Yikes, so Honda says the average age of Honda owners is 55 – which at 51 makes me a tad too young to drive one.
Except I somehow never felt as though I was too old to be seen driving Honda’s tiny tot Brio sedan – although admittedly I would rather be seen driving the hatch as the sedan looks as though the boot has been added as an afterthought.
While the sedan is not as funky and cute as the hatch version, it does have the benefit of more interior and luggage space (405 litres), although the rear seats don’t fold down.
Spec levels and engine outputs on these midgets of the roads have come a long way since I finally parted with my treasured 1.3 Honda Ballade (the sexy one with the pop-up lights) after 18 years. A peppy 1.2-litre i-VTEC engine pushing 65kW ensures that the Indian-built Brio Amaze 1.2 Comfort would outrun my old Ballade.
As with other Honda i-VTEC engines, the Brio is a bit on the sleepy side at lower revs, particularly in second gear, but starts buzzing happily once you hit 4000rpm. Peak torque of 109Nm is reached at 4500rpm, so this is a motor that likes to be worked hard.
It has ample power for town driving and you aren’t doomed to slow-lane driving on the freeway.
The Brio cruises along happily at the legal speed limit on the flats, but requires a down-shift on steeper climbs and moving out of the fast lane to allow faster traffic to pass.
The five-speed manual gearbox is not as precise as we have become accustomed to on larger Honda models, but is quite adequate for this class of vehicle. Fuel consumption on a mix of town and open road driving was 6.5l/100km which could be lighter if it weren’t for the fact that the motor has to work quite hard at higher speeds. The tank is quite small at 35 litres, limiting the vehicle’s range too.
The driving experience is generally above par, with the Brio doing a good job of soaking up bumps, but the steering felt vague at higher speeds with poor directional stability. But at lower speeds in urban driving conditions it excels, with the light steering wheel making this a vehicle of choice for nipping in and out of lanes and dodging taxis.
Finding a comfortable driving position is easy enough with the height-adjustable steering wheel and a natural sitting position, while the cabin is roomy enough with sufficient pamper features to make long spells in the car more pleasant.
We tested the Comfort version, which has features such as satellite audio controls on the steering wheel, alloy wheels, front foglamps, radio with USB slot, remote central locking, electric side mirrors and a 12V socket - none of which are found on the Trend version. Features common to both models include aircon, electrically adjustable headlight height and electric windows.
Hard, shiny plastics are pretty standard in such vehicles and everything is solid enough. The seats were a beige colour with a shiny and slippery gold colour strip down the middle, which looks a bit cheap and tacky.
Using the term entry-level on these vehicles is a bit of a misnomer as they come with all sorts of gadgets not found on some larger vehicles just 10 years ago. The USB slot will find favour with the younger buyers although I was caught unawares by the lack of a CD player when I took along my favourite CD. But USB slots are the way to go and in a few years the CD player will go the way of the dodo.
Passengers in the rear fare quite well in the legroom stakes considering the small size of the car. A centre console folds down to provide cupholders and an armrest for passengers.
The baby Honda does well on the safety front as well, with dual airbags and ABS brakes.
Youngsters and first-time car buyers are spoilt for choice and will be weighing up the merits of the Brio’s pricing of R136 900 against those of competitors such as the Toyota Etios sedan 1.5 Xs at R132 600 and the Polo Vivo sedan 1.4 Trendline at R145 900 and in the end it will come down to personal preferences.
Unlike the youth-targetted Brio hatch with its funky styling, the more conservative-looking sedan is geared to a more mature audience. But whatever their age group, buyers get a cost-effective and roomy little car with most of the bells and whistles. -Star Motoring