THE ENTRY-LEVEL SEGMENT – which accounts for 24% of the local market – has long gone untapped by Honda but the new Brio is set to change this and go head-to-head with such top players as the VW Polo Vivo, Toyota Etios and Renault Sandero. Naturally, the Brio has had to be priced and specced quite generously for it to make an impact in an already over-saturated market but does it have the qualities to win over the buying public?
Well, it certainly looks the part. The profile is sleek, the stance is aggressive and the defined shoulder line and muscular rear haunches bestow it with an athletic appearance. If I were to nit-pick, the only element that detracts from the visual package is the all-glass tailgate and triangular-shaped tail-lamps, which project a less than premium feel. The Brio can be personalised with a host of add-on visual adornments that form part of the City Package, which includes items such as a chrome tailpipe, front and rear bumper protectors, a rear spoiler, foglamps and side protection mouldings – yours for R6k.
Climb into the Brio and the first thing you’ll notice is just how roomy it is with sufficient head- and legroom for front and rear passengers. Ranking high on car magazines’ lists the layout is clean and the fit and finish are impressive considering it’s an entry-level vehicle. The centre console is dominated by a double-DIN stereo system complete with auxiliary and USB outputs, while the chrome-bezeled air-con vents and funky instrument cluster add a classy touch to the cabin. There are loads of storage options that include the glovebox, lower door area and a parcel shelf just below the centre stack. However, boot space is relatively small at 161 litres.
As an everyday runabout the Brio is an enticing prospect. The electric-assisted steering – although devoid of any genuine feel and feedback – is pretty responsive and makes navigating narrow roads and parking areas a simple exercise. Over the launch route I was able to put the Brio through a series of real-world tests that included some of Cape Town’s finest twisty mountain roads and notorious Atlantic seaboard traffic. It fared impressively well over the duration of the drive conquering all conditions with ease, with the suspension ably ironing-out the many blemishes and corrugations of Sea Point’s Main Road.
From a performance perspective the Brio is quite zippy. Yep, don’t be fooled by the diminutive 1.2-liter i-VTEC four-banger because for its size it packs a pretty lethal punch. Weighing-in at less than 1000kg and armed with 65kW and 109Nm of torque, the Brio has enough fire power to hustle it from 0-100kph in just 12.2 seconds. It’s thrifty too and over my 50km test route, which included many bursts of speed, I managed to come pretty close to the claimed fuel consumption figure with a readout of 7.6ℓ/100km.
Honda is planning on selling between 300-400 Brios per month, which doesn’t seem too unrealistic given this model’s lenient price point and the amount of features offered as standard. All Brios feature active and passive safety features including ABS with EBD and dual front airbags. Included in the asking price is a two-year/30000km service plan and a three-year/100000km warranty.