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July 14, 2015

Review: 2015 Honda Brio 1.3 V A/T

Photos by Ulysses Ang
How much are you willing to pay for a sportier body style? That’s the thousand peso question thrown to be would-be car buyers each and every time they cross shop between a sedan and a hatchback. Normally, the hatchback, seen as the sportier of the two body styles, commands a slight premium over the more practical but slightly duller sedan. For Honda though, the answer is quite different: it’s forty thousand pesos less in favor of the five-door. Yes, separating the top-line Brio and Brio Amaze (see review here) is a sizable P 40,000 spread. The question is: are the savings worth it?

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
Year Introduced 2014
Vehicle Classification Sub-Compact
The Basics
Body Type 5-door Hatchback
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/F
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 1.3
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~
Transmission 5 AT
Cruise Control No
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 3,610
Width (mm) 1,680
Height (mm) 1,485
Wheelbase (mm) 2,345
Curb Weight (kg) 970
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Torsion Beam Axle
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Drum
Tires Michelin Energy MX2 175/65R14 T (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 2
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes
Traction / Stability Control No
Parking Sensors No
Exterior Features
Headlights Halogen
Fog Lamps Yes, Front
Auto Lights No
Auto Wipers No
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjustment Tilt
Steering Wheel Material Urethane
Seating Adjustment Manual
Seating Surface Fabric
Folding Rear Seat Yes
On-Board Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes
Climate Control Manual
Audio System Stereo
No. of Speakers 4
Steering Wheel Controls Yes


  1. I really imagine a blue "Angry Bird" looking at this... :S

  2. Mirage GLS or this?!??!?!

  3. ^The front logo looks like rabbit's teeth... Honda has to think of a better way to present their squarish logo ala Peugeot...

  4. I was looking to get the Brio before. It was the engine specs that drew me. Unfortunately the VTEC engine is surprisingly meh during the test drive. Good thing I saw a Swift 1.2L at the mall the same weekend. I was surprised at how cheap it was. P648K for the automatic. Ended up doing a test drive and seriously, the Swift just felt a lot faster even with its less powerful engine. It's extremely eager from 0 to 100 kph. Great throttle response and instantaneous power delivery. It's also more agile and the steering is telekinetic. It's hard to explain, but when all reviews say it's a really fun car they weren't kidding. It's something you have to try for yourself. Ended up driving one home since they also offered a P40K discount at Suzuki Alabang.

    1. you sound like a part time salesman with a penchant for reading car reviews.

    2. ^^^ While you sound like a Honda fanb0i who can't accept any criticism of their beloved religion. Drive both and see if he's right. The Swift is the best in this category.

    3. @ first anonymous replier

      You sound bitter. Is it because I'm endorsing the car I just purchased in cold hard cash? Or because you own a Brio yourself and now suffering a mild case of buyer's remose? Or both?

    4. Sorry, wrong, try again, only the Brio is a 3rd-world vehicle. The Swift is a global vehicle, sold in its home market Japan, Europe and other 1st-world countries. And got good reviews there as well. Read up some more before you post.

    5. Heck, the Swift is more of a 1st-world vehicle than the Fortuner, Montero and Everest, lolz. Ask a Japanese about those 3 SUVs, they'll answer you: "Huh, what are those???". :P

    6. Uh, no smartass. The Swift and the Swift dzire with 1.2L engines are designed for developing countries. The Swift with the 1.4L are the ones being sold in america.

    7. The fact that it's being sold in countries with very stringent standards says otherwise. Yes, the 1.2L Swift is being sold in countries like the UK, Germany, the Netherlands -- the one with the same 1.2L engine you'd find in the Indian market. The smaller 1.2L engine was offered in lieu of ever tightening taxes on emissions. And FYI, the current Swift was designed in Japan for global consumption. The Brio on the other hand is exclusively for sale in emerging markets aka 'third world countries'. Make a coherent reply once the Brio is sold in first world countries. For your sake, get your facts straight dipshit. You're only making yourself look stupid.

    8. Stop feeding the troll who is obviously a Brio owner. He's in denial talaga. :)))) Btw I just checked and they have all 1.2 variants of the Swift. Mahigpit sa Germany and cannot be considered 3rd world. Lakas ng tama netong si troll. Crai moar.

    9. Haha, the guy above keeps talking about the 1.2L & 1.4L engine variants as if they're from different platforms, lolz. Both came from the exact same platform as the original Swift with a 1.5L engine released in 2004. So differences in engine size and trim/equipment-levels are irrelevant, they all share the same platform & chassis developed in Japan to conform with 1st-world safety & emissions standards.

      Your argument is as silly as saying that the Civic & CR-V are 3rd-world vehicles just because they happened to be assembled in Thailand. TROLL FAIL.

    10. Intent is irrelevant. The Indians didn't design the car nor the engine. Suzuki Japan built one for them, the Indians merely assembled it for local consumption. And now even Western Europe gets the 1.2L version. So, no, that doesn't make it 3rd-world. Try again please.

    11. Intent is irrelevant? Says you. If there were no intent to build a smaller engine swift for developing countries, I doubt the 1.2L Swift would even materialize.

      Also, the 1.2L Swift being sold in Europe doesn't mean that its a 1st world car. The MU-X, which is a 3rd world vehicle, is being sold in Australia. So following your dumbass flawed logic, it can be presumed that the MU-X is not a 3rd world vehicle right?

    12. Man, it's like talking to a kiddo with a learning disability, unbelievable. The Swift is a 1st-world car because it was designed in a 1st-world country and sold in numerous 1st-world countries. Gets na? Now off to remedial class for you.

  5. What do you mean by "designed for developing markets"? Is this a nicer way of saying Third World Market? How does one design a car for this type of market? Do it on the cheap? Cars as small as the Brio have been staples in highly developed markets like the UK (the Mini), France (Renaults), Italy (Fiat) and Japan (Suzuki) So what makes the Brio perfect for developing markets?

    1. Very simple answer to that question. Is the car also being sold in its home market of Japan, in the US and Western Europe? If not, then its a 3rd-world vehicle which won't pass those countries safety and/or emissions standards. The same reason I won't touch those lumbering AUV/pickup-based diesel SUVs everyone else is crazy about...

    2. ^ What he said. Models like the Brio are sold exclusively in developing countries because they aren't good enough to meet the standards in first world countries. The Jazz still remains as Honda's supermini offering in first world countries.

      It sounds like discrimination but aside from the difference in standards, one should look at the kind of people buying from different markets. Buyers from third world countries are more price sensitive, for instance. And SUVs like the Fortuner and Montero are selling like hotcakes because they're big, seat seven people and are relatively cheap. Nevermind if their ride quality and handling sucks balls because they're much cheaper than comparable (but more upscale) models like the Ford Explorer and Hyundai Santa Fe. Imagine if they brought first world models like the Toyota Highlander here. It'd probably cost nearly 2M pesos. Big difference in price.

  6. ^"Developing Markets" could mean those "high re-sale value" peeps who also want a frugal ride in terms of operation and maintenance, while cramming about 20 persons in a small car... IMHO

  7. Design is too childish. It lacks the clean and youthful-mature design of other hatchbacks.

  8. How about a review of the Mobilio? As it has what's lacking in this hatchback. Space.


    2. It was just a 'first drive' and not a proper review.


  9. Saw one at the mall way back when me and my wife were scouting our first family car.

    The very small rear (for luggage or as a crumple zone in case of a rear-ender) put us off.

    This may work for college students or singles, though.

  10. Does this have the same disposable transmission as of 1 batch of honda city's?

  11. i want to hear commenta about brio please...

  12. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  13. since swift 1.2 is better than the brio, then which is better?the swift 1.2 or the yaris 1.3?just asking

  14. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  15. Looks like some people are still suffering from post-colonialism hangover.

    Instead of thanking they are complaining Honda for their offering. Yes, the car is built to a price, but by no means it is an inferior product. Same engine, good build quality and same reliability.

    The 2015 JD Power survey rated Brio as most reliable car among all.

    Infact, the Honda S660 is even smaller than Brio, yet it is not sold anywhere except Japan. Certain cars are designed for certain markets - its a business decision.

    If your commute involves lot of city driving then its pretty good car. Cars of the future will become smaller and smaller, including land cruiser, deal with it. And get over the hangover please.

  16. After few years of reading reviews online. Finally, I bought a brio s at, last nov. 2016. No regrets, I'am very happy I couldn't ask for more. I'm very satisfied.


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