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Brio sedan: Friend of the family

2013-07-17 06:55

LES STEPHENSON

Honda is fighting back. For too long its automotive products have been regarded as “for older people” and that, frankly, is for the birds. It isn’t – and as far as I’m concerned never has been - true.

It’s like the average urban legend; a perception rather than a truth. Just think S2000 and NSX, Asimo... OK, he’s a robot, but which other automaker builds robots?

Honda made Formula 1 cars that beat the world (and its engines will be powering the McLaren F1 team in 2014); it builds motorcycles that lead MotoGP; it’s so far ahead innovation-wise in other fields – robotics, quads, automation, small jet planes, robotic walking aids for the infirm (thank you, Asimo!) - that its global competitors are way below the eastern horizon.

BIT OF A STRETCH

Honda has lots of wheeled weapons to battle old-folks’ syndrome but the latest is the Brio, a sub-compact with an age-seeking warhead set to home in for a sale to anybody younger than, say, 25. First-time buyers, students, trendy singles... and perhaps even retirees.

You met the Brio hatchback six months ago. It was magnetically calibrated to attract 18 to 23-year-old buyers (or their parents); now Honda SA has launched the Brio four-door (it's badged as the Amaze in other markets, and in fact some of the cars at the launch in Johannesburg still had that badge on their boot) based on the hatch but longer by 380mm to add 60mm to the wheelbase and 55mm of knee-room to the rear seats – the rest used up by creating a boot big enough at 405 litres to take the holiday luggage of a young family of four.

Image gallery

Yeah, the “young” again... the sedan is the next step in the growing-up saga of the sub-24’s, now in their 25-29’s and with two kids, a folding pram and a mortgage. It’s basically the same car, in Trend and Comfort spec levels, as the hatch but the extra wheelbase gives it better handling and, subjectively, the lack of a big glass back door seems to give the car more rigidity.

The two folds along the flanks remain, as do beneath them the 1.2-litre 65kW/108Nm i-VTEC four-cylinder engine and the choice of five-speed manual or auto gearbox. We drove the manual; it’s not helluva fast – and showed it during the launch up on the oxygen-starved Highveld with a 0-100 time in the mid-twelves; anyway, 0-100 is such a car-magazine dated benchmark when today what matters is cruising comfort and fuel consumption.

Whatever, the Brio had no trouble staying with the Gauteng traffic, city and freeway.

YOUNG GENERATION

Honda claims 6.1 litres/100km for the manual-boxed Trend 1.2 and that’s fine for folk who need a commuter and occasional holiday car; they ain’t into rubber-shredding, just getting there, and back, safely and comfortably is what they want and for sure this little gem will do that.

The Brio is also breeding, according to Honda’s data, a generation of young first-time buyers who will continue to buy its products – customers in training, so to speak. About 98% of Brio buyers, asked if they would buy another Honda, said the word all car dealers want to hear: “Yes!”

Seems to be working, too... overall Honda car sales are up by 69% for the first six months 2013 while others are in single digits – or even with minus signs on their spreadsheets.

So what else does the Brio sedan bring to market? Bigger rear doors than the hatch, for a start – think getting access to baby seats. It has the same anti-lock brakes, two front air bags, and most of the body structure is shared but the cabin layout is more passenger-focused than the hatch.

"The layout of the instrument dials and controls is intuitive," Honda says, "and generous equipment levels, even on the entry-level Trend model, ensure a high degree of comfort, while the even more luxurious Comfort model adds an extended features list."

MUSICAL THEME

Headroom is excellent, too, and there’s a distinct lack of bling – something else going out of date in cars. Power mirrors and windows are standard, as are aircon and a comprehensive audio system with all the new input options.

Honda has followed the musical theme of its naming convention with the Brio; it’s an Italian term from 1734, often used as a musical term meaning “played with vivacity, verve”. Ballade, Jazz, Prelude, Dualnote, Quintet - there was even a Gracenote audio system database. Perhaps there were others - tell us.

The Brio sedan will be offered in two model variants – 1.2 Trend, available with a five-speed manual gearbox, and 1.2 Comfort, offered with a choice of five-speed manual or five-speed automatic gearboxes.

“The Brio hatchback really took the market by storm when we launched in early December 2012,” said Graham Eagle, director of automobiles at Honda Motor Southern Africa. “It brought Honda’s quality and reliability within the reach of a broader audience, while introducing a vibrant energy and youthful appeal to the brand.”

'BRIO MAGIC'

Eagle says that while the hatch is specifically targeted at young and trendy motorists, many of them first-time buyers, the sedan extends the nameplate’s reach to include young, style-conscious families with an appetite for the four-door’s extra space and practicality.

“We’ve also extended the appeal of our Brio hatch with the addition of the entry-level Trend," Eagle added, "to augment the exiting Comfort variant. We’re convinced this will allow even more people to share in the Brio magic."

Recommended retail pricing of the new Honda Brio sedan:
1.2 i-VTEC Trend - R128 900
1.2 i-VTEC Comfort - R136 900
1.2 i-VTEC Comfort a/t - R146 900

The Brio hatch is priced at:
1.2 i-VTEC Trend – R119 900
1.2 i-VTEC Comfort - R127 900
1.2 i-VTEC Comfort a/t - R137 900

Prices include a two-year or 30 000km service plan and a three-year or 100 000 km warranty. Service intervals are 15 000km.

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