|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
There’s a lot riding on the Brio and Brio Amaze. With Honda’s decision to move the City and Jazz upmarket (and a sole engine variant in the process), it’s up to these two new super minis to plug the entry-level hole that’s left in the line-up. Entering the A-segment (or sub-B segment), the Brio and Brio Amaze are poised to do battle in the Philippines’s fastest growing passenger car segment. And instead of doing a ‘me too’, Honda is sticking close to its founder’s ideology by putting engineering above all else.
At first glance, you don’t think there’s anything largely special with either the Brio or Brio Amaze. They look modern, mixing cutesy style with angular lines, but then most sub-compacts pretty much do that too. However, look closer and you’ll start to appreciate the design. Both the Brio and Brio Amaze are designed for aerodynamic efficiency with complexly shaped front bumpers complete with extensions that look like they’re designed to channel air more effectively. This aerodynamic cut look is further emphasized by stabilizing fins present on the side mirror housing and rear quarter window (on the Brio). Thankfully, both cars stay away from the garish application of chrome, relying instead on sporty cues such as the smoked headlights, 175/65R14 wheels and tires, and roof-type rear spoiler (Brio). Of the two, the Brio looks much better proportioned with some CRX cues put in for good measure.
Although both the Brio and Brio Amaze sit on the same platform, they differ not just in length but in wheelbase as well. The Brio is the smaller of the two with a 3,610-millimeter overall length and a wheelbase of 2,345 millimeters. The Brio Amaze is slightly larger with a body extended by 310 millimeters and a wheelbase stretched by 60 millimeters. The other dimensions such as height (1,485 millimeters), width (1,680 millimeters), and even track (1,480 millimeters front and 1,465 millimeters rear) are identical.
Opening the weighty doors (a treat in this segment), the Brio and Brio Amaze take on Honda’s “Man Maximum, Machine Minimum” philosophy. The curvy dashboard is straightforward and easy to understand. The four round vents, compartmentalized around the driver and front passenger, lend these cars a CR-Z feel while the thin center console and triangular placement of the air conditioning controls add much-needed front knee space. Just below it, the two large cup holders and snake’s head shifter are clear nods to the second-generation City and Jazz. Although the driver’s seat adjusts in just four directions, the tilt-adjustable steering ensures an ergonomic experience. Like the dashboard, the instrument panel is stylized but easy to understand. Dead-center is the large speedometer and flanking it to the left is the speedometer and to the right is an array of warning lights. The fuel gauge and multi-function computer are nestled below the central speedometer.
The abundance of hard plastics is what you’d expect from this class of vehicles, but at least the Brio and Brio Amaze have nicely textured plastics dotting the entire cabin. Fit and finish are largely alright except perhaps for the glove box which has a pronounced under bite that doesn’t flush with the rest of the dashboard. The Brio goes all-out sporty with an all-black motif while the Brio Amaze adds a dose of airiness with a two-tone black and beige design.
Aside from the multi-function computer, the Brio and Brio Amaze comes fully-loaded in their top-line trims. Both the Brio and Brio Amaze for instance come with steering wheel controls, touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth hands-free and GPS navigation. In terms of safety, both models offer dual SRS airbags and anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist.
The Brio and Brio Amaze are aiming to be best-in-class in terms of performance. This starts with the engine. Where its competitors rely on 3-cylinder engines, Honda is plopping in a 4-cylinder engine under the hood. And this isn’t just any ordinary four-banger—it’s the 1.3-liter 4-cylinder i-VTEC engine found in the previous-generation City and Jazz. Mated to this engine is Honda’s slick transmission which is a choice between a 5-speed manual or get this—a first-in-class 5-speed automatic. In output alone, both the Brio and Brio Amaze are way ahead of the competition: 100 horsepower and 127 Nm of torque. Now, combine this with a light-weight body (topping out at 965 kilograms for the heaviest model), and you have the perfect recipe for performance.
Proving this point, Honda made the Brio and Brio Amaze available for a short spin around the extremely hilly confines of Tagaytay Highlands together with two of the best-selling competition: the Toyota Wigo and Mitsubishi Mirage G4. Getting equal amount of seat time in each, responsiveness and handling were clearly in Honda’s favor. Thanks to an even cylinder count; the Brio and Brio Amaze were quieter and smoother off the line. Heading down the twisty part of the course, the Brio and Brio Amaze showed taut handling with quick and responsive steering. They certainly could carry much more speed through the bends thanks to excellent grip. Of the two though, the Brio felt tighter and more stable while the Brio Amaze felt much more tuned for comfort (perhaps to the point of being over damped). Subjectively the Brio and Brio Amaze felt close to the first-generation Jazz and second-generation City respectively. Uphill, the extra 100-cc of displacement and more torque made itself known with the Hondas climbing much easier from a standstill compared to the competition.
Although Honda Cars Philippines revealed no pricing information during the short preview, given the amount of kit and tech found in both cars, don’t be surprised if they’re priced on the higher-end of the A-segment spectrum. They, however, did reveal that there will be two variants of the Brio hatchback and three variants of the Brio Amaze sedan. Speculation is ripe that the Brio will top out at P 708,000 while the Brio Amaze will be pegged slighter higher, perhaps around P 718,000. Whatever the final price will be, both of these cars hark back to Shoichiro’s philosophy and definitely worthy to carry the Honda name.
The Honda Brio and Brio Amaze will be unveiled at the Philippine International Motor Show (PIMS) that runs from September 18-21 at the World Trade Center in Pasay City.