In the recent past, automakers have been focused on new sub-compact SUVs. In 2020 alone we had the Kia Sonet, Toyota Urban Cruiser and the Nissan Magnite being launched with more on the way. While the Tata Nexon and Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza were also refreshed, before the lockdown. Within this SUV madness, we have completely forgotten about another body style that continues to exist. I’m talking about the sub-compact sedan of course. Recently, I sampled the Honda Amaze, one of the only few models in the segment currently on sale. I drove it for a good three months and over 2,000kms to find out why this sedan market has been overlooked and forgotten.
The model we had with us was the petrol-powered CVT version of the Honda Amaze. During the time we had the sedan, we spent driving it like anyone would as a daily. We also pushed the Amaze to its limits at times just to see how it would behave. What we found was that the engine is extremely refined and smooth with the power delivery. But there is a lack of power from it. With 89hp on tap, assisted by 110Nm of torque, it would seem adequate, but with new cars like the SUVs coming into the segment with more power, it feels a little slow albeit, very calm and composed.
You don’t notice the lack of power to be honest until you load it up with passengers and luggage. Then, putting the transmission into ‘Sport’ helps substantially, but maybe a little more grunt would have made it fun to drive.
Speaking of the transmission, CVT transmissions are fairly smooth but are notorious for the rubber band effect. Thankfully the former is retained with the Amaze and the latter is negligible. That said, the response with changing throttle inputs are a tad slow on the downshift. That’s exactly when the paddle shifters come into play. If you want to overtake, drop a few steps on the CVT and off you go. Without the paddle shifters, the Amaze would actually be a little difficult to drive on the highway or fast-flowing traffic. So that is a much-welcomed feature.
The steering, however, is an enigma. When parking or driving at slow speeds, it is actually a little heavy and requires some effort. Then it weighs down when the speed rises up. It is actually the opposite of how EPAS systems are traditionally designed to work. Although when driving, these issues are only apparent when you pay close attention. Otherwise one may not even notice it.
Honda claims the Amaze petrol is good for 18.5kpl. In that time that we drove it, the Amaze delivered around 15.6kpl in fuel economy, which in the real world is quite commendable in mixed highway/city driving conditions, but not better than all of its rivals if we were to compare apples to apples.
Most modern Hondas have a peculiar ride setup. While it leans towards the softer side for good ride comfort at slow speeds, they tend to be bouncy at higher speeds. In my experience, Hondas take their own sweet time to settle down after a bump or undulation, and that is made apparent with the new Honda City. But in the Amaze, it’s not as pronounced due to its shorter wheelbase. However, when loaded with passengers in the rear, it is still a tad bit bouncy. That said, in everyday conditions and on the roads in our country the Honda Amaze does a good job of keeping the occupants comfortable.
Now, I have a bad lower back which is a good indicator for a driving position and seat cushioning design, in my mind. With the Amaze, I felt no fatigue, pain or strain even for long Delhi-NCR journeys. It felt as comfortable as sitting at home, and I never complained about having to drive it even once. Additionally, Honda has done very well to engineer the cabin to be as spacious as possible. There is enough shoulder room for all, as well as leg and knee room for rear passengers. Boot space is ample for a lot of luggage and the dual-tone interior also allows for a more vibrant and airy cabin. Additionally, the build quality is very good and like every Honda, the materials in the cabin feel nice to the touch.
The current-generation Amaze was launched all the way back in early 2018. Although some feature revisions and special edition models have been launched, in car-years it’s already quite old. Recently the Honda Amaze was updated with a new touchscreen infotainment system which supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. While that has modernised the Amaze to at par with its sedan rivals, it still is a small step behind the newer subcompact SUVs. But, if we stop measuring the value of cars based on the needlessly long features list as a yard-stick and see what actually we need in our daily life, we come to the following conclusion.
The Amaze is built very well, it’s comfortable to spend a lot of time in, the engine is refined and offers a copious amount of cabin space. But, the ride could be tweaked to be tauter, the engine could be a touch more efficient and you can never have too much power.
So, if the Honda Amaze ticks the boxes that you have in mind, it will easily be the urban workhorse you need it to be. There seems to be nothing wrong with how subcompact sedans function, but the fascination with SUVs is something that seems to cement itself in the Indian market and beating that is a tall order in itself.
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