Features: 70 / 100
Look/Design: 65 / 100
Performance: 70 / 100
Safety: 80 / 100
As things in South Africa seem to keep getting more expensive and more unaffordable, it makes sense that the entry-level segment has seen significant growth and has become a bloody battleground between car-makers for winning over clients.
Most car-makers have gone more high-tech with their entry-level cars and offer many extras in order to woo over new customers. Although, Volkswagen and Ford seem to be the exception to this rule.
Inexplicably, Honda was the only main-stream car-maker who has not engaged the entry-level market. As much as the Jazz was a favourite amongst quality surveys and other publications, it has become too expensive to truly compete within the entry-level market, and that is where the Brio (finally!) comes in.
Brio is Honda’s new entry-level vehicle. It is mostly what you’d expect from Honda. It’s a quality little vehicle with a frugal, yet peppy engine.
As with most other entry-level vehicles, the Brio is not the most beautiful car you’ll ever lay your eyes on, but it is instantly recognizable as a Honda, due the front grille treatment. The back side of the car lends visual cues from other vehicles in the segment like its Citroen and Peugeot counterparts. As you’d also expect, there aren’t mags and the door handles aren’t colour coded. Overall though, the Honda stands proud.
The interior, for me, was the BIG negative of the Brio. It’s not that didn’t work properly or squeaked or anything. It’s all about the looks. Obviously this will differ as people’s tastes differ. For me; it was terrible. You get a cream coloured material interior on all seats with brown and black sections on the dashboard to “compliment” the cream colour. This not only looks wrong, but it’s also a very impractical colour. The car I had has a mere 7000+km on the clock, yet you could already see a bunch of dirty marks and blemishes on the seats.
The body-colour of the car is also seen behind all the door pockets, as the doors don’t cover all the paintwork. Depending on the colour, this could add to the chaos inside the car. Luckily I had a white variant, but the bright green paintwork DOES NOT work with creams and browns.
The brown and black mish-mash dash also doesn’t work for me. I have an idea it’s going to be a love it/hate it affair. The dash is also a pretty bare area with only the necessary buttons and knobs.
The Brio also has a (very flimsy) USB connector for connecting flash-drives to the car. I couldn’t get it working though. I tried different flash-drives with different sizes, formatted in different ways, yet none of them played. The car kept picking up that there was a device connected, but that was as far as I got.
The audio system was surprisingly good. It’s not going to win awards, but for an entry-level vehicle, it was amazing. The rest of the interior worked pretty much like you’d expect, with no negatives as far as functionality goes.
The Brio has a surprising amount of rear-seat space. We could easily fit in 4 adults without feeling claustrophobic. The trade-off though for the extra room, was the amount of boot space. The boot is essentially useless. It is probably the smallest boot I’ve seen in a car, and to make it worse, the body of the car, comes up very high at the back, which means entry to the boot looks like a piggy bank. There’s a thin sliver through which you can insert items into the boot. Bad design here.
Driving the Brio is relatively decent. At 1.87m I could easily fit into the cockpit as the steering wheel can be adjusted up and down and telescoping. The seats are okay. You cannot adjust the head-rest, as the seat is one single unit. If it’s not comfortable for you then there’s nothing you can do about it.
The 1.2l engine is no ball of fire, but in city driving it’s more than adequate. And it’s very frugal. After a week’s worth of driving (including a trip to Bredasdrop) the average consumption was at around 6.5l/100km. The car handle freeway driving relatively well, but you would need to keep the momentum going with gear changes, especially when the area becomes hilly. At up to around 110km/h the car is still good, but beyond that it feels too fast for this car. Honda also seems to agree as it has limited the top speed of the Brio to 140km/h. I never even got close to those kinds of speeds with the Brio.
The drive is rather pleasant yet bland. The suspension is on the soft side, which helps with comfort, but doesn’t add to the dynamic abilities of the car. Braking and steering feel is also not great, but again, is fine for everyday driving. Don’t expect to be gunning around mountain passes at blistering speeds.
Overall, the Brio is a strong contender from Honda into the burgeoning entry-level segment. It is very late to game, which definitely puts Honda on the back-foot right from the start. The Honda quality perception is sure to lure many new customers and I don’t think the Brio will tarnish this perception. This quality perception, together with the fact that this car is genuinely good, will surely be a good enough combination to see the Brio succeed in such a fiercely competitive segment.