on the Brio is very good for city use. We found we could take a complete U-turn on a normal road without any effort at all. And three-point turns from tight parking spots are extremely easy to carry out. The brakes too are sharp and confidence inspiring.
Honda has tuned the Brio for good fuel economy and claims an ARAI-certified mileage figure of 18.4 kmpl. During our road test the Brio’s average fuel consumption display showed we were getting 13.6 kmpl despite driving it at high rpm and high speeds, with the AC on. We also spent a considerable amount of time idling in traffic and also for photo shoots. So by those conditions, the fuel economy we were getting is quite good.
What we think
The Honda Brio’s compact size makes it an ideal car for the city. It is peppy and yet fuel efficient. It can carry four adults with ease, while the fifth person also has good legroom, but may find shoulder room a bit tight. Luggage space is adequate for your laptop and a couple of bags, but not enough for a trip to the railway station. We think the Honda Brio is a great alternative to the Chevrolet Beat, Hyundai i10 and Maruti Ritz. It will also lure a few Maruti Swift and Ford Figo buyers as well purely in terms of its drivability and urban-friendliness. The Brio is an ideal car for daily commuting in congested metros.
What we like
Tight turning radius
Peppy and refined engine
What we dislike
Low boot space
No CD player
Stiff ride quality
Honda Brio prices