Yes, I believe the Honda Brio has loved me back, but certainly not more than the love I have for it!
Earlier this month, Honda India invited Indian Autos Blog to take part in the 'Drive To Discover' program. The complete drive started in Jammu and concluded in Trivandrum. Along with CareTrade.com's Aditya Chatterjee, I completed the leg between Ahmadabad and Pune.
It was a two-day affair that began with the usual flag off ceremony at a Honda dealership, Emerald Honda, in Ahmadabad. We drove non-stop till we reached Daman (situated in the union territory of Daman & Diu) where we rested. Early on the second day morning, we packed our bags to reach Pune by evening, in time for our return flights, putting our vehicle through every kind of Indian terrain and weather.
You wouldn't be interested in me explaining the breathtaking views, challenging routes, authentic restaurants or the mouth-watering cuisines I encountered in these two days as under usual circumstances, the journey would be the talking point. In this occasion, a little friend that came along stole the limelight, and got me thinking about its future.
Yes, I'm talking about the Honda Brio. My Mumbai colleagues have already presented a first look and a comprehensive test drive report of the vehicle so in this post I'm going to share my views of this car and what Honda need to do to make it a better package. This is my first proper stint in a Honda Brio and there's so much I loved about it.
I believe Honda has made a serious effort to give this car an unusual personality. Despite the tight budget, for a first time attempt, this car's design gets my vote. Its simple, the front end has nothing more than necessary, the entire front end has less than half a dozen constituents.
The rear profile puts function over form, the full glass tailgate looks fragile, but shutting it hard a few times proves convincing that its as good as regular hatch. The designer must have topped his class in Geometry. How many polygons can you spot here?
I love the simple interior, there are some signs of cost cutting like the integrated headrests on the front seats, but none of them come with dire consequences.
What I love about the Brio
- The bucket seats are well designed and the car is wide enough to comfortably accommodate broad-shouldered front seat occupants. I wouldn't normally take this for granted in the B segment.
- Despite not having individual headrests, the seats provide ample comfort over long journeys.
- The 'Eco Meter' is a more convenient feature than a shift prompter or tachometer guide markings. It takes a while to understand how it works, and keeping the Eco Meter illuminated at all times becomes an addiction!
- Somehow the color combination on the interior keeps me interested. There's beige, brown and black. Together they don't create damning reflections on the glass area or make the cabin feel low-rent.
- The steering wheel feels great to grip, its easy to rest your thumbs during long trips. There are cars in this segment which provide a circular electrical wire to steer the wheels.
- Honda is offering its own stereo system, instead of outsourcing it from a supplier. The simple unit may not offer a hair-raising experience, but the buttons are big and easy to operate.
- I loved the consistency in the switchgear operation. I hear and feel the same 'click' whether I use the wiper stalk, air-conditioning fan or the operate the indicators. The elasticity or tension in the operation of the clutch and gear lever are on similar levels - in short, I believe the interior components are in harmony and were designed with good coordination.
Things that came in handy during the highway stint
- The Auxiliary jack helped Aditya learn some more Tamil, while I developed a liking for his music collection, playing from his phone
- Honda understands the rear seats would see sparing usage and hence repositioned the air conditioning vents to benefits the occupants in the front.
- The dashboard has been pushed into the bonnet and your knee joints don't come into contact with the dashboard or the center stalk. Over long distances the driving comfort offered by the Brio is superb, relative to the competition (the S Class is any day better, but the internet tells me that it doesn't fit into my 6 lakh rupee budget).
- The horn is loud, and as it should be. Honda, gimme a five for not cutting costs and giving us a 'feeble breath' of a horn!
- 88PS from the 1.2-liter iVTEC engine does not break land speed records, but the engine is very strong, and lets you converse with friends without having to raise your voice even at top speed - this cannot be said for many cars in its segment as cost-cutting involves peeling away the sound deadening materials.
- While reversing out of pitstops, I found the full-glass hatch providing a tactical advantage of extra visibility. The blind spot is only marginally reduced, but the missing steel frame instills so much more confidence to complete the action.
What I'm expecting to see on the Brio diesel/next generation Brio
- A proper dead pedal can help take some stress away from the left leg - if there's one on the Brio AT, it should be shared with the manual version.
- Rear wiper is a must on future upgrades. During the rains, the hatch gets soiled and poses visibility problems.
- The air conditioner takes a while to lower the cabin temperature.
- The lack of a climate control unit is not missed, but Honda may like to offer it on the top-end model as all competitors will eventually use it. Value-added models built on this platform like the Brio-based sedan and MPV should compulsorily feature it.
- I would have liked the ride to be marginally more cushy. Or I would like the local municipality to repair the broken roads immediately - Which one is easier to get?
- The mirrors have been designed taking into consideration the Brio's natural habitat - the congested urban city - where other vehicles love to demolish anything extra hanging on to my car. Having said that, I would have certainly liked to see a bigger ORVM.
You can try hard to find fault with the Brio, but after a day's worth of driving, it comes through as nothing short of a brilliant car. There are no negatives in this car that can ruin its chances in India. Honda's still working on building up its dealer network and coming to terms with the B segment, to where it is a newcomer. These maybe the only factors that can have a negative showing on the Brio's market performance.
The first year of a product's launch is the most important one, but for the Brio it was a forgetful 2011. There's nothing worse than suffering due to a problem outside your system, that you cannot control. Ecological disasters planted speed breakers on the Brio's path, and the hikes in petrol prices in the last 18 months redirected the market towards diesel variants, and the Brio featured in fewer car-buying conversations.
The automatic transmission model followed by the diesel avatar will help Honda fill up variant gaps and make Brio a car that loves one and all!