These really small cars, or the A-segment as we call it, turned heads sometime in the late 2000s when a few Chinese brands brought them in. As practical as they were, the ride was honestly uncouth and the appointments were barely holding up within months of use.
When Honda came in with the Brio in 2014, a lot of people were excited. It was a city car that came with a small displacement engine at the time when traffic was getting worse and fuel prices were going up.
It still left a lot to be desired because, remember, we were all coming from the City and Jazz experience. If you haven’t given it a test, read on as I tell you how all those were addressed by this second-generation model.
Character lines are still very similar, if not identical to its predecessor, but the biggest and most welcome change is the sleeker front. Gone is the bulbous hood, the large headlamps and tiny grille that simply didn’t go together.
It takes the flat hood of the Jazz and the Mobilio’s modern single-bar grille connected to a more stylized casing for the multi-reflector halogen headlamps. Plus, the Carnival Yellow works nicely with the black mesh behind the grille, and fog lamps on the new bumper. The rear spoiler is smaller, the hatch shapelier and swaps the all-glass liftgate for a more conventional one. It has filled out more, especially front and back, which is no wonder why more people mistake it for a Jazz. It looks more sophisticated for a Php 658,000 unit.
Locking and unlocking can be done remotely on the keyfob but it uses a key-in system to start the smaller 1.2L Single Overhead Cam i-VTEC engine.
There’s a lot of elbow room, but this is because the cabin doesn’t have a center console and all the fancy equipment (and the necessary components and wiring that come along with it) you find in higher Honda models.
Seats are fabric, two-way adjustable with a fixed headrest, but the overall fit is commendable. It’s not amply bolstered, but the sporty shape makes it very comfortable to sit in and the vehicle’s size makes it easy to see over the hood. Legroom is just enough, especially in the second row.
Hard plastics are used on the panels and various cabin surfaces to make it lightweight and slim, but props to the new and improved dashboard design. There’s a semblance of a theme already for uniformity, which makes it easy on the eyes, and it comes with a seven-inch touchscreen with a very-easy-to-understand graphic user interface and Bluetooth connectivity.
Trunk space is minimal and will only fit maybe a couple of check-in sized luggage or about four to five overnight bags.
It has less than 100 horses (89 HP to be exact) and only 110 Nm of torque but it’s a city car so, what do you expect? For its purposes and its size, those numbers are perfect. Coupled with a CVT (continuously variable transmission), it is able to manage the output much better regardless of the driving condition. You can keep its revs under 2000 for maximum efficiency, but there will be little to no overtaking for sure, and the drive will fairly be unexciting. Because of the CVT, there was already a palpable amount of pull at around 2200 RPM, which already made overtaking possible and even a spirited takeoff from a standstill. Since the car weighs only 969 kilos (just a shade over a ton with me in it), I easily gave in to the temptation to keep on pushing it.
NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) levels are actually low and much better than the previous model. When road surface goes really bad (e.g. potholes, large cracks), and there’s a lot of that on EDSA, there was a noticeable clatter from the suspension.
It even has anti-lock braking system (ABS), dual SRS airbags (driver and front passenger), and speed sensing auto door locks.
It feels very compact from behind the wheel and is great to handle at speeds appropriate for the metro – turning maneuvers are tight, while it feels balanced and stable. If you hit 80 km/h and above, its size and weight turns into a disadvantage as it becomes just a bit unsteady. But you can’t really ask for too much if you’re looking from the perspective of price point.
You’d be hard-pressed to find an equal or even better subcompact in terms of looks, interior appointments, tech features, and fuel returns (it averaged a little over 10 kilometers per liter on pure city driving).
For the 2019 Honda Brio 1.2 V CVT, ‘amazing’ isn’t just a tagline, it’s what it is.
Text and photos by Eric Tipan