Honda's first small car for the Indian market promises a lot and from our first impression it does have the capability to deliver on those promises.
It is however nothing like the Honda new small car concept we saw unveiled at the 2010 Auto Expo in Delhi. That was a far more sportier looking hatchback though the Brio by itself is attractive enough to warrant a fair amount of attention. The styling is pretty close to the Jazz with the sharply raked hood tapering towards the grille though it's much more compact. Yet the Brio has a wide footprint, 1.6 metres wide that makes it look well planted and stable.
The roof gets taller as it flows towards the rear but the most eye-catching element is the hatch - made out of transparent glass. It's a very attractive design element and quite practical too, at least it will prevent all those pesky hotel and mall security personnel from wanting to open your boot all the time.
The interiors of the Brio are fairly up-market and contemporary - at least they feel richer than what Toyota has used inside the Etios/Liva. It also feels wider though three full grown adults at the back will be a tight fit. There is however enough knee room and space to place your feet comfortably, even for the guy squeezed in between the other two thanks to the nearly flat floor.
The dashboard is a pleasant mix of beige and chocolate brown, the clocks are sporty and the steering wheel complements the whole look. Our 'one below the top of the line' variant got steering mounted audio controls though the 2-DIN stereo does not accept compact discs and like the Jazz it only has aux and USB connectivity which may work for some but I'm not certain how many people will be comfortable making the technology shift in this segment.
The seats are comfortable though it takes time to find a position that fits you perfectly. One aspect that I found lacking was the number of storage options. In this department Honda broke new ground with the Jazz but that sort of immense and diverse storage options for any number and size of knicks knacks is not present in the Brio. You get the standard cup and bottle holders but thats that, nothing more special.
On the driving front the 1.2-litre i-VTEC engine is full of zing though like traditional engines this only comes at high revs. The 4-cylinder i-VTEC feels crisp like toast and though max 88Ps power comes in only at around 6000rpm the 109Nm of torque gives it decent driveability in the city. Yet make no mistake this is not a diesel with low rpm grunt and neither does the future have any plans for a diesel. What you get is fantastic refinement and a fair amount of zing thanks to a well matched gearbox with slick, smooth shifts.
The suspension is soft exhibiting a fair amount of body roll, yet shock absorption keeps things comfortable and there's enough stability for some spirited driving. Ride quality, I'd bet safely, is one of the best in the segment and that is something the typical consumer will appreciate highly. What I didn't like is the electronic power assisted steering which feels as dull as the weather in Mumbai. It's precise and effortless in the city but offers little feedback and weight.
On the safety front, there's good all round visibility, you get ABS and front airbags in the more expensive variants and Honda's G-CON body is lightweight yet structurally strong enough to withstand impact.
Expect the pricing to be around Rs 5 lakh, with a starting point of around 4.3 lakh going all the way up to we presume 5.5 lakh, all ex-showroom. It's not expensive but for a car that feels rich, has the Honda stamp of premiumness, coupled with a sound set of mechanicals it certainly should present good value for money. Just how good? We will have to wait till the launch, expected in the next 3-4 weeks, to find that out keep following us on our twitter and Facebook page to get that dope.
Honda Brio performance figures