Can it go up to Baguio? That’s the question everyone asks about a small car. For the Honda Brio, it’s a resounding yes! We drove the all-new Honda Brio from Baguio and La Union, enabling us to test its handling and comfort to its limits through various situations. The entry-level hatchback or A-segment is a test where car manufacturers will try to balance cost without depriving the cars too much of their creature comforts or driving dynamics, and with the second-generation Brio, Honda has finally nailed it with their A-segment competitor.
For starters, I like that way it looks now. It’s more conventional and straightforward than before, yet its proportions work well for its small body. This RS variant in Phoenix Orange looks so good, and it’s decked out with nifty details such as the LED park lights and black roof. The V variant doesn’t look too shabby, either. It looks quite good in its Pavilion Yellow paint.
The interior is a huge improvement from its predecessor, which looked too fussy and not exactly attractive. Build quality has been improved throughout, with better plastic graining and texturing, as well as more consistent panel gaps. RS variants get orange trims, while all variants get digital aircon controls. All but the base variant gets a 7-inch touch screen infotainment system which is straightforward to use.
Now, out in the open road, the Brio still manages to be one of the sportiest in its class. Its steering is sharp, but devoid of any feel, especially on center. Constant minute corrections have to be made when traveling down long straight highways. Take it out into a set of twisties though, and the steering obliges to make this car turn in any direction. Body roll has also been well controlled. Thankfully, this is not at the expense of ride quality.
As a matter of fact, the new Brio absorbs bumps better than before. It doesn’t have the usual “lata” or tin can feel associated with cars in this class, and that’s especially felt on the highway. I was also surprised by its refinement. Normally, city slickers are the last cars on my mind when it comes to long distance driving, but past triple-digit speeds, the 1.2-liter i-VTEC petrol engine isn’t vocal at cruising situations. Road noise is ever so present, but wind noise is surprisingly well isolated.
Speaking of the engine, the Brio remains to be one of the few with an inline-4 petrol engine. The 1.2-liter i-VTEC petrol engine produces 89 hp @ 6,000 rpm and 110 Nm of torque @ 4,800 rpm, which are lower figures compared to its predecessor, but this isn’t felt out in the open road. This is due to how well tuned the CVT is to compensate for the smaller engine. The engine pulls well at the city, but overtaking once at 80 kph needs to be properly planned. There’s only so much that a small engine with a CVT can do when it comes to high-speed overtaking. Nevertheless, this powertrain combination returned good fuel economy figures over a three-day period: 14.5 km/l.
Lastly, in terms of safety, the Brio has ABS with EBD and dual SRS airbags, but no ISOFIX child seat anchor points and electronic stability control. In this day and age wherein the Philippine government now requires children under 4 feet 11 inches to be strapped into child seats, the lack of ISOFIX child seat points can be a downer for some prospective buyers.
The best part about the Honda Brio is its price. Until June 30, 2019, the base price for the Brio is at P585,000 for the 1.2 S MT. This top trim 1.2 RS Black Top CVT retails for P732,000, which is still on the lower end of the spectrum when compared to its rivals.
Overall, the Honda Brio stays true to Honda’s testament of overengineering its vehicles. It feels solid and composed throughout the three-day long distance drive to La Union and Baguio, a task that is normally done with SUVs or people carriers. What Honda Cars Philippines has done is to use this opportunity to tell to the consumers that, while the all-new Brio may be an entry-level A-segment city slicker, it’s been overengineered to be more than able to handle the daily grind that Manila has to offer.