While luxury sedan sales are heading south, there’s still a market for affordable compact sedans. Honda just pressed the refresh button of theirs.
“So when will they start to amaze us?” grins the journalist next to me at Erinvale Hotel in Somerset West. This wasn’t the first and certainly not the last tortured pun of the day, hosted by a friendly armada of Honda Automotive South Africa (and international) staff for the launch of their new Amaze compact sedan.
This artist formerly known as “Brio Sedan” is now a stand-alone product as its diminutive donor, the Brio hatchback, runs out of puff in southern Africa. It was recently updated for overseas markets but will not reappear on our shores; time will tell if that decision needs to be revisited in budget-conscious S.A. and Nam.
Highly detailed technical and marketing presentations underline that this is an all-new vehicle designed to be “one class above” its sub-B segment rivals. Drawing on its predecessor’s 250,000 worldwide sales, this newby’s increased efficiency and specifications are contained in a four-metre shape with high levels of safety, comfort and space.
The Amaze was developed by Honda Thailand where its “Amazing Compact Limousine” concept drawings displayed sedan-like feel and dynamic details. The company’s brand face / identity and signature light clusters are also present on a squared-off, unique front end. Not every attendee approved of the car’s blunt nose.
Its flanks show sharp creases and snazzy alloys while the stubby derriere with small boot lid is textbook compact sedan material. Luggage space goes up by 20-odd liters to 420L while most popular measurements like head-, leg- or shoulder-room swelled up thanks to an increased wheelbase. Honda claims top-in-class for space.
Safety is taken care of by way of a driver and passenger airbag as well as anti-lock and force distribution systems on front disc and rear drum brakes. All vehicles at the launch were shod with Bridgestone tyres. For further peace-of-mind, Honda includes a five-year 200,000km warranty, three-year AA roadside assistance and a two-year 30,000km service plan.
More goodies in these new Hondas include a tilt-adjustable multi-function steering wheel, third brake light, four power windows, remote central locking, 15-inch alloys (up from 14 inches previously), AM/FM radio with USB, mp3 and Bluetooth connectivity, four speakers, a 12V socket, basic trip computer and air-conditioning.
Posher models tempt new buyers with automatic climate control, power mirrors, front fog lights and auto-locking doors. Typing of models, here is the model range with prices:
- Amaze 1.2 Trend 5MT R179,900
- Amaze 1.2 Comfort 5MT R193,900
- Amaze 1.2 Comfort CVT R208,900
The Japanese (and Thai) boffins tinkered with Amaze’s steering and suspension, bringing about a more pliant ride and improved handling. There’s also additional ground clearance (now 170mm) which all points to this being a typical Indian-Asian marriage for cash-strapped drivers on semi-dodgy roads.
That also goes for the interior with its dirt-friendly beige cloth seats, door pockets and parcel shelf. Most touch areas and top surfaces are hard black plastic, piano-finish or silver but Honda S.A. countered the local buyers’ aversion to beige interiors by immediately offering a free-of-charge black pleather option with each Amaze.
How nice is that?
Also new and improved is the 1.2L four-cylinder petrol engine which employs low-friction designs and lighter materials to produce respectable outputs of up to 66kW or 110Nm. Mated to either a five-speed manual or CVT (“one-gear” automatic), its maker claims average petrol use of 5.6 or 5.7L/100km.
At first I thought there was a 1.5L mill under foot, so impressive is the power delivery (at sea level). Typical for a Honda, the 1,199cc 16-valve is incredibly rev-happy and goes about its business with a gruff, buzzy noise. My only complaint is the lackluster rev-limiter; which has a soft retardation instead of the traditional Honda hammering.
Most of my peers sneered at the scooter-like behavior of the CVT and while that was to be expected, I was amazed (pardon) how well it worked in unison with such a comparatively tiny motor. Again, it was at sea level, and I can’t argue the CVT’s hair-raising rev orgies or initial dead spots away.
Traction control? Superfluous.
However, the ‘box is relatively obedient in “S” mode when given commands through the steering-mounted shift paddles. In normal / Drive mode it quickly slacks off again but that will please frugal owners and poor souls who spend weekday mornings and evenings crawling along in a procession of metal lemmings.
Honda is confident that the Amaze will become a key volume seller, attract young and retired buyers alike while also catering to fleet operators looking to fill the void left by the discontinued VW Polo Vivo sedan. It’s my humble opinion that this bizarre-looking little sedan has all the right ingredients to accomplish that.
The beaming C.E.O. of Honda S.A. noted that high quality products equal happy customers, a vital part of Honda’s success in the last 70 years. The company celebrated this milestone on 24 September 2018 and aims to bring more joy and excitement to its customers… like these two videos they shared with us at the event.