Vince Pornelos / Vince Pornelos | January 05, 2015 15:04
Space to boot
When Honda launched the Brio hatchback a few years ago with our ASEAN neighbors, we were already interested in what this little tyke can offer. However, with regards to the Philippine market, the Brio needed something to really get it to click with consumers: a trunk.
Enter the Honda Brio Amaze then; the 4-door sedan version of Honda's smallest car in the region. The Amaze will be a key model in our market given that a good majority of Philippine car buyers are generally more inclined to have a trunk rather than a hatch's tiny boot as was the case for the 2014 Brio.
Visually the Brio Amaze utilizes the same body and design, sans a few changes in terms of details. The chrome grill has two narrow bars instead of one wide bar in the hatch. The lower bumper has been fully color matched to the body as opposed to the flat black trim on the hatch. Honda added another character line from the rear doors to to the edge of the taillights, forming a Z with the original line that extends from the fenders. Also, this model has the optional Modulo body kit with the front chin, the side skirts, rear skirt and even the ducktail lip spoiler; it does feel odd that Honda didn't replace the 1.3S standard steel wheels (with full cap) with alloy wheels.
The most obvious difference is the addition of the trunk; if you're familiar with the Suzuki Swift DZire (against which the Amaze competes with in India), the execution of the trunk is rather similar as it is rather short and a bit chunky. Honda also extended the wheelbase of the Brio Amaze to 2405mm to minimize the rear overhang, thereby giving this sedan different but similar handling manners over the hatch.
The interior is virtually the same as the hatch, save for the use of a contrasting color theme. The dashboard is primarily black in the Amaze, though Honda used the tan and beige to complement it, making for a more premium feeling cabin; The panels are all the same as the hatch, though the extended wheelbase has given much more legroom in the back compared to the 5-door.
Fiddling around with the features, this 1.3S is actually already quite loaded. Power steering, power windows and power mirrors are standard. The gauges have a multi-info computer built in. Honda opted to install an AM/FM/Aux/USB head unit, thereby omitting the CD function because today's up-and-coming individuals don't use CDs very much or even at all. What I did find unusual is that the Brio Amaze did not have a mechanism or latch to somehow open or fold the back seat; it's a fixed one piece backrest.
Powering the Honda Brio Amaze is the same engine for all Brio variants: the L13Z1 i-VTEC motor that makes 100 PS at 6000 rpm and 128 Newton-meters of torque at 4800 rpm. Unlike it's competitors that use 3-cylinder engines, the Brio's motor is an i-VTEC 4-cylinder unit, and gives the little Honda the best power and torque when compared to the Wigo, Mirage and Swift. Also, this Brio Amaze 1.3S comes with a 5-speed automatic, though customers can also opt for the 5-speed manual version.
Small cars are not particularly good at suppressing potholed city streets (read: short wheelbase), but the Brio Amaze (like it's 5-door hatch brother) is definitely better than most in its class, all things considered. The absorption is pretty good, though the ambient noise suppression does need a little more work, as I can hear everything outside almost as clearly as if a window was open, but that's expected of an entry level model. Fuel economy in the city is also quite high, as an average speed of 19-21 km/h (moderate-heavy traffic) yields fuel economy in the 10.5 km/l range for this sedan.
Normally when carmakers slap a trunk onto an existing hatchback, the handling suffers a bit (read our Mazda2 hatchback and Mazda2 sedan reviews). Not so in the Brio Amaze. This is an enjoyable car to play with on an open road. Sure, 100 PS isn't really all that much to have fun with, though the gears are perfectly suited to maximize the 1.3 i-VTEC engine's output and torque. The gear kickdown is also quite quick and intuitive, though it would be nice to have a pair of paddle shifters for even more fun.
Overall the Honda Brio Amaze is just what the brand needed in the Philippines. A small, economical sedan that serves as a welcome point for new customers to Honda ownership. It's solidly built, it drives very well and has the fuel economy and the trunk space to (forgive the pun) boot.