If it ain't broke.....
In this day and age where almost every vehicle is brimming with high-tech features and plenty of amenities, it's sometimes nice to go back to simple vehicles that are fuel-efficient, fun to drive, and economical without the fancy doodads.
While I may sound like an old man yelling at clouds, modern cars today are filled with so much technology like sensors, cameras, radars, and chips that I sometimes worry about what could go wrong should something break. There’s also the fact that cars today keep getting bigger and bigger through each generation.
This is where cars like the Honda Brio come into play. Its small size, practicality and efficient yet rev-happy engine will serve to attract buyers who prefer something different (and perhaps slightly more affordable) in a sea of crossovers and SUVs. But with such vehicles becoming more popular and more competitively priced than ever, does the 2024 Brio RS still make sense in a market that has become hungry for high-riding vehicles? And does Honda’s entry-level hatchback still deliver value for money?
Starting with its looks, Honda decided to give the second-generation Brio a minor nip & tuck for its first facelift. This RS version gets a sportier look compared to the regular V and S variants. It has a new front grille with a new honeycomb-like pattern finished in gloss black, a redesigned bumper connecting the front foglights, exclusive side skirts, and side mirror caps finished in black. In case you haven’t noticed them yet, the RS now comes with LED headlights & foglights which are a welcome change over the halogen lights standard on the lesser models.
Carried over from the pre-facelift Brio are the 15-inch two-tone alloy wheels, the square-ish taillights, the roof spoiler, and the black roof which costs an extra PHP 10,000 by the way. So while it seems Honda decided to only do some minimal changes on their entry-level hatchback, the revisions they did were done in good taste and served to make what is already a good-looking hatchback appear even more handsome, especially when paired with the new Electric Lime Metallic paint.
Sure, some will say Honda could have done more to make the updated Brio RS flashier than before, but I like the subtle changes Honda applied to the hatchback. In the words of the late Colin Chapman, the founder of Lotus, “Less is more”.
Hop inside and all seems to be the same inside the 2024 Brio RS. From the orange accents on the dashboard to the red contrast stitching on the fabric seats, as well as the black headliner, the interior looks good without being dated. Even the digital panel for the air conditioning has been carried over and still kept the cabin cool even on the hottest of days.
What’s new, however, is a 7-inch touchscreen from Kenwood. It’s the same head unit in the previous generation BR-V which means it now comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard. These are nice additions since the pre-facelift version only came with Bluetooth/USB connectivity. It also has a 6-speaker system which is exclusive only to the RS (lesser models get a 4-speaker system).
Also worth noting about the Brio is the vehicle’s Noise, Vibration, and Harshness (NVH). It’s no City or Civic, so we have to keep expectations lower. Still, the cabin of the Brio is fairly decent in noise suppression. Outside noise from jeepneys and loud motorcycles will get in due to the thinner window glass, but its better than many of its rivals in the affordable class. And with the aircon at full blast, you can still have a conversation inside the hatchback without having to shout at one another, even at highway speeds.
CarPlay & Android Auto available on the Brio, I wish they could have done a better job in installing the touchscreen’s USB port. Instead of being placed on the dashboard or the center console, the port is tucked away inside the glovebox. This makes connecting your phone to the system a bit messy thanks to the long cables and all. Perhaps the only good thing about the port being in the glovebox is that it will discourage distracted driving since you can put away your phone inside the compartment.
With all seats up, you can carry things up to 20 inches long, 32 inches wide, and 32 inches tall at the back of the Brio. I missed the old Jazz and its versatile ULT seats, as the rear seats can only fold flat to give you 43 inches of cargo length.
Another gripe I have to mention about the interior of the Brio hatchback is the lack of 60:40 split rear seats. Dear Honda, we’re already nearing 2024 and the fact that the Brio doesn’t come with split rear seats is quite disappointing. The Suzuki Celerio already has them as standard and allows for a more flexible means of storing extra cargo in case you still want to carry one or two more passengers in the back.
If you need more cargo space at the back of the Brio and need the seats folded, your rear passengers will have to catch a ride from somebody else. Here’s to hoping Honda rectifies this in another update or for the new-generation model of the Brio.
All remains the same under the hood of the 2024 Brio. That means a 1.2-liter four-cylinder, i-VTEC engine that puts out a humble 90 PS at 6000 rpm along with 110 Nm of torque at 4800 rpm. Power goes to a CVT driving the front wheels.
So it still comes with the L12B3 engine from before and is still connected to a CVT (or 5-speed manual for the S base model). And you know what, Honda didn’t need to change anything with the powertrain since there’s nothing wrong with it to begin with. Despite its small size, the engine has more than enough pep to motivate the Brio from point A to point B. Whether it’s in the city or on the highway, the 1.2-liter engine serves its purpose to the letter. And since it’s a four-cylinder, it’s smoother and more refined than its closest rivals; namely the Toyota Wigo, the Mitsubishi Mirage Hatch, and the Suzuki Celerio which use three-cylinder engines. If you want to have fun with the Brio, the tiny 1.2-liter will suffice and is more than eager to rev to redline. Set the CVT to Sport (S) mode and it will keep the engine in the optimal power band which is useful if you’re driving spiritedly (but do it responsibly, ok?) along your favorite mountain passes.
When you’re finished having fun with the Brio RS, the hatchback reverts to an economical hatchback. Set the CVT back to “D” and the powertrain keeps the revs low to save on fuel. The Brio is still one of the most fuel-efficient super-minis in the market as it was able to return around 10 km/L in light city driving. Bring it to the highway and it will easily average up to 19 km/L or more.
It may have gotten an update inside and out, but the Brio remains a fun hatchback to chuck around. Since it only tips the scales of 995 kg, the Brio is nimble and easy to handle. It has electronic power steering but it doesn’t feel numb and delivers feedback to the driver which is always a plus in my opinion. Did we mention the Brio RS comes with Bridgestone Potenza RE030 tires as standard? Turn the wheel in and the hatchback just follows through with no delay.
If you’re into autocross challenges, a quick change to a stickier set of tires and swapping out the stock dampers for aftermarket ones could make the already agile Brio into something that will be sharper in the bends. Its short wheelbase helps deliver agile handling but it also translates to a slightly stiffer ride. At least Honda installed a nice set of dampers to tame the hatchback’s ride quality. While its engine may be zippy and happy to rev all day long, you can only have so much pulling power with a 1.2-liter displacement. This becomes apparent when you need to overtake. This also means one will have to be patient and have good timing when overtaking other vehicles (including tricycles) on narrow provincial roads.
In the Philippine market that has become obsessed with crossovers and SUVs, driving the Brio RS is refreshing. With its compact size, zippy four-cylinder engine, and sharp handling, it’s a fun car to drive daily in the city, along the highways, or even up in the mountains. The addition of LED lighting, Apple CarPlay & Android Auto connectivity, and reverse parking sensors give the vehicle some much-needed features the pre-updated version lacked.
However, with a price tag of PHP 853,000 (including the PHP 10,000 black roof option), the Honda Brio RS has become a victim of price inflation. Back when we first got to review the second generation hatchback in 2019, the RS variant only sold for PHP 727,000 (PHP 5,000 extra not yet included for the black roof at the time). This translates to a PHP 126,000 increase over the pre-facelift version which is quite significant.
With several subcompact crossovers nowadays starting at less than PHP 800,000 or just below PHP 900,000, the Honda Brio RS is in a tight spot when it comes to value for money. But for customers (or enthusiasts) who want a nimble hatchback with sporty looks, by all means, get the Honda Brio RS if the price tag is not a factor for you.