The Honda City was the Japanese automaker’s best-selling model for quite a long time, but in 2020, things have changed. The humble Honda Brio became the brand’s most popular model in the country, reflecting the increased need of consumers for affordable personal mobility during the pandemic. Additionally, due to their affordable price tags, most supermini hatchbacks tend to feel like simple modes of transportation meant to simply fulfill a person’s need. That isn’t entirely the case with this Honda Brio RS CVT variant, or with any other Brio for that matter.
For starters, there’s the way it looks. This second-generation Brio looks far better than its predecessor ever did. The Honda Brio still uses the previous model’s platform, albeit slightly stretched. This explains why the front doors are carried over from its predecessor, while its rear doors are new and much longer than before. The added length makes the Brio look nicer and better proportioned. Not a lot of folks were fans of the previous Brio’s rear end, which simply looked like it was chopped off. This particular RS variant we have here oozes sportiness, from its black grille, two-tone alloy wheels, side skirts, rear spoiler and sportier rear bumper.
Inside the Honda Brio RS, and you’ll see that the dash design has been plucked off from the Mobilio and BR-V. That’s not exactly a bad thing since the overall design is more sculpted and sportier than most of its rivals. Build quality has been improved throughout, with better plastic graining as well as more consistent panel gaps. The RS variant gets added embellishments like these orange trimmings, but the rest of the Brio family isn’t short on equipment either. All variants get digital aircon controls, while all but the base variant gets a 7-inch touch screen infotainment system which is straightforward and simple to use. The interface is easier to use than most of its competitors, though the one in the Kia Soluto and Picanto is richer in features. Unfortunately, the Brio’s system does not have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
As with most Hondas, the Brio’s interior packaging is top-notch. Despite measuring under four meters long, there’s a generous amount of legroom and headroom whichever row you sit in. Granted, it’s not a wide car, so fitting in three adults isn’t exactly ideal on long journeys. We took this car up to Baguio on a media drive in 2019 and I had no issues with interior room at all. As for cargo space, the Brio provides 258 liters of space, which is bigger than the Mirage hatchback’s 235-liter trunk.
Powering the Honda Brio RS is a 1.2-liter inline-4 i-VTEC petrol engine that produces 89 hp at 6,000 rpm and 110 Nm of torque at 4,800 rpm. The mere fact that it uses a four-cylinder engine gives it a host of advantages over most of its competition, and refinement is one of those. Compared to its competitors with three-cylinder engines, the Brio’s four-cylinder motor is much smoother and refined. Even when you put your foot down, vibrations don’t permeate through the throttle pedal, which isn’t the case with some three-cylinder competitors. Fuel economy is also good especially considering that its engine is a bit bigger than its competitors. For a whole week’s worth of use, I’ve averaged at 12.3 km/l, though the Mitsubishi Mirage can do slightly better.
Treat the Brio enthusiastically, and the CVT generally does a good job of shuffling its ratios. Sure, there’s that rubber band feel wherein the transmission holds the revs when you overtake, but the Brio’s CVT is far more responsive than others transmissions in this class. As a result, you feel more confident overtaking with this small city car, and as an upside, it also makes the Brio fun to drive.
Thanks to the responsive CVT, precise steering and well-judged suspension tuning, the Brio goes through corners like no other small hatchback in its class could. The car feels eager and alive to go through twisty roads, which makes me even more eager to try out how a manual Brio feels like on an autocross. The suspension is a bit on the firm side as a result, but it’s not to a point that it feels crashy and uncomfortable when going through rough patches of road.
Out on open highways, the Brio continues to impress. Whereas competitors would often feel like tin cans, the Brio has stability and solidity dialed into its structure. There’s not much road and wind noise entering through the cabin, at least relative to its competitors. Additionally, the Brio never feels nervous to travel at 100 kph for long periods, which makes this one of the best small city cars for out-of-town trips.
And that’s the thing I like about the Honda Brio. Just as I said in my first impressions article with this small hatchback, the Honda Brio stays true to Honda’s testament of overengineering its vehicles. Whereas most supermini hatchbacks tend to feel like they’re built to simply meet a certain price point, the Brio feels like a more substantial product. With its top-notch driving dynamics and spacious interior, Honda’s most affordable model manages to be both sensible and emotionally appealing, and at this price point, that’s a hard thing to achieve.
Pricing and Rating
Exterior Design: ★★★★★
Interior Design: ★★★★☆
Space and Practicality: ★★★★★
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★☆
Value For Money: ★★★★☆
Price: P730,000 (+P5,000 for the RS Black Top)*
Overall: 4.3 out of 5
*Pricing is correct and accurate as of this article’s time of writing.