Launched: Honda Brio

The speedy decision

Today I bring you news of a very, very important car. Obviously it’s important enough for the manufacturer to launch this new model in our market but more importantly, it slots into our market’s most popular segment, around R120,000. So everyone, please say hello to the new Honda Brio.

Honda wasn’t shy to admit that their new cars are predominantly purchased by mature drivers and students are almost non-existent in their statistics. With price being a big stumbling block, the new Brio is keenly priced at R119,800 to entice first-time buyers into one of 34 dealers in S.A. (and the one in Windhoek).

Its small proportions and impressive specifications are blatantly aimed at young people but an automatic model (R10,000 extra) caters for commuters and older generations. The little car is built in India and Honda is so adamant to ensure build quality that they’ve sent a Japanese contingent to the plant for observation.

The A and B segments have shown tremendous growth in past years and the booming market around 120k is filled with small city cars and regurgitated oldies, both of which the Brio is aimed at. Just for the record, this is an all-new car and not some previous attempt with new headlights.

Given a clean sheet, Honda shortened the Jazz platform and added new technology, a new engine, loads of usability, a cheeky design, plenty of safety equipment plus a good helping of efficiency. The so-called “two triangle” design features big wheels, big space, big quality and an all-glass rear hatch.

This translates into superb visibility and impressive space, comfort being well served with an amenable suspension setup and interior goodies like power steering, remote central locking, air-conditioning, a basic trip computer, radio/USB/Aux with satellite buttons, four power windows, power mirrors and five cup holders.

A Honda Brio also features tilt-adjustable steering wheel, headlight adjustment, ABS brakes with electronic force distribution, third brake light, two airbags, seatbelt pre-tensioners, immobiliser, 14-inch steel wheels, full-size spare wheel and folding rear seats to extend luggage capacity from 161L to 519L.

The car weighs just 916kg (automatic +40kg) and can carry about 420kg. It’s just 3.6m long, 1.68m wide, 1.5m tall and has a teeny-tiny turning radius of 4.79m (automatic: 5m). Both manual and automatic gearboxes offer five gears and the 35L fuel tank is safely tucked away under the rear bench.

Powering the Brio is a 1.2L derivative of the Jazz in-line four-cylinder petrol engine, supplying an impressive 65kW (88hp) or 109Nm to 100km/h in 12.2 seconds (automatic: 14.7). CO2 emissions are 133 or 150g/km and average consumption hovers around 6L/100km.

We were given free rein on our launch route so my speedy passenger and I pointed the Brio at some Boland back-roads and gave our little motor some carrots. What struck us immediately was the very comfortable suspension and tall gearing which isn’t a problem for the typically rev-happy Honda engine.

Road noise is quite intrusive above 100km/h and the steering feels rather light and numb, highlighting the Brio’s inner-city credentials. Nonetheless, our stubby little Honda made good progress with two overweight men demanding air-conditioning, reaching its 145km/h speed limiter quite quickly.

Low and high-speed handling is also impressive, the Brio will dish up plenty of tyre scrub as an early warning and its brakes performed an emergency stop from 100km/h well. We both agreed that the 120k Honda offers a modicum of fun so we returned into Cape Town and pre Lady Gaga traffic madness.

If anything, the little Honda Brio was even more impressive in these monstrous conditions, its light and responsive controls allowing us to zip into gaps and breeze through congestion. Its interior may only be available in beige but almost everyone preferred its lightness to the drabness and volcanic heat retention of black.

The cabin materials aren’t top notch but will easily match its competitors. We didn’t perceive a single rattle on our journey and were glad to learn that Brios come with a 3-year/100,000km warranty and 2-year/30,000km service plan. There is also an optional styling package available for N$6,000.

Honda was never your first port of call for a cheap city car but it most certainly should be now. The Brio has the right dimensions, specifications and price tag to warrant a visit to your nearest dealer. I can vouch for its fun value, comfort and versatility; the final decision is up to you.

Prices [December 2012]

Brio 1.2 Manual N$119,800
Brio 1.2 Auto N$129,800

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