A Small Honda With a Big Feel
It may be small, but Honda’s new Brio hatchback subcompact offers some perks in the world of budget cars, and it’s gearing up to roll out on the Indonesian market in the coming months.
The Brio 1.2 CVT is Honda’s take on a cheap, no-frills ride, and I had an opportunity to test drive it last week while visiting Phuket in Thailand, where I hoped to escape Jakarta’s traffic-jammed streets and take a needed break from the chaotic capital.
The car, which looks like an old-school Honda Civic with a large glass hatch, will probably be available here in Indonesia sometime between July and September.
When that happens, the Brio is set to be the smallest car sold in the country — just 3.61 meters long, 1.68 meters wide and 1.485 meters tall, with a wheelbase of just 2.345 meters.
Still, don’t let the small size fool you. Honda did a pretty good job masking the Brio’s small exterior by making the most of interior space. For a ride through town, the car can fit four adults, but probably no more than that.
The Brio has a continuously variable transmission and a 1.2-liter engine with variable valve timing and lift electronic control (i-VTEC), making for a power delivery that is smooth and fuel efficient.
I averaged about 1.17 liters during my test drive in Phuket, though it is important to note a few differences in driving conditions that affected that figure. The roads I drove were not as crowded as Jakarta’s busy streets and I passed some very cool mountain roads.
The Brio’s road handling was decent for a car its size, and I would say it could compete with larger hatchbacks such as the Toyota Yaris or the Honda Jazz.
Its suspension setup was also very “grown-up,” without the bouncy feel you get in a Japanese city car, though it wasn’t like driving a European small car. It doesn’t stand up to Volkswagen, but it’s still adequate.
In addition to its solid handling and noise dampening, the Brio was equipped with an impressive safety kit, including dual air bags and an anti-lock breaking system with electronic brakeforce distribution.
There was also an immobilizer that prevents the engine from running unless the correct key is present.
If Honda Prospect Motor can sell the Brio in Indonesia with a competitive price and the same safety kit, it will definitely be a hit, especially for buyers looking for their first Honda or a car to drive their kids to college.
As a no-frills car, the Brio has a straightforward interior dashboard made of hard plastic. It did not have a soft-touch grade, and its double DIN audio lacked a CD system. There was a USB plug-in at the bottom of the console and four independent circular vents for a sporty look. The steering wheel was adequately weighted and had a good grip.
The seats were like sporty bucket seats but offered a good design that won’t tire out passengers during long-haul trips. The front seats were very thin to cope with the small interior space, allowing enough room for adults to sit in the back.
The trunk was small, capable of carrying at least two 50-liter backpacks, although getting your bag inside might be a challenge because of the high lid. And while the glass hatchback looks nice, it will require costly repairs if broken.
The Indonesian price tag for the new Brio is not yet clear, but you can probably expect it to sell at around Rp 160 million to Rp 180 million ($17,000 to $19,000) if it has the same specs as the Thailand model.