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December 17, 2019

Review: 2019 Honda Brio RS Black Top CVT

Small cars rarely get the love they deserve. Often seen as the lowest tier in motoring, they’re typically seen as rolling compromises—be it in design, comfort, or refinement. Yet, look carefully and you’ll find quite a few gems in the A-segment—the smallest of the small cars; and the brightest one among them? The 2019 Brio. It may be the most affordable offering in Honda’s stable, but it doesn’t make it less impressive.

Things start with the styling. Lengthened by close to 200 millimeters over the previous Brio, this new one looks less awkward now. It keeps the front doors from the first-gen model, but everything else is new. There are still some angles where it looks tall and skinny, but for the most part, it looks like a proper car now. The Mobilio headlights do well to visually widen the front, despite its identical width with its predecessor. At the back, a formal steel hatch removes the sourness that most people complained about before.

This top-trim RS variant also signifies Honda’s intention to bump the Brio above the average sub-compact hatchback; not that the standard model will ever be mistaken for a Grab car, mind you. But for an additional P 79,000 (P 84,000 with the optional Black Top) over the 1.2 V, it gets a unique grille and bumpers, an aero kit (with a tailgate spoiler to boot), and two-tone 15-inch wheels. It’s not the most practical upgrade, but it’s a nice aesthetic one for sure.

Despite carrying on with the first-generation Brio’s platform, the wheelbase’s been stretched by 60 millimeters. While that sounds like a minuscule number, it plays dividends in making the interior much more habitable. Jumping directly to the backseats, knees no longer scrape against the front seat anymore. The re-designed hatch also gives birth to more headroom, and with it, adjustable headrests. There’s a total of three in the back, but in all honesty, fitting two large-ish adults is the most comfortable. More impressive is the fact that the cargo bay’s grown by 83 liters allowing large pieces of luggage to fit in the back. The rear seats can also be collapsed for additional space too, but sadly, there’s no split-folding function here.

Improved as the Brio is from the back, it’s at the front where it shines. Borrowing the Mobilio’s angular dashboard, the lines and details make it look messy, but true to Honda form, it’s easy to use. While the seating position is upright and high, compared to other sub-compacts out there, it’s already sporty. The three-spoke steering wheel and no-nonsense gauges also help in its usability. Like the first-generation Brio, the seats look thin, but are supportive. The Brio also scores well for its sturdy construction, amount of storage spaces, and easy-to-use digital type air conditioner. However, it gets mixed scores for its infotainment system because the touchscreen’s hard to operate on the go (thankfully steering wheel controls is standard) and minus points for the omission of a foot rest and seat height adjustment.

Perhaps Honda’s gamble with the Brio is their decision to swap the previous generation’s 1.3-liter engine for a 1.2-liter one. The downsized motor gives up 10 horsepower and 17 Nm of torque in a car that weighs 22 kilograms more than the previous Brio. On the surface, it seems Honda’s levying a performance penalty to make it more affordable. Thankfully, that’s not the case. Not only is it an excellent punter around the city, but it’s still confident enough to hit the highways. Getting most out of the engine requires wringing the accelerator, but thankfully the engine is smooth (but vocal) at high rpms. Swapping the traditional automatic for a CVT results in a slight throttle delay, but fuel economy has improved significantly to 11.2 km/L to 11.7 km/L in urban traffic when compared to the old Brio.

With a carryover platform, that’s in turn, based off the first-generation Jazz, the Brio is actually fun to toss around corners. The steering has this immediacy that the chassis could match. This tandem makes the Brio a great dance partner—the only car in this price range confident enough to tackle winding roads and sweeping corners. The tires will chirp at times, and understeer is the name of the game, but overall, it’s actually quite fun. More importantly, it’s stable and secure even at triple digit speeds. What’s even better is that the ride doesn’t seem affected at all. While it’s a bit on the firm side, it’s never uncomfortable, and can actually absorb heavy potholes with no difficulty.

The name “Brio” means verve in Italian and with that, Honda’s managed to choose a very appropriate name. Just as the first-generation Brio presented itself as a fun-to-drive small car, this second-generation model successfully builds on that, while also rectifying its predecessor’s shortcomings. As a result, the Brio sure feels like an overengineered car, and with that enthusiasts will reap the benefits by getting a car that far exceeds the expectations in its class in all aspects.

2019 Honda Brio RS Black Top
Ownership 2019 Honda Brio RS Black Top CVT
Year Introduced 2019
Vehicle Classification Sub-compact Hatchback
Warranty 3 years / 100,000 kilometers
The Basic
Body Type 5-door Hatchback
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/F
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 1.2
Aspiration Normally Aspirated
Fuel Delivery EFI
Layout / # of Cylinders I4
BHP @ rpm 90 @ 6,000
Nm @ rpm 110 @ 4,800
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / 91~
Transmission CVT
Cruise Control No
Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed 11.2 km/L @ 12 km/h,
11.7 km/L @ 16 km/h
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 3,815
Width (mm) 1,680
Height (mm) 1,485
Wheelbase (mm) 2,405
Curb Weight (kg) 992
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Torsion Beam Axle
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Drum
Tires Bridgestone Potenza 030 185/55 R 15 V (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 2
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control No
Parking Sensors No
Front Seatbelts 3-pt ELR with pre-tensioner x 2
Rear Seatbelts 3-pt ELR x 2, 2-pt lap belt x 1
ISOFIX Child Seat Anchor Yes
Other Safety Features No
Exterior Features
Headlights Halogen
Fog Lamps Yes, Front
Auto Lights No
Rain-sensing Wipers No
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt
Steering Wheel Material Urethane
Seating Adjustment (driver) Manual, 4-way
Seating Adjustment (front passenger) Manual, 4-way
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, with Fold
Proximity Key No
Climate Control Manual
Audio System Stereo
# of Speakers 6
Steering Controls Yes

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