The Brio Family, 7 years later

The Brio, Mobilio, BR-V, and Amaze was the start of Honda new platform sharing project in ASEAN and India. It’s a weird start at first with flooding on the Thailand factory that delays the first car in the project, the Brio.

But then it seemingly starts so well, Honda sales in Indonesia shoots through the roof with the Mobilio, netting almost 80 thousand units in when it was first release in the country alone. The car even gets a very hot welcome with 22 thousand units when it was launched in India. The Brio sells steadily well in Indonesia, reaching top sales for micro cars in Indonesia every year until today (2019). The BR-V and Amaze sells pretty well on its sophomore years as well.

Yet here we are 7 years later after the Brio and subsequently the Mobilio, BR-V, Amaze strong starts has become weird plenty fast. Honda wanted to sell a family of product line, but in reality every region has a specific demand and Honda can’t please every market segment in the region.

Let’s start with the Mobilio first.

I have negative predisposition towards the Mobilio, because outside the engine and transmission, it’s not a Honda to me. There are small details that only Honda engineers can pull yes, but it was clearly designed to maximize profit first and utility later. No second row smart seat like the Fit/Jazz? No problem, but why the third row seats didn’t fold flat? And why the third row seat dangles freely with only a hook to secure it when it’s being fold up? Is it a smart solution? Probably, but it comes out very cheap feeling.

The Mobilio still sells well in Indonesia, but numbers are going down steadily. From near 80 thousand units when launched to just 20 thousand units average for the last three years. The market competition simply heats up exponentially in the last three years. The Wuling Cortez is killing the Mobilio with its amazing value. For the list price of the Mobilio RS, you can get a turbo charged Wuling Cortez that is roomier, and with more amenities. Mitsubishi Expander/Nissan Livina duo offers a roomier car with more daring design for less money than the Mobilio. The Mobilio looks like a bad value product today compared to the competition.

The only thing going on for the Mobilio is the very good fuel mileage and good engine (see my previous comment about everything else about the car is not a Honda except for the engine and transmission). The Indian market is more cruel than the Indonesian market. With more competition from the get go, the Mobilio lackluster sales with only 3 thousand units sold in 2016. Honda India killed the Mobilio.

Now let’s go to the Amaze.

The Amaze, the Brio sedan takes off to a grand start in India, with 65 thousand units sold. The sub 4-meter sedan is a hot segment in India, this is where the Brio Amaze shines bright. The problem is with the design, it just looks weird, period.

The first gen Amaze is the Brio with added trunk. The proportion is simply off. A sloping hood and fenders gives the illusion of a smaller car with a huge rear, the same issue as the Honda City fourth gen (GD8).

Noticing this issue, Honda India in just after 4 years (one of the shortest life cycle of any Honda products), releases the second generation of the Amaze with a proper sedan design. The second gen Amaze looks special, it looks premium. From the Indian reviews I read on forums and youtube reviews, the Amaze is simply… Amazing. It’s not the best in class for everything, but it’s pretty well balanced from driving dynamics, interior space, and subjective design (I prefer the Suzuki Dzire).

The Amaze sales drops to 20 thousand units in 2017, but bounced back hard in 2018 with the release of the new second generation model topping at 65 thousand units sold. Probably massive clearance discount on the last gen helps, but I see massive success of the Amaze in India for many years.

And then we have the BR-V.

The BR-V… Ah… Arguably the most misunderstood model from the family. The penultimate model, the ultimate Mobilio… What… NO! The BR-V IS NOT A DRESS UP MOBILIO!!!! It’s annoying, but this is what the consensus is in the market where the Mobilio and BR-V sold together.

2019 BR-V

The BR-V is always disregarded as the Mobilio+ because aside from the front profile, the rest of the exterior looks like the Mobilio. Nissan did it with the Grand Livina X-Gear, so why Honda should be different? Well, because it is. Even though the BR-V resembles the Mobilio, it is almost a new car unto itself.

The chassis code difference is telling, the Mobilio with DD4 and the BR-V with DG1 shares the same mother but a different father. The BR-V CVTs is equipped with a cooler that connects to the radiator. This means the car has tougher chops to do some offroads and able to withstand taller gears on longer period of time. This also means you don’t have to worry the transmission heating up on steep inclines like in mountain courses/roads. There are more dampeners installed on the front end and revised steering to curbed vibrations. On chassis side, the third row of the BR-V has more headroom than the Mobilio. Simply put, you pay more for BR-V because it is a more capable car than the Mobilio.

The BR-V just entered its fourth year, but it really comes in the worst time. The Mitsubishi Expander/Nissan Livina Duo is taking its market share like a champ. The Wuling Almaz, a CR-V sized car but at the same price of the BR-V offers a MUCH better value for money. The BR-V Sales drops from 38 thousand in its first year in Indonesia to just only 9 thousand two years later in Indonesia. However numbers are steadily growing in Pakistan and India.

Almost forgot the Brio, the one that started all.

Ah the Brio, the magical car that started it all. A way for Honda to utilize Indonesia government special tax ruling for cars built in Indonesia and using engine under 1.2L. Aside from the amazing engine and class leading 5 speed auto, there’s not much to it. Its cramped second row, lack of sound proofing and laughable cargo space makes way for pure driving exhilaration. Its short wheelbase makes the car feels light and agile and nobody will laugh when the car is fully modded.

In India, the Brio sells poorly, and with the Amaze as a roomier alternative and not for a lot more money, our friends there flocks to the latter than the former. Only in Indonesia that the Brio excels with sales growing steadily year by year. With the “second generation” just released in 2018, with bigger second row and a proper trunk, the car is predicted to soar past 60 thousand units sold in 2019 alone.

I put a parenthesis in the second generation comment because funny enough, the chassis is still DD1 according to wikipedia, the same one as the first generation. Structurally, the car has its wheelbase stretched by about 6 Cm, which is a huge increment for a car that size. Interior wise, the car still uses the same interior design from the outgoing model, most likely this is why the car still shares the same chassis code.

Thankfully, the second generation improves aplenty in the NVH department. Since I own the first generation, test driving the second generation felt strange. The feel is the same, it’s like driving my first gen Brio but with a bit more weight from the get go… But it’s noticeably more silent and better road noise at all speed range. Luckily, it’s not available in blue like the outgoing model, phew… Money saved.

Honda is truly stuck in the moment with two of their major line up in the middle class economy market… And you don’t want that as it’s statistically the biggest market today. At this moment, Honda can only put cash on the hood for Mobilio and Mobilio in Indonesia to survive the Mitsubishi/Nissan and Wuling onslaught. There is a loyalty discount for current Honda owners if wanting to buy another Honda, but the amount is still less than the value of the competition. I’d say Honda should give the Mobilio and BR-V about 8-12% price reduction in whatever form. At that price point, the Mobilio is attractive, the BR-V is still a hard sell, but hey, it’s a Honda!

Source:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honda_Mobilio

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honda_Brio

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honda_Amaze

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honda_BR-V

Honda is dead, long live Honda

If that title isn’t click bait-y enough…

Well, Yesterday Honda new CEO Takahiro Hachigo held a press conference and basically threw a lot of thing upside down inside out left to right and back and forth.

You can read Hachigo-san summary here, but here’s what I think.

Hachigo-san took a butcher knife and hack the hell out of Honda management and decision making process.

Buried under all that rose colored wordings, is the management change that Honda sorely needed or not… I don’t know… It’s all very confusing. Under Takanobu Ito leadership from 2009 to 2015, Honda for lack of better term is going through a peculiar time. During Ito-san leadership we saw Honda great three hybrid solution and the first ever mass produced turbo engine for almost than 3 decades on the Civic and JDM StepWGN. We also see the development of NSX and plenty of interesting cars such as ILX and TLX coming equipped with 8 speed dual clutch transmission and 9 speed auto that puts it finally with the “numbers aficionado” that is premium car buyers. We also see the record breaking Mobilio introduced in Indonesia that boost Honda sales beyond whatever they can imagine.

Yet, for every new interesting products Honda made for that time period under Ito-san, there’s always a hitch here and there. The Fit hybrid, employing the new hybrid system had a back and forth recall. The JDM StepWGN turbo engine is acceptable but not as revolutionary as expected, almost as if the usage of turbo is unnecessary for the car. Honda new (actually outsourced) 9 speed auto has a slight hiccup here and there. The Civic had its new 2.0L engine recalled, not even after 3 months of its introduction. There’s also airbag recall, but that’s third party event, out of reach from Honda.

Hachigo-san statement especially this one worries me… or not…

We will establish a structure where development teams at the spot can concentrate on creating automobiles and focus on the development of one whole vehicle as one product under a consistent concept. To be more precise, we will add some new positions, including new positions in charge of the area of product development, a new position in charge of conducting evaluations from the standpoint of the entire vehicle consistently for all models and new positions in charge of supervising design creation of Honda and Acura models, respectively, on a global basis. Through these changes, we will realize a development structure that can further highlight the unique characteristics of Honda.

This means that product development is going to be centralized. Is this good or bad? As I have concern for Acura in particular about this development.

Acura supposed to be the premium of Honda, but for the longest time, near premium is the only title Acura can be proud of. All of Acura products are basically premium version of the Honda cars it’s based on. ILX = Civic, TLX = Accord, RDX = CR-V, MDX = Pilot. Aside from RLX and Legend which is just basically badge engineered of the two and the NSX, all are just souped up Honda.

In 2014, Acura got a “task force” led by Erik Berkman, Honda America executive vice president, tasked to set up the planning for Acura product for the future. So with Hachigo-san shakedown, what happened with the task force?

In 2008 Honda finally gave in into the premium market market push and actually going to gun for the flagship premium at the likes of BMW and Mercedes. A spy shot was captured showing an Acura TSX with long wheel base and long dash to axle ratio indicating rear wheel drive. This push was part of two previous Honda CEO, Takeo Fukui project.

It seems that for every Honda CEO change there’s always a funky change be it organizational structure or management change. Hachigo-san push for a centralized design hopefully ends up sticking for the foreseeable future, and for every change of CEO doesn’t mean a constant change of strategy. Just make sure that future product planning is done carefully and with prudence.

It’s okay for Honda to take time to roll out new technology, fans will wait. Once somebody has been touched by a Honda product, they will always comes back.

Honda Civic Euro Type R – What I think

What I think – is a new segment where Michael ponders about a product release and give a biased and uneven opinion, because hey… He can, it’s there on the declaration of human rights charter article 19 on freedom of opinion and expression.

euro R (1)

Now where do I begin… The Civic (Euro) Type R… See why I always put “Euro” there when Honda only mentions that the car is a Civic Type R? Well, because this is a Civic Euro, ne… Honda Fit XL. Type R has always been the man’s man car, when the little kids argue about how real or classy they are depending on the amount of pedals on their car… The Type R will slap them to the moon and back, 3 times. Type R was a raw car, no AC, no stereo, no sound dampening, thin seat cushion, all manuals, all loud, all encompassing. But most of all, Type R is about how man and machine becomes one.

The only limit a Type R carries was the ability of the driver to take it. The last great Civic hatchback proud to carry the tag was the EP3, known as the Civic Si in the United States and the Civic Type R in Europe. It was a beast. Then comes the segregation era in 2006, where the Civic lineage was broken and gimped into two model version, the hatch and the sedan. The sedan maintains composure fairly well while the hatch was gimped as hell. Honda Civic sedan retains some semblance of performance due to the use of McPherson Strut front and multilink suspension rear, giving the car a proper independent suspension. The Civic hatch however now uses McPherson Strut front and torsion beam rear, a semi independent suspension since the rear wheels are connected to each other.

The use of torsion beam was warranted for an A to B car. A daily car. Your mom’s car. My wife’s car. My kid’s car. My pet’s car. My maid’s car. My grandparent’s car. My car when I just need to go somewhere. Period. Torsion beam cars have awesometacular interior space as it allows for rear suspension housing to be very small and with Honda forward mounted fuel tank, a cavernous cargo bay. But for a performance car… Meh…

Momentum transfers the weight of a car around. On a fully independent suspension, the wheels carries each four points of the car equally (ceteris paribus), a car can even lift its inner rear wheel on a turn. On a torsion beam suspension, since the rear wheels are connected, they drag each other like an overly attached significant other planting the wheels on the road. But Michael, all four wheels planted to the ground is a good thing right? Yes and no. Since the rear grips, while turning it will give the car a tendency to oversteer… But Michael, all the cool kids like to oversteer to drift… Well… Um… Ah… Urr… Drifting a front wheel drive? What kind of nonsense is that? Please differentiate between drifting and skidding. Drifting is a controlled powered maneuver, skidding is when you just go fast and turn abruptly with an extra bonus of failing English vocabulary. The thing is, on a front wheel drive cars, this propensity to oversteer is transformed to forward momentum which actually means massive understeer, which is compounded with the trait of a nose heavy front engine front wheel drive cars.

Long story short (seriously, suspension knowledge is vast and quite deep, I won’t go blabbering in this one post), a fully independent suspension will allow for a car to turn better in speed versus semi independent suspension ANY. FRIGGIN. TIME.

Just take a look at this old Top Gear video comparing the last great Civic Type R (EP3) and the abomination they called Honda Fit XL… I mean Honda Civic Euro Type R (FN2).

Mind you that there’s a confusion between Top Gear magazine which gives the car a hot hatch pick for 2007 with Clarkson personal opinion who really dislikes the car. But the video just shows, the new Type R was a botch failed disillusioned attempt at being better than the outgoing model. The Fit XL… Drats… Honda Civic Euro Type R meet its demise in 2010. As emission requirement becoming more and more tight, the high revving K series engine had to bow down and the legacy of the Type R ended in Europe.

Honda fans are left out cold… Feeling the chill of Sweden’s cold winter breeze, alone, with just a little camp fire made out of sadness and cruelty. But in 2012, Honda came out with a grand plan to resuscitate the Type R brand in Europe with a twist (turbochargers, get it?), stating that the new Type R will be the fastest front wheel drive car. You can feel the vibration of excitement when Honda announced that since the Type Rs before were never about speed, it’s always about balance (do you start to get my rant?). Theories abound about what kind of car the new Type R would be. The high revving engine by that time was already obsolete, to punch through to anything fast, the new car needs to be turbocharged.

Then Honda finally unveiled the concept, an amazing display of over the topassery with plenty of PR speaks and bits of information.To say the Civic (Euro) Type R concept was amazing was an understatement, with that huge ass wing, it’s borderline Kamen Rider car of choice… Funny enough, Honda NM4 was Kamen Rider bike… For two series!

The new Civic Euro Type R was truly the pinnacle of Honda engineering, especially the new turbocharged engine… But then here comes my rant… WHAT? 938 words and I just start my rant? Prepare your butt dear readers, because it’s just getting fun.

The new Civic Euro Type R is unquestionably the best performance car Honda can put a badge on (NSX 2.0 was Acura). The new turbocharged engine is amazing. 310 PS and 400 Nm of torque is class leading for a front wheel drive. The Renault Megane RS 275 Trophy R has only 360 Nm of torque, and that is @3000 RPM, the Honda turbocharged 2L torque is reached at just 2500 RPM, giving it more power earlier. The dual axis strut front suspension trying to emulate a double wishbone to a degree, and it’s expected to reduce torque steer by 50%, a first for any Honda/Acura.

It’s all good until you look at the back suspension. The dreaded torsion beam… Ugh… Any European media will slightly give praise the Civic Euro cargo bay but all will bash the handling aspect of the car. The semi independent suspension kills any point of sporty driving and like previously stated, you can only adjust a torsion beam suspension only for stiff back braking race hard or soft as my belly on new year’s eve. So Honda applied a trick suspension add on, giving it an adjustable damper with select modes. I’m pretty sure the mode will include comfort and sport, or to lament term, soft and hard.

But hey! Credit due is credit due. The fastest front wheel driven car in the famous Nürburgring race track Germany is the Renault Megane RS 275 Trophy R. With an official lap time of 7:54 ish second. Honda said that the Civic Euro Type R will top it… And they did, unofficially.

During its development in 2014, the Civic Euro Type R was caught testing in Nürburgring and this car looks like the one photographed with the tiger stripe camo. The Type R got a respectable 7:50 ish with no AC, no audio and roll cage, faster than the Megane. Hey, no AC, no audio and a roll cage! CHEATER! … Umm… The Megane version which got the 7:54 also has no audio and AC. So even with AC and audio system, at worst, the Type R will get around 7:52, still a solid number and here’s my biggest gripe with the Civic Euro Type R lies.

With the botch crap fail suspension, Honda managed a good time… But what if they use a proper independent suspension? The new Type R would not just DESTROY the record time, but it will hold it for considerably a lot longer. This dick waving move of lap times are akin to asking your male friends how long their dicks are. For automotive, through technology and efficiency, lap times are going to be beaten every damn year. Just look at http://fastestlaps.com/tracks/nordschleife.html and see the cars below Renault Megane RS… Ferrari F430, Porsche 911 Turbo, NSX-R, some more old exotics which you cannot even buy right now because it’s worth more than 6 of your kidneys and both your testicle. Technology advances, and newer will always better (except for abomination like Honda Fit XL).

If Honda got official with the lap time, Renault will really loose face since on their website they put a lot of emphasis on Megane being the fastest front wheel drive car Nürburgring. They will hold the title fiercely, and it’s only a matter of time that Renault will out a special edition of the car to retake the lap time back… A silly move but it’s about pride and human pride is the weirdest thing of all.

There’s glory and sadness for the new Type R. Sure it’s the most technologically advance Honda, the fastest Honda, but also a confused Honda. If the car came proper with an all independent suspension, nobody will ever criticize the car and really cement the first turbocharged Type R in the history book. But for now, the new Type R is significant but also brings wary to those who waits for 5 years or even 9 years since the Honda Fit XL Type R introduction for a proper EP3 Type R successor. Let’s see what real people got to say with the car.