Tested: Honda Brio

The unassuming asset

There’s an old saying which alleges that when you’re young you have time and energy but no money, when you’re middle-aged you have energy and money but no time and when you’re old you have time and money but no more energy. If I may be so bold, I shall use this adage to evaluate the Honda Brio.

Built in and for India and Thailand, South Africa welcomed the smallest Honda last year to give the Japanese manufacturer a little pulling power at the bottom of our age and price brackets. Starting at just N$119,800, Brio is packed with features while still delivering that Honda reliability.

So you’re young…

…and positively bursting with time and energy yet there’s not much dosh in your pockets. Whether you are a student or a new employee, affordability is a big concern; which is why Honda priced its newcomer so keenly. Financed on popular terms, the Brio could be yours for about N$2,500 per month.

Better yet, save up a bit or bug a senior family member for a deposit and you might get closer to two grand a month. Should you be in the fortunate position of receiving the car as a gift, the Honda Brio is unassuming enough not to raise too much envy with your peers. It’s just a cute little car.

Available in six colours, you also get a radio/Aux/USB/mp3 sound system with four speakers and steering wheel controls but no CD player. For those who don’t know what a CD is, it looked like a DVD or Blu-ray disc but only stored twenty songs or a measly 700Mb of data. In other words, like whatever.

Shod with 175/65R14 rubber, the Brio’s steel wheels with hubcaps provide decent handling thanks to McPherson struts at the front and a torsion beam setup at the back. The absence of traction or stability control means that you can even shred some rubber; fit a set of lekker mags for better handling.

Right, moving on.

If you are middle-aged – and I’ll leave that description entirely up to your interpretation – you have sufficient energy and finances at your disposal but have long realised that time is a very valuable asset. Will the Honda Brio fit into your hectic life and save you some of that precious time?

Well, it certainly isn’t a fast car but its Jazz-derived 1.2L engine stems 88hp or 109Nm against 1,345kg, providing 0-100km/h in about 12 seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 145km/h. More importantly, its compact size and nimble chassis allow you to zip through traffic, business parks or the mall’s parking lot.

Passenger comfort is commendable and the rear bench will take two adults or three kids. The only downside is a teeny-tiny 161L boot which might struggle with multiple school satchels or the weekly grocery run. This volume can be extended to 519L if you flip the rear backrest forward.

The small glass hatch and 4.79m turning radius make parking a breeze and Brio offers great value with its remote central locking, air-conditioning, speed-sensitive electric power steering, full-size spare wheel, headlight height adjuster, two power mirrors, four power windows, five cup holders and optional Bluetooth.

Brio also takes care of you and your loved ones thanks to extensive engineering in its chassis and body, anti-lock brakes (ABS) with electronic brake force distribution (EBD), driver and passenger airbags, front seatbelt pre-tensioners and rear three-point seatbelts with reminders, as well as an immobiliser.

Good. Will the Brio be a charming companion to old people?

My apologies, I hate the word “old”. I prefer “mature”, like a good bottle of red wine, and have met quite a few mature individuals who could out-wit most youngsters. If fleeting energy levels are a concern, I believe that this little Honda can be of assistance.

For starters, its steering and pedals are feather-light. The five-speed manual gearbox is equally cooperative but for an extra N$10,000 you can opt for an automatic version. Just plonk it into “D” and off you go. Visibility is excellent, the cabin’s controls are easy to use but some may find front seat adjustments lacking a bit.

There are a few nifty features like headlight or ignition buzzers and the interior only comes in a warm and inviting beige / black combination. On top of Honda’s excellent reputation, you get a 3-year/100,000km warranty upon purchase, as well as a 2-year/30,000km service plan with 15,000km intervals.

I believe the Brio is funky enough for youngsters, has enough versatility and value for a growing family while being a comfortable and easy friend for seniors. Its rear lights and beige interior may not be to everyone’s taste but the Honda Brio’s engineering and value for money surely are.


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