The Honda Brio has been unchanged since its launch in 2011, and its low sales volumes didn't bode well for its future. In order to enhance the appeal of this little car, Honda Cars India has given it a facelift, which we've just driven. Has Honda done enough to turn around the Brio's fate or at least cash in on the upcoming festive season? We find out
In line with the global trend of a homogenous design language across multiple models, Honda has given a treatment similar to the recently facelifted Amaze. Changes at the front of the new Brio include a new bumper and grille, of which the latter is finished in black unlike the chrome finish on the Amaze. Changes on the side are limited to zero and this seems to be a missed opportunity as the company could've offered a new set of larger alloy wheels. That said, the Brio's overall design still doesn't look dated but the scope of this facelift could've been wider.
At the rear, there are minimal changes including a spoiler and a redesigned cluster for the tail lamps. The Brio has always stood out for sporting a cute and youthful design and the updates in the new one help it looks a bit sharper, especially from the front angle. However, we still feel that the changes should have included some more body panels.
Unlike the exterior, the cabin of the new Brio sport a significant amount of change over the previous model. The highlight is an all-new dashboard, which is the same as seen on the updated Amaze. The all-black dashboard features a silver line running from the centre console and ends up wrapping the air-conditioning vent. The carbon-fibre finish on the lower part of the dashboard along with an impressive material quality lends a sporty and upmarket feel to the cabin. The instrument cluster too has been changed and now features a clean look with analogue dials for speedometer, tachometer and the fuel-gauge. Odometer, time, drive mode and other such information are offered through a digital readout.
The centre console now houses a new entertainment system, which is a 2-Din unit. This unit offers USB and Bluetooth connectivity, which can also be accessed through steering-mounted controls. The air-conditioner also gets a new control panel, which looks neat and uplifts the perceivable quality of the cabin. Cooling from this unit is impressive and given the compact dimensions of the cabin, the cooling is quick despite the absence of rear vents.
There are no changes at the rear and space here continues to be decent for the car's size. With a non-sloping roof, headroom is good at the back and legroom too is acceptable. The seat bench is comfortable for two adults but three might feel squeezed. The front seats too are comfortable and have good padding with average side support. One of the good things about the Brio is the visibility for the driver at the front, partly due to slim A-pillars.
The Brio doesn't feature any changes to its powertrain or other mechanicals and hence there is no change to the way the car drives. Under the hood, there's the familiar 1.2 litre 4-cylinder, i-VTEC engine, which produces 87 hp and 109 Nm of torque. The car we drove was equipped with a 5-speed torque-convertor automatic transmission. However, buyers can also opt for a 5-speed manual transmission.
The engine does a good job moving the Brio when in a hurry, partly due to the responsive motor that loves to be revved. The light weight of the car also helps performance as well as fuel-efficiency. The peppy motor also ensures that maintaining triple digit speed on the highway is easy and so is overtaking the trucks. The engine is smooth through its revband and even closer to the redline, the sound isn't annoying. The 5-speed automatic transmission is always eager to upshift in favour of fuel-efficiency and does an acceptable job in the city. Under hard acceleration, though, the unit feels slow as it takes a time to shift through the gears.
In terms of handling, the Brio is set on the softer side, leading to a good ride quality, wherein the cabin remains largely insulated from the undulations on the road. Going fast through corners results in a fair amount of body-roll but the Brio still manages to hold onto the desired line. The steering is light to operate, making the car easy to drive in traffic and at the same time it also offers a decent amount of feedback.
The Brio with the updated design and features certainly makes a more value-for-money proposition than its predecessor. With a slightly sharper design and premium interiors along with new features, the Brio is now more competitive. However, I strongly feel that Honda has played it a bit too safe in terms of updating the car. While it isn't the clear-cut winner in its segment, the new Brio does make a better case for itself now if you're in the market for a compact, funky, fuel-efficient and reliable hatchback. The new Brio's prices are mentioned below:
- Honda Brio E MT: Rs 4,69,000
- Honda Brio S MT: Rs 5,20,000
- Honda Brio VX MT: Rs 5,95,000
- Honda Brio VX AT: Rs 6,81,600