Honda Brio: Funky entry-level fun

2012-12-06 07:36

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.

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Hondas 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”.

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 800
Honda Brio 1.2 i-VTEC Comfort a/t - R129 800

including 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.


It’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.”


Keeping 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.


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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  • JNaMolefe - 2012-12-06 08:04

    that's sexy :)

  • dean.mark.williams - 2012-12-06 11:07

    That styling... well it leaves much to be desired. And light coloured cloth seats, I don't think people with very young children will be liking that idea much. Guess it's business as usual, a Honda for the 'older' generation.

  • herman.kramer.988 - 2012-12-06 11:27

    over priced!

  • MuhammadSheikOumar - 2012-12-06 11:32

    Compared with the other A-segment and sub B-segment cars available in SA, this Honda looks rubbish. It looks like an early nineties car. The styling is terrible, especially the rear which looks like an old Ford Ka. The entire car looks so flimsy. Why beige interior? To be honest for that price I would rather get a slightly used second hand car. R120k-R130k will get you a decent second hand Polo or Fiesta. Otherwise the Figo, Vivo, Picanto, i10 all look far more decent than this. Please Honda, bring something more substantial to SA. We deserve better than this!

  • gary.bloom.967 - 2012-12-06 13:36

    Looks Chinese/ Indian. I'm sorry but the styling sucks.

      thando.gqabaza - 2012-12-06 20:31

      Isn't it built in India ?

  • Albert - 2012-12-07 07:31

    At least its a HONDA. 28 years from now they will still be seen, just like so many of the 2nd generation Ballades.

      gary.bloom.967 - 2012-12-10 09:41

      1 point to remember is that the 2nd generation hondas were NOT made in India.

  • ayoub.banderker - 2012-12-07 11:04

    This just proves how good a buy the Kia Picanto really is. Fully specced, with sunroof, etc and still good value for money. Honda needs to wake up. I loved Hondas, but there marketing and development have stagnated in recent years, much like Toyota. Pity though...cos Hinda made the S2000, Previous Type R, V0tec, etc....but they relying too much on their reliability reputation...

  • vokko.lossie - 2013-01-24 13:26

    Just listen to all these second hand dealers giving their opinions!

  • Johan Van Zyl - 2013-09-10 22:33

    The Brio looks surprisingly good in the flesh, with really edgy and futuristic lines. The inside also looks very nice. A friend of mine recently bought a Brio, which I was able to take for a drive just to see what it's like. Even though I'm used to driving a larger car, I never felt cramped in the Brio (unlike other small cars I've been in). The Brio actually feels like a bigger car when you drive it. Handling is good for a small car and the engine is very eager and revs cleanly. It actually makes more power than some of its bigger engined rivals. Build quality is top notch... the best I've seen in this segment. Specification levels are also high at this price point, with more features than many of its rivals. I think it's a good choice for anyone looking to buy a small car in this price range.

  • Callum Trevarthen - 2014-10-12 20:51

    I just purchased a new Brio. I to this day am surprised at how much i got with this car, not to mention the expert sales team. I am a student and looked around for a while at various cars with the likes of the vivo, figo and so forth. They may have there own attributes and such but what they lack is the sheer quality you get for the price. Take for instance a simple thing like a steering wheel. This is something you are always holding and in my mind is a crucial part in the driving experience in terms of quality. The audio controls are so secure and very firm to press, unlike the 5th gen polo in which they stick a shoddy one piece selector that actually moves side to side at least 3mm. The other thing that surprised me is the gear box and how smooth it is, it almost feels like you actually arnt selecting the gears and it just glides from gear to gear, effortless.I am a large person and am 1.9 tall and i fit in the drivers seat perfectly and there is enough room for passengers in the back. Everyone comments on the styling and i didnt like it at first but once you start driving around you will actually notice the amount of vehicles on the road that look the same to each other and Honda cars especially the brio stick out and in my opinion that is what matters. So to sum it up I get fantastic fuel economy, fantastic and smooth gear box, effortless acceleration, peppy engine and fantastic build quality. Everything i need in a car

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