JOHANNESBURG - We've spent two months living with Honda’s new Amaze and now that the mileage on our test car has passed the 6000km point on the odometer, it’s starting to feel more like ‘Honda’ from the driver’s seat. 

Looking to provide ample space for up to four adults (five at a squeeze), but more suited to young families that need space to pack the cot, the pram and the rest, the Amaze is attractively priced in the sub-R200k category, and it comes with a comprehensive warranty and two-year service plan too.

When the vehicle arrived at the Drive360 garage, as new, it immediately attracted the attention of colleagues who spotted it. “That test car looks cool, huh.” “Is that front grille standard?” Will it replace the Ballade?” Many questions and statements around the Amaze have been fired our way over the past two months, so let’s start by unpacking what this 1.2 Comfort (manual) model is all about.

KEY INGREDIENTS

The new Amaze has been designed specifically as a sedan from the ground up, and is larger in every dimension when compared to the old Brio with a boot. Honda’s tried-and-tested i-VTEC engine technology also ensures that the vehicle gets up to speed with haste (and lots of revs), while delivering surprisingly good fuel consumption.

Most importantly, though, the car’s extended wheelbase and comfort-tuned suspension ensure confident road manners and a refined ride for something so compact.


TAILORED SUIT

Unlike the old Brio Sedan, which looked rather odd with it’s seemingly ‘tacked on’ trunk, the Amaze looks proportionate. The car looks wide and more muscular from the front thanks to wraparound headlamps and from the rear, new C-shaped tail lights give it a more upmarket, burly look too. It’s not going to win best-in-show for its styling, but it isn’t an obtrusive car to look at anymore.

The new Amaze is also only 5mm longer and 15mm wider than its predecessor, but the wheelbase has grown by a substantial 65mm, which translates into shorter overhangs and more interior space.

Viewed from the side, the alloy wheels (standard across the range) are a visual highlight, but we do feel that the wheels and tyres are bit small for the arches, so this month we’re going to be fitting the car with a set of sportier 17-inch wheels and tyres.

SMART INTERIOR

Honda will have you know that the interior of the new Amaze is nowhere near ‘entry’level’, even though it’s priced as a budget buy. And they’re quite right. Not only do you get ample head room, shoulder room and leg room in front and at the back, even when installing a traditional ‘seat-belt’ baby seat there’s a sense of spaciousness in the cabin. Cloth upholstery is used as standard to trim contoured, supportive front seats and the rear bench seat, but we opted for the synthetic leather seat covers that can be ordered as a no-cost option at dealers. The synthetic seats are the ones to go for if you’re going to be transporting babies or toddlers, as they simply wipe clean and they look good in the cream and black finish.

Another nice touch in the interior is careful use of glossy, piano black detailing on the dashboard. You get the sense that Honda’s interior design team thought long and hard about how to make what is essentially the cheapest model they produce to feel more like its luxurious Civic models. Styling is much more reserved on the inside than a Civic, yes, but the feel is of quality, and even the plastics feel good to the touch.


FEATURES APLENTY

If you enjoy pumping the beats in traffic, you’ll be pleased to know that the Amaze comes with a decent standard sound system. MP3 music files can be played from flash drives or smartphones and thanks to Bluetooth you can safely make and receive calls without touching your phone itself. I particularly enjoyed the quality of the audio system, which produces a high-quality experience in diminutive package. Comfort models also come standard with a multifunction steering wheel that allows safe and convenient control of the audio system, as well as enabling you to make Bluetooth-linked hands-free cellphone calls.

And, because of the new Amaze’s comparatively long 2 470mm wheelbase, the boot capacity has swelled to become the best-in-class at 420 litres (20 litres more than the original Brio sedan).

VERDICT

After two months behind the wheel of our Amaze, the initial reservations we had about it being underpowered has abated. More miles and some drivetrain run-in has unlocked smoothness and an eagerness to rev, like Hondas of yesteryear. The 1.2-litre four pot with 66kW and 110Nm won’t secure any traffic lights grand prix wins, but it will satisfy you when revved out.

The five-speed manual transmission has also loosened up nicely and it simply slots into gear with an easy smooth action, combined with a light and easy to modulate clutch.

The car’s also proving to be extremely frugal at the pumps, averaging an impressive 6.6l/100km despite stop-start M1 (Johannesburg) for most of its journeys on the daily grind.

Honda offers a CVT version of the car if you prefer to steer clear of a third pedal, but we know that small engines and CVTs aren’t the best combination when it comes to delivering a satisfying drive.

If you’re currently in the market for a small car to get to work and back, or if you’re looking for something with a little more space now that your nest is starting to fill up with little ones, the car ticks all the necessary boxes. Yes, we’d like more grunt, especially for overtaking up here in Gauteng where we test, but over time you’ll learn where the sweet spots are and where to shift cogs to maintain momentum without labouring the engine. Go test drive one today, but remember you’ll only start to feel its true smoothness and driveability once you’ve put some miles on it.

IOL MOTORING