Honda cars, ever since the first Ballade reached South Africa back in the early 1980’s, have been associated with musical names. Along came the Jazz and now there’s the Brio – a musical notation requesting the score be played with verve and energy.Image galleryHondas have also always appealed to buyers from anywhere but “entry level” – at one time they were even seen as a second family car behind a Mercedes, but that was when Mercedes ran the Honda show in South Africa.The Brio changes all that.The cars were first shown in prototype form at the Thailand International Motor Expo in November 2010 having, Honda says, “been developed with the needs of fast-growing markets in south-east Asia and other developing regions in mind”.'ATTRACTIVE PACKAGE' Honda’s CEO, Takanobu Ito, speaking at that premiere, emphasised the importance of the car in Honda’s “strong passion to reach a wider customer base”. “We would like to expand the joy of owning vehicles to more and more customers by introducing an affordable small vehicle,” he said. “To accomplish this we have focused on creating an attractive package at an affordable price.”So here’s how they’re priced in South Africa...Honda Brio 1.2 i-VTEC Comfort - R119 800Honda Brio 1.2 i-VTEC Comfort a/t - R129 800including a two-year or 30 000km service plan and three-year or 100 000km warranty with service intervals of 15 000km.Which keeps things simple: one model, one engine, the only alternative a five-speed auto gearbox. The engine is a quad-valve 1.2-litre i-VTEC capable of 65kW at 6000rpm and 109Nm at 4500rpm, plenty of power for a car this size and promising 0-100km/h in 12 seconds.AUTO GEARBOX A FIRSTIt’s the first time this engine has been seen in South Africa and it follows the trend of other automakers to downsize engines while simultaneously improving their power output – not so long ago 65kW from a 1.6 engine was not unusual.Honda claims a general-use fuel consumption of 5.6 litres/100km (6.3 for the auto – the five-speed gearbox another first for SA).The Brio is assembled in Greater Noida, India, and the first model to reach South Africa from the Honda plant there. When the first consignment was loaded in Mumbai back in October, Honda India’s president Hironori Kanayama said:“The export of Brios to the highly-sophisticated South African market underscores the world-class quality of the cars we produce.”However, keeping prices down for “developing markets” requires efficiency and simplicity. Hence, Honda says, “the Brio’s interior design takes this concept to a new level by dispensing with everything unnecessary”.“For example, the instrument panel was developed from an extremely simple structure with functional parts grouped and other surfaces reduced to a minimum,” the automaker says. “This also creates a feeling of spaciousness for the front occupants. Minimising of the door interiors and the slender lower part of the instrument panel creates more physical space for knees and feet.”SAFETY TECHNOLOGIESKeeping the upright sections of the front seats slim created space for rear passengers. After all, this IS a small car – 3.61m, 1.5m high and 1.68m wide and its turning circle of 4.8m is less than the length of some large cars. It’s all a consequence of Honda’s "man maximum, machine minimum" philosophy that, the company says, “puts people are the centre of the design” with the technology built around people.And people have to be protected so Honda has given the Brio a “high-performance” body using what the automaker calls G-Force Control Technology and involves high-tensile steel for crash resistance – but a nose that, should the occasion arise, will be gentle on a collected pedestrian. Active and passive safety technologies include two front air bags, anti-lock brakes with electronic pressure distribution and front pre-tensioning restraint belts.Honda describes the Brio’s spec as “high”, with aircon, steering-wheel mounted audio controls, four speakers for an audio system that comes with auxiliary and USB connections, power front and rear windows with auto down for the driver, power adjustment for the external mirrors, remote control for the central locking system and an immobiliser.'STYLE, PRICE QUALITY'Yoshiaki Nakamura, MD of Honda SA, said at this week’s launch: “The Brio is poised to become a trend-setter in the entry-level segment and will allow us to introduce the Honda motoring experience to a wider audience.“The Brio’s combination of styling, affordability, quality and motoring fun will offer young first-time buyers an attractive budget motoring option.”Graham Eagle, sales and marketing director, added: “Taking into account the specification level, modern technology and inherent quality of the Brio, we are delighted to offer this entry-level newcomer.“We’re confident the Brio’s arresting mix of young and funky styling, zippy dynamics, interior space and efficient technology will please and entice buyers seeking affordability, value and style in a contemporary and efficient package.”Read more about the Honda Brio. 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