Now that the Etios Liva has entered the fray, the competition will pull up their socks and do what it takes to cut down delays in bringing their challengers to the market. A hotly anticipated product in this case is the Honda Brio (rhymes with Leo), here by the start of the festive season.
Seen here is the promotion campaign featuring Thai stars Mark Prin and Yaya Urassaya Sperbund. Mark drives around with his dad who feels at home in the Brio while Yaya goes shopping with her folks highlighting the excellent usable space for shopping bags. Honda should use Imran Khan and Anushka Sharma in their campaign if they are going the celebrity way to promote this mini car.
Honda is testing the Brio around Greater Noida as we write this. It will look at the Thai market's reaction to this product to add finishing touches to the Indian spec car. The Brio hit a speed breaker as Honda was forced to halt production in Japan due to the calamity caused by the earthquake and tsunami in early March. Bookings had to be stopped just a month after the launch due to components shortage from Japan. Honda's recovered quickly and it hopes to ramp up production to reach maximum capacity by September.
The Brio is powered by a 1.2-liter iVTEC engine producing around 80bhp. Like the Etios, the petrol will precede the diesel. Honda offers the Thai market Brio with automatic transmission. In India, the market for the AT is yet to pick up, so Honda will go with the less expensive and pro-fuel economy 5-speed manual transmission.
Honda could offer the Brio in three or four trims with the basic model having only power steering and air conditioning. The top-end model could have beige interiors, music system, power windows, central locking, upgraded tires, alloy wheels and USB slot. Like the Liva, Brio will not have automatic climate control, Bluetooth connectivity or height-adjustable head rests. What sets the Brio apart is the interior quality, built using better materials.
The Brio resembles the Micra in some aspects while the Liva is like an Indica built by Japan. Both cars are worthy contenders as Maruti or Hyundai alternatives. Japan is going to set the cat among the pigeons and will ruffle the feathers of the Hyundai i20 and Volkswagen Polo with low priced hatchbacks.
A diesel engine displacing under 1.5-liters is currently being tested by Honda but it will take a couple of years before it hits the market. Hatchbacks are city cars and customers usually don't drive more than 3k kilometers a month. Talking with the current fuel prices in the backdrop, over a period of three years, customers will spend less on a petrol engine. But customers buying a diesel engine love the torque and the better drivability it brings along with it.