Honda Brio long drive: Jammu to Chandigarh

CarToq expert Shreyans Jain was part of the relay team driving two Honda Brios on a 4,800 km road trip from Jammu to Trivandrum. He drove the first leg of the Honda Drive to Discover 3 relay from Jammu to Chandigarh via Dalhousie. The drive gave him good insights into the Honda Brio and its behavior. Here’s his first-person account of the road trip.

“The Honda Brio has always been a car which I have recommended wholeheartedly to anyone looking for a petrol hatch at the Rs. 5 lakh price point. And why not? Compact dimensions, a fabulous engine, enjoyable dynamics, good interiors and quality with no compromise on economy. A true joy to drive. So when I got an invitation to drive a Brio on the Jammu-Dalhousie-Chandigarh leg of the Brio Drive to Discover 3, I was happy to take it up.

The plan was to drive from Jammu to Dalhousie and then onwards to Chandigarh, crossing the heart of Punjab. All this spread over a comfortable 3 days with plenty of time to sneak around and explore.

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Day 1:  August 21, 2012 (Delhi-Jammu)

Nothing significant to report from Day 1 as we flew from Delhi to Jammu on a rather shaky SpiceJet flight. We were free to explore Jammu city for the evening, and I made the most of it, as it was also the Jain festival of Samvatsari, and I managed to meet up with family. But the next day and the long drive ahead was what I was looking forward to.

Day 2: August 22, 2012 (Jammu-Dalhousie)

The official flag off was from Hill View Honda. I headed straight toward the cars we would be driving – two gleaming Brio V MTs, Energetic Blue and Urban Titanium, all stickered and polished, prepped and ready for the journey. I instinctively went up to and checked out the blue car, which meant the grey one was relegated to being the support vehicle.

Sitting in the driver’s seat, my first thoughts were how the steering wheel kind of resembled the Bugatti Veyron. The front seats were comfortable and accommodating, despite their slim profile. Our car was well run-in with close to 9000km on the odometer and had obviously been freshly serviced.

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Highway drive

Wet weather notwithstanding, we were ceremoniously flagged off by a full contingent of dealership staff and local media. We headed off the Jammu Bypass towards NH1A, joining the highway before Bari Brahmna, with the rain pouring continuously.

The 1.2-litre iVTEC petrol engine is the obvious highlight of the Brio. This engine, shared with the Jazz, has always been the benchmark engine in its segment. However, it has been tuned differently for the smaller car (87 bhp vs 89 bhp and revs about 1000 rpm less). This new tuning, however, is perfectly suited to the car. Whereas the Jazz has little juice below 2500 rpm, the Brio lunges forward at the slightest throttle input. The bottom end is vastly improved without affecting the strong mid-range and top-end. Even the fuel economy is good.

It also never ceases to amaze me how a car which is about the size of the Maruti A-Star manages to have as much interior room as the Maruti Swift. The engineers have painstakingly chipped off every unnecessary piece of metal and plastic.

The road from Jammu to Pathankot is now a well-surfaced dual carriageway with little traffic. In 5th gear, at 100 kmph, the engine is spinning at about 2900 rpm with the ECO light glowing. At those speeds, you only hear tyre noise and a light thrum from the motor. But I missed having a rear wiper because of all the heavy rain and spray from the road. The MID showed we were getting 17.9 kmpl. Impressive.

The opening of a by-pass and flyover meant crossing Pathankot was quite easy. As we cross the bridge over the Beas, one can see the army. About 500 metres after the bridge ends is the turn off point towards Himachal. It has signage pointing toward Dharamshala.

We soon began climbing the ghats in Himachal. We took the SH28 via Jassur and Nurpur. Continuous rain over the past few days had led to plenty of minor landslides en route with some slushy patches thrown in as well. But the Brio ploughed though happily. In fact, it did not scrape its underbelly even once!

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Hill roads

The Brio is as suited to hill driving as it is to the city grind. Tight turning circle. Check. Taut suspension. Check. Minimal body roll. Check. Add to that a surprisingly responsive engine and gearbox. The car breezed up the ghat road in third gear easily. The only fly in the ointment were the MRF ZVTV tyres, which did slip up a bit.

We reached Dalhousie at around 5.30pm, having covered almost 210km with the MID reading an overall 15.2kmpl. We explored picture-perfect Dalhousie a bit, and turned in for the night.

 

Day 3: August 23, 2012. (Dalhousie-Jalandhar-Chandigarh-Delhi)

Next morning we stuffed the Brio with our luggage and set off. For all the in-cabin space of the Brio, luggage room is a rather compromised. Another thing I noted as we were headed downhill was that that there was very little engine braking. But the disc-drum brake combination provided reliable, fade-free braking. The ABS cuts in a little early on loose ground though.

Driving non-stop meant we hit Pathankot in about an hour and a half. We rejoined 1A and turned toward Jalandhar via Mukerian and Dasuya. It is a four-laned road upto Mukerian. The road is excellent and we decided to push the car to its limit as the sun broke through the clouds. Seat pushed back, steering lowered, a quick downshift and I am grinning like a baboon. The engine has a fantastic snarl when revved and goads you into pushing the accelerator further. The Brio has a high-revving petrol engine, but the rev limiter cuts in to keep things under check. And top-speed is also electronically limited to 140kmph.

The superiority of this car over direct competition like the i10 and Ritz is evident. The MID is still reading around 16.7kmpl. The suspension provides a comfortable and silent ride. Plastic quality, shut lines and panel gaps could be better. Overall refinement levels are excellent. The front foot well is spacious. There is Aux and USB connectivity with steering controls, but audio quality can be better. There is no instantaneous fuel-economy display, but the ECO light more than makes up. The mirrors are power adjustable, but not power retractable. It does not have a driver’s seat height adjustment and headrests are soft.

We were doing good time and reached Jalandhar by 1pm. We halted at Prestige Honda, Jalandhar, and the cars were cleaned up as we had lunch. Another ceremonial flag-off later, we tanked up at Jalandhar. Our Brio took in 28.08 liters of plain unleaded petrol. The trip meter reading of 441km meant an overall fuel economy of 15.7kmpl. Perfectly acceptable over mixed driving conditions. This however meant that the MID readings were optimistic by almost 10%. Petrol prices in Punjab are at Rs. 75.85 a liter!

We were now into the last leg of our drive. We took the Phagwara-Nawashahr-Ropar route to Chandigarh, thus avoiding the traffic on the Ludhiana section of NH1. This was a good move as the two-lane road was well surfaced with little traffic. Ropar to Chandigarh was on a newly laid 4-lane toll road.

Chandigarh is a model planned city conceived in the 1950s and half a century later does no harm to its reputation. Well organized, planned, clean and disciplined. Our journey was to culminate at the magnificent Taj Chandigarh, located in Sector 17. We were there at 4.30pm, exactly as planned.

After a debriefing, we caught a flight to Delhi and were back home by 8.15 pm.”

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What I liked about the Brio

  1. Responsive and rev happy engine
  2. Engaging dynamics
  3. Comfortable, spacious, hi-quality cabin.
  4. Strong performance with good economy

What I did not like

  1. No rear wiper and defogger
  2. No driver seat height adjustment
  3. Tiny boot
  4. Average tyres

 

(CarToq expert Shreyans Jain was invited by Honda SIEL India to participate in the Drive to Discover 3)