|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
Well, the answer to that question is much more complicated and one that’s entirely dependent on the would-be buyer. You see, despite Honda’s continuous efforts to lump these two vehicles together, they’re worlds apart in terms of character. Yes, they share the underpinnings and even some body panels, but after spending some time with them, you can definitely conclude: they’re tapping fundamentally different markets.
The first clue comes up the moment you see the Brio’s palette of colors. Rather than sticking to dreary shades of gray (and red), the Brio is available in eye-searing shades of lime green and bright blue. The attention-grabbing paint job aside, the short overhangs with the abruptly chopped rear-end is an indicator to its intended market. It’s a sub-B segment hatchback designed for developing markets, yet it’s a youthful looking thing with hip styling cues. Chief among them is a rear hatch, which upon closer inspection isn’t a fifth door per se; rather, it’s a glass that swings open (opening it requires reaching for a lever beneath the driver’s seat). Despite all sorts of win with the Brio’s design, there are some faults: for one, the 14-inch alloys with high-profile 175/65R14 rollers look more fitting on a crossover than a sporty hatchback.
The Brio’s chopped up rear end also creates some problems inside. Front occupants won’t feel it: they’ll be treated to the same roomy feeling with more than enough leg and shoulder room. Those at the back will feel severely punished, like they were packed into a sardine can. The knee room is extremely tight, brushing up against the front seatbacks most of the time. It’s the same story with the available cargo room. It has barely enough space to fit one 26-inch hard-type luggage on its side. And if you do manage to fit it, that’s the only thing you can put back there. What’s worse? No split-folding rear seat.
Space problems aside, the Brio manages to be a fundamentally solid car ergonomically. The driving position is typical Honda: low (you can’t adjust the seat height) with the elbows tucked at slightly 90-degrees and the legs spread out. The gauges and controls are chunky, straight-forward, and easy-to-understand with the exception of the touchscreen audio system. The gimmicky gesture-operated system is hard enough to operate as it is, but removing all physical buttons (power, volume, mode, etc.) feels like a step back. Switching stations or increasing volume is an accident waiting to happen since you have to concentrate on finding the ‘seek’ or ‘volume’ button while taking your eyes off the road. Thankfully, it has steering wheel controls but the response is largely laggy.
The cutesy design of exterior, limited flexibility of the interior, and excellent ergonomics of the controls says something about the Brio’s intended market segment. It pretty much limits the Brio’s usefulness as a daily driver. It’s a great second car or coding car, but if you intend to use it for daily use you fall into one of three market categories: first-time car buyers with no friends, empty nesters with friends that don’t like riding with you, or geriatrics with no living friends. And it’s presumed you don’t enjoy outdoor activities unless you count spending the entire day at a coffee shop (because you can’t fit anything in the back). Oh, this is presuming they have 20/20 vision and excellent eye-hand coordination to operate the audio system without getting into an accident.
If you look beyond these faults or accept them to a tee, then the Brio does return the best driving experience in this segment. Even compared to its sedan sibling, the Brio returns a sharper, much more engaging feel behind the wheel. The EPS or Electric Power Steering is still limited in terms of feedback, but it’s pinpoint precise, lightening up for city duty or tightening up at higher speed. The short wheelbase, non-existent overhangs, and great visibility equate to excellent maneuverability in city traffic conditions. It’s easy to dart in and out of traffic; and can also execute turns in what otherwise look to be impossibly tight confines. Compared to the Brio Amaze, the suspension is firmer but still capable of absorbing any sort of road rut or pothole. It also has little difficulty tackling a full load, assuming you can fit two adults in the back first.
The Brio is powered by the most powerful engine in its class, a 1.3-liter i-VTEC engine with 100 horsepower and 127 Nm of torque. The underlying character though is less pocket rocket and more smooth operator, especially when mated with the five-speed automatic. There’s a lot of usable power, but you do have to dig the gas pedal a bit to get some decent pace going. Still, it can reach triple digit speeds with little difficulty. The gearing is nicely spaced and helps the Brio return 11.41 km/L—figures comparable to its lighter sedan sibling. Compared to the buttery smoothness of the Brio Amaze though, the Brio’s transmission is notchy with noticeable shift shock; plus it’s noisier.
Going back to the question: is the forty thousand-peso savings on the Brio worth it? Well, that entirely depends on how you look at it. If you’re going for a roomy, practical family car or a versatile daily driver, then the answer is a no. The interior is far too limiting, given the amount of things a typical family car should be able to do. In that case, consider the Brio Amaze. However, if you’re one of the dime-a-dozen car owners who already have CR-V or a mid-sized SUV in their garage, then the Brio’s great as a secondary car; much better than any of its similarly priced competition in terms of overall satisfaction (maybe except for the Suzuki Swift 1.2). There’s little doubt to the amount of engineering that went into this car. It may have been designed primarily for developing markets, but it’s a global beater when it comes to its driving experience. It’s every bit a Honda, well, perhaps except for the audio system.
2015 Honda Brio 1.3 V
|Ownership||2015 Honda Brio 1.3 V A/T|
|Body Type||5-door Hatchback|
|Engine / Drive||F/F|
|Under the Hood|
|Aspiration||Normally Aspirated, i-VTEC|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||Inline-4|
|BHP @ rpm||100 @ 6,000|
|Nm @ rpm||127 @ 4,800|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Gasoline / 91~|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||970|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, MacPherson Strut|
|Rear Suspension||Torsion Beam Axle|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Tires||Michelin Energy MX2 175/65R14 T (f & r)|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||No|
|Fog Lamps||Yes, Front|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt|
|Steering Wheel Material||Urethane|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|No. of Speakers||4|
|Steering Wheel Controls||Yes|