|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
The drive on Luzon’s eastern coast isn’t something you get to do every day, and given the chance, you’ll make sure you have the right tool at your disposal. And so, count everyone surprised when Honda brought people to one of the country’s best driving roads, not to hammer the Accord or the City or the Jazz. No. Parked right beside the Naga City arrival terminal sat three Brio hatchbacks and three Brio Amaze sedans. Although they were getting familiar to the eyes, they still stood out with its wide range of colors including Fresh Lime Metallic and Brilliant Sporty Blue. Beyond the bright hues, the Brio and Brio Amaze bring with them some aerodynamically cut styling with dashes of cutesiness thrown in. Styled to look like two triangles stacked on top of each other, the Brio is certainly the younger looking of the two, while the Brio Amaze carries a much more formal appearance.
Both the Brio and Brio Amaze sit on the same platform, but with varying wheelbase measurements. The Brio is smaller of the two with a wheelbase of 2,345 millimeters while the Brio Amaze extends this figure by 60 millimeters. Those sitting in front won’t notice much of a difference, but those in the back definitely will. The Brio Amaze’s knee room is huge given the small footprint while the Brio’s is decisively more intimate with taller passengers having knees rub up against the front seatbacks. It’s the same tale with the luggage space. The Brio Amaze has 400 liters to play with while the Brio struggles to even fit three hand-carry sized backpacks in its 175-liter luggage hold.
So while the Brio Amaze has the distinct advantage of being more family-friendly of the two, the Brio is the one to have behind the steering wheel. Despite the shared mechanicals, the difference between the Brio and Brio Amaze through the twisties is as clear as night and day. The shorter Brio feels more like a go-kart with its tight feel. It’s quicker to respond to steering inputs as well. Meanwhile, the Brio Amaze gives up a bit of that agility in return for straight-line stability and a plusher ride. Those differences aside, both the Brio and Brio Amaze are stellar driving companions. The narrow 175/65R14 tires do chirp at the first instance of a bend, but the chassis shows remarkable stability and poise. Both cars feel predictable and safe, allowing the rear to pivot a bit without any detrimental effects to grip. The suspension also allows for good travel, not once bottoming out despite going through several dips and unpaved roads. And unlike its other similar rivals, the Brio and Brio Amaze handle and ride consistently regardless of load. They are, after all, based on a platform that underpinned the first-generation Jazz, clearly a showcase of Honda’s legendary suspension magic.
Shared across the line, the Brio and Brio Amaze offer a best-in-class output of 100 horsepower and 127 Nm of torque from its 1.3-liter i-VTEC engine. If the engine sounds familiar, it’s the very same one found in the previous-generation Jazz and City. In the Brio and Brio Amaze though, it feels much more powerful given it has to push much less mass as the Brio tops out at 975 kilograms while the Brio Amaze does at 990 kilograms. Through flat roads near Mt. Mayon, both of Honda’s super minis can break 120 km/h with ease. At the tighter uphill portions, the transmission kicks down quickly allowing the engine to keep itself in peak power. During this close to 200-kilometer drive, both cars managed figures northward of 11.3 km/L; pretty commendable given the ECO coaching light rarely lit.
With prices starting at P 599,000 for the Brio (tops out at P 719,000) and P 629,000 for the Brio Amaze (tops out at P 769,000), they certainly are priced on the higher end of the sub-B segment class. However, considering both models come with dual SRS airbags, anti-lock brakes with EBD, and even Honda’s high-tech looking “wave key”, they are very good value-for-money cars. The V variants even get a touchscreen audio system with GPS navigation and Bluetooth hands-free.
Honda is shooting a warning shot across its rival’s bow, clearly stating that it’s back in the hunt once again. Although some will quickly criticize the Brio and Brio Amaze for being priced higher than its rivals, both of these cars offer much more than what’s indicated on the price list. Clearly, Honda’s not playing the sub-B segment route by the rule book. It has instead created an in-betweener. It’s destined to offer a much more cost-effective path to Honda ownership. With the City and Jazz going higher market, the Brio and Brio Amaze offer the very same no-compromise Honda approach at a lower price point.