As far as the Brio goes, it’s pretty straight forward for Honda. The hatch has to work and Honda’s immediate future in India hinges on the success of the Brio. We can’t stress enough on how important the Brio is for the Japanese manufacturer since sales in the last couple of years have only gone in one direction. The Brio is a car that has been conceived for markets such as India. Honda carried a lot of the preliminary studies for its hatch in India amongst other emerging countries to gauge the audience requirements and to better understand their customers. With the Brio, Honda intends to take on Maruti Suzuki in its own backyard. Prices for the hatch start from Rs 3,95,000 to Rs 5,10,000 ex-showroom New Delhi.

2011 Honda Brio

Honda has no plans to get a diesel engine for the Brio. The Hyundai i10 has no diesel option either but hatches like the Nissan Micra come with a diesel and so does the Ford Figo.

Design

2011 Honda Brio
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It’s immediately evident that the Brio is a futuristic looking car with its fresh lines and aggressive stance. With its compact and tipped forward look, the designers have given the Brio a well proportioned stance. The Brio as we have said is an extremely important car for Honda and the manufacturer has put in place the right elements to give it a high visual appeal. The stance is wide and the sculpted hood along with the large headlights and flared wheel arches flow well into the overall design which gives the hatch a purposeful look. The headlamps look good and the large air intakes under the headlamps give the design plenty of aggression. From the side, the Brio’s small car proportions come into play but the high shoulder line and a low crease add a bit of flair to the design. The roof gets higher as it flows towards the rear but the most eye-catching bit is the hatch - made out of transparent glass. The rear is essentially just plain flat and flanking the glass at the rear are the clear lens transparent rear cluster lights which take their inspiration from the Jazz. There is a small integrated spoiler at the rear as well.

Interiors

2011 Honda Brio
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The contemporary interiors of the Brio are up-market and feel rich. The dashboard is a mix of beige and black, the hooded dials are sporty and the soft-touch steering wheel complements the look and is upmarket. The two-piece dashboard with its offset center console is a bit unusual but it gives a youthful feel to the Brio. The cent re console is neatly crafted and the cockpit area is concentrated around the driver to offer an engaging driving experience. Plastic quality expectedly is good and Honda thankfully hasn’t made the same mistake that Toyota did with the Etios Liva. The chrome rings around the air-con vents add a bit of class and most of the switchgear feels solid and is good to operate. There’s plenty of storage too.

The interiors on the Brio are a result of findings from Honda after an extensive survey in India and parts of Asia which suggested that the people in this segment wanted space. It was this then that Honda kept in mind and as soon as you enter the Brio the first thing you notice is the space. The front seats are comfortable and there is plenty of legroom at the back. Seating three at the rear however would be uncomfortable over long distances. The Brio can seat four six-footers in decent comfort and this is down to the car’s clever packaging which increases space with the use of thin backrests and the scooped-out glove box allows for more legroom. The boot however is quite small.

All is not perfect with the Brio and there are a few signs of cost-cutting like the missing height adjustment on the driver seat, the lack of rear parcel tray and there also is no option of a rear wiper and defogger.

Standard features include headlight height adjuster, fuel consumption display, tachometer, central locking, air con and power steering. The Brio comes in four variants and the top of the line version is equipped with alloy wheels, front fog lamps, Integrated Audio with AM/FM, MP3, USB with AUX-in, steering mounted audio controls, driver and passenger airbag, ABS with EBD, keyless entry, tilt steering, front power windows and electrically adjustable outside rear view mirrors.

Engine and performance

2011 Honda Brio
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The 1.2-litre i-VTEC engine on the Brio is the same as the Jazz but it has been revised for the Brio. Full of zing, the 4-cylinder motor feels crisp and produces 88PS@6000rpm and 109Nm of torque @4600rpm. The motor is smooth, extremely refined and 100kmph is reached in under 13seconds which is quicker than a similar spec Maruti Suzuki Swift but slower than the Hyundai i10. However, the i-VTEC lacks low-end grunt but the engine is high revving with a maximum speed of around 145kmph. Drivability is decent and the Brio is 70kgs less than the larger Jazz which gives it a significant advantage as far as the power-to-weight ratio is concerned. There’s a noticeable spike in power around 4500rpm and it continues to the 6500rpm redline. Overall the engine feels zingy and lively which makes this small car fun to drive. The motor is a frugal unit and the Brio delivers an ARAI claimed 18.4kmpl which is more than the Ford Figo, Hyundai i20 and only marginally less than the Maruti Suzuki Swift and is also less than the Hyundai i10. The engine is mated to a slick 5-speed manual gearbox which has smooth shifts. There is an ‘ECO’ indicator which lights up on the dash every time the car senses you are driving in an economical manner.

Ride

2011 Honda Brio
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The Brio rides on MacPherson struts up front and a H shaped torsion beam at the rear. The ride quality isn’t as good as the i20 and some road imperfections filter into the cabin. The ride quality however improves as you go faster and the Brio also feels adequately stable at three digit speeds. The Brio’s steering is light, easy to use, is direct and well weighed. You get decent feedback through corners but not as much as the Swift. The Brio also possesses good grip around corners and Honda hasn’t made any real compromises on handling.

Competition

The Hyundai i10’s build quality is good, engines are refined, performance and fuel efficiency too are good and so is the ride and handling. Not without good reason is the i10 one of the best selling cars in India month after month and you also have an option of an automatic and LPG variant. The Ford Figo has spacious interiors, ride and handling is good and the build quality is amongst the best in segment. The Chevrolet Beat in one of the best looking hatchbacks in India. The diesel is fuel efficient and ride quality is good as well. The Nissan Micra comes in both diesel and petrol engines. Ride is good and so in the interior space. The Maruti Suzuki A-star is the best handling small hatch, ride quality is reasonable and its K-series engine is torquey. The Estilo and Wagon R offer good interior space and they share the same engine which delivers good drivability. The Tata Indica offers best in class interior space but build quality and refinement isn’t as good as the competition.

Verdict

2011 Honda Brio
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Honda couldn’t have afforded to get it wrong with the Brio and they haven’t. This Honda hatch is brilliant. Interior space, build quality, engine refinement and performance and fuel efficiency is right up there and is probably the best in the segment. There is nothing boring about how it drives and Honda fans will not be disappointed at all with the Brio. Ride could have been better and the steering feedback could have improved as well, but it handles well and the styling especially at the rear is eye catching. There is no automatic gearbox and diesel engine, but if you’re looking for a small petrol hatch, look no further than the Brio.

Quotes from other reviews:

Autocar India: ‘It is spacious, comfortable, looks good, has a fabulous engine and should deliver class-matching fuel economy. Yes, a more upmarket dash would have gone a long way, it could do with a few more essential features, and a little more boot space would have been welcome. The best bit, though, is that Honda now knows how to price its products and there’s talk of a starting price of Rs 4.2 lakh. Honda’s back with a bang!’

Karanbir