Review - Is the Honda Brio AT India's best urban commuter?

06/10/2012 - 21:22 | ,  ,   | Nithyanandh K

We are car nuts and without an iota of doubt we love driving. However crawling among the city traffic is definitely not our idea of fun behind the wheel, it drains the energy from our bodies and minds by the time we reach our work desk.

Honda Brio AT gear knobHonda Brio AT foot wellHonda Brio AT Eco light

Everyday commuters would agree with me unanimously, it’s them Honda is targeting with their Brio AT.

The Honda Brio is a lovely (and loving) little car with a rev-happy engine, potent chassis and a brilliant packaging. Indian Autos Blog editor Shrawan Raja drove the manual Brio last month from Ahmadabad to Pune as a part of Honda’s Drive to discover campaign and came back with a wide grin.

We will not discuss the Brio AT's interior or exterior, its very much the same as the Brio manual we reviewed in-depth last year.

So, has the Brio managed to retain its trait as a loving and lovable runabout in its self shifting avatar? After spending a good part of a day in Delhi’s unforgiving traffic, we have the answer!

Honda Brio AT dashboard
Interior is same except for the drive mode selector and the missing clutch pedal.

Honda preferred the five-speed torque converter automatic as in the City with altered gear ratios instead of going for the four-speed CVT that’s been offered in Thailand. The gearbox responds well for part throttle inputs and keeping pace with the traffic is so easy. It’s only when you floor it to take advantage of that momentary gap, the tranny hesitates a bit before kicking a couple of cogs down.

Honda Brio AT frontHonda Brio AT rear view

Keep the throttle pinned down in the D mode and the autobox holds onto every gear until the engine revs all the way to the redline; the motor although eager, feels a bit over-revved at full throttle in fourth gear. The Brio AT is heavier than the manual car by around 40 kg which means the acceleration is not as quick but the gem of a motor never disappoints you.

Honda Brio AT engineHonda Brio AT

The D3 mode keeps shuffling between the first three gears and is the best mode for punting around the deep urban jungle. The throttle responses get crisper and the acceleration is quicker. The modes 1 and 2 come in handy for engine braking or when extra traction is needed.

The green 'Eco' light glows when the Brio is driven with a light foot. Within the city, keeping the Eco light from switching off involves meticulous operation of the accelerator pedal but it's actually kind of additive and challenging. As a reward you get good fuel economy.

The automatic transmission is well matched to the peppy 88.7 bhp, 1.2 litre i-VTEC engine (with an ARAI-certified mileage of 16.5kmpl) making the car remarkably easy and stress free to drive within the city. The huge glass area means there is no problem with the all round visibility. We would’ve welcomed if the drive modes are backlit for easy visibility in the dark, and also if there was a dead pedal, which is a standard feature on an automatic variant.

Honda Brio AT tail lamp
The Brio AT comes in V and S (O) variants. There is no AT badge, but why?

The little Brio is just the right size to slice through the traffic, at the same time it display impeccable highway mannerisms. The hatchback felt stable and planted on the not so smooth Noida expressway. On a private road, we pushed it to speeds of over 140 kph and surprisingly the car felt unshakably strong.

The steering is a little on the lighter side but very nice and confidence inspiring. The same can be said about the brakes. The good thing is, the gearbox won't spoil the cornering fun by upshifting half way through the arc, all you need to do is to give the right amount of throttle input. The suspension hardware hits the sweet spot between the ride and handling.

On the inside the dashboard layout is quirky in a positive way and the quality of plastics are good. I especially like the chunky steering wheel. The ergonomics is excellent, the seats are comfortable and the space on offer is amazing.

The verdict is, the Brio has lost not a bit of its sporty self and the AT is no less lovable than its manual sibling. At a premium of about Rs. 50k-60k, it makes terrific sense as a city commuter with excellent interior packaging squeezed into a compact footprint. The scarcity of automatic hatchbacks only helps its cause.

And yes, it’s actually true that it loves you back!

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