Honda Brio Platform Review

Honda is no stranger on making a platform for a car, albeit shares less than one can imagine, until the Honda Brio. Supposedly launched in 2010-2011 period in Indonesia the Brio had several delays due to natural disasters, Thailand flooding and Japan earthquake. Superstitious people would chalk it up to bad foretelling of the car, itself a new endeavor, a new car to slot in below the Fit/Jazz. In Indonesia, the Brio is supposed to be put in the new category of low cost green car category which was in legislation hell. There are plenty who oppose this new “cheap” car regulation, citing that it will increase traffic congestion and further increase subsidized fuel consumption. Not waiting for the regulation, Honda finally launched the Brio in 2012 in Indonesia to a lukewarm reception. The 1.3L engine was praised for its power and the 5 speed auto is class leading but not much else to talk about the car, as the Brio is a no frill, no specialty car and it shows.

The dinkiest Honda

Brio cheap interior is acceptable and usable, but the (only) adequate second row seat and the very cramped cargo space makes it less than ideal as Honda “young family first car” and more of a second car for established family. Unlike the previous entry level Honda, the Fit/Jazz, the Brio utility is sorely lacking. The smart seat that allows for cavernous cargo is none existent on the Brio, worse still, the car’s cargo space is the smallest in the class. There’s also the issue of the all glass rear hatch. The market perceives it as a total effort to reduce costs and increase the risk of losing the entire rear hatch on a rear crash situation. The biggest gripe of all lies in its pricing. The car was priced starting at Rp. 149 million, at that time, very expensive for a car that still offered manual window and the range topper was priced at Rp. 170 million. In retrospect, a good condition second generation – second hand low mileage Honda Jazz worth less of the Brio and the range topper is too close to entry level third generation Honda Jazz, both of which offered bigger space, better utility and power. The sales are so dire that rumors flew around that the car got discounted more than 20%, the biggest for a Honda in recent history.

Then, the LCGC regulation came to effect and the Brio finally receives its final specification, a 1.2L engine per the regulation. Like a breath of fresh wind, the regulation made the entry level Brio quite an affordable car, even the range topper fully equipped with automatic windows is priced roughly about 20% cheaper than the outgoing 1.3L (ironically per the discount). Sales pick up but the perception of success is never associated with the car. Apparently, the Brio isn’t Honda perfect weapon to gain significant numbers. In 2012, Honda was number 7 in Indonesia.

Then 2013 came and rumors about a long wheel base 3 row seats Brio heated up. There was quite uproar in the automotive scene in Indonesia since Honda doesn’t have an entry level 3 row seat that is extremely popular in Indonesia (Avanza/Xenia, Grand Livina). The only 3 row seats Honda offered in Indonesia is the Freed, and its place on the market is quite premium. Thankfully, by proxy of always offering (near) premium products, the market thinks of Honda as a premium brand, number 7 notwithstanding. The Brio, at first regarded as not so much as Honda savior is now starting to show why Honda made it in the first place. Think of the Brio not as a singular product but more of a variant from a scalable platform.

As a platform, the Brio received its first variant with the Brio Amaze or just the Amaze. A sedan version of the hatch, it was launched in India with plenty of excitement; the first affordable sedan from Honda. Unlike the Brio, the Amaze comes equipped with a respectably sized trunk and made it a true young family first car. Not just a variant, the Amaze was specifically created to adhere to India sub 4 meter car tax exempt regulation.

AMAZE-ZING! It’s a pun…

The Amaze has a longer wheelbase than the Brio, at 2405 Millimeter, it’s 60 Millimeter longer than the Brio and the review shows. The Amaze has more usable knee room for the second row occupants, and the added trunk, at 400 liters are top of the class in India. For better or worse, the Amaze dashboard is lifted directly from the Brio, with a slight chrome trim here and there. The overall design of the Amaze is still largely Brio, with front half of the Amaze is basically a Brio with body painted bumper part. It’s the back half of the car that defines the Amaze as its own design.

The idea of a long wheelbase Brio seems not too far fetched with the Amaze creation. The Amaze shares plenty of the Brio frame and equipment that an astute fan should’ve been able to guess the design elements of the long wheelbase Brio would look like.

Then the third variant of the Brio made official by Honda Prospect Motor (Honda Indonesia) as the Mobilio in 2013. At 2650 Millimeter, the Mobilio wheelbase is a whopping 30,5 Centimeter longer than the Brio. Just like the Amaze, the car comes out looking like the Brio even though with some clever design changes. First visual elements that people noticed are slightly fuller and longer bumper like the Fit/Fit Shuttle, making the front of the car more balanced with its additional length. The second striking visual element is the thunderbolt side body motive and flowing glass panel on the third row. To say that the Mobilio is visually striking is an understatement. Compared to its competitors back in 2013 the Mobilio is subjectively more pronounced in term of design, especially the RS trim, with its bold chrome in your face and projector headlights. It’s a testament to Honda designers because the Mobilio front end is basically the Brio, so much so in fact that Brio owners can change their car to look like a Mobilio, even the more upscale looking Mobilio RS.

Mobilio – The fancy MPV

The Mobilio being a front engine – front wheel drive car offers lowered stance and extra rearward space like its competitors. Compared to its rivals, the Mobilio sits in the lower end of the spectrum at a height of 1603 Millimeter and the head room is adequate for the class, Freed this is not. Inside, the Mobilio dashboard is lifted straight from the Brio, just like its Amaze cousin. Chrome trims here and there, some wording and lighting but it’s still Brio’s dash. The Mobilio second row is decidedly huge, knee room and shoulder room is generous, 2 adults and 1 children can sit comfortably (three adults can fit if necessary). The third row knee room is actually okay, however the raised floor (because the fuel tank sits underneath the third row) forced people with tall build has to seat knee up, almost squatting.

Brio, Amaze and Mobilio, all share this same dashboard panel until 2016

Mechanically, the Mobilio is bestowed with two engine choice in India, the 1.5L i-VTEC gasoline engine and the newly developed 1.5L i-DTEC diesel engine while other countries where it’s sold the car is only available in gasoline trim. It also has two choices of gearbox, a 5 Manual gear and a newly developed CVT. The CVT is Honda’s own second generation that comes equipped with torque converter. With the torque converter, off the line acceleration improves dramatically, and it does feel like it has more power down low according to my own experience. I drove the first generation Jazz with CVT and off the line acceleration is certainly not the car strong point, but the Mobilio CVT does deliver better acceleration on wide open throttle condition especially on “S” gear.

Being quite low, the car has quite pleasurable driving demeanor, especially with the standard engine being a 1.5L i-VTEC unit that is proven reliable and pumps out respectable 118PS. The 5MT is standard Honda, it’s not S2000 but more than adequate for daily driving with effortless clutch resistance. The CVT as mentioned is very nice on road. Much like any CVT, it offered silky smooth acceleration albeit people who are not used to CVT will feel weird about not feeling any gear changes.

In Indonesia, the Mobilio became perennial best seller with massive adoption and for the first time ever in the history of history, Honda Mobilio became part of Indonesia biggest taxi fleet, Blue Bird, breaking more than two decades of Toyota domination.

Mobilio RS – The fancier MPV

The Mobilio sales is so great, it beats the long running Daihatsu Xenia as the second best selling 7 seater in Indonesia, itself a great accomplishment that none before it ever came close. In April 2014, Honda even managed to land third best selling brand in Indonesia beating the likes of Suzuki and Mitsubishi which is surprising because Honda doesn’t sell commercial vehicles unlike those two. At the end of 2015, Honda secured its third place well above Suzuki.

Completing Honda onslaught of taking Indonesia market by storm is yet another variant of the Brio, this time an SUV variant. Around May of 2015, rumors are strong that Honda is going to have a 7 seater SUV derived from the Mobilio. Some quick to point out that the car is just going to be another dress up like Nissan Grand Livina X-Gear or Chevrolet Spin Activ, with extra body cladding, accessories and jacked up ride. Well, they couldn’t be more wrong as the official design sketch of the car shows a heavily modified Mobilio with completely different front end, revised rear end, and completely new dashboard and interior trim.

The BR-V as it’s christened by Honda Prospect Motor shows Honda engineering skills at its best. The BR-V is essentially a jacked up Mobilio, but the thoroughness of changes made it stood out.

Rhinoplasty at its best

First of all, the front end receives a major overhaul featuring angular front end which gives the car a strong rugged character, usually a design trait demanded from an SUV. The standard projector headlights gives it a premium look, and the body cladding gave the car that extra girth synonymous with SUV. From the front, nobody can challenge the car from the platform it was based on. The side and rear however gave its Mobilio heritage loudly. You can point out from the side that BR-V is rooted from Mobilio from the window frame kink, and the rear even though extensively reworked features the same frame rear glass panel with modified rear light. Inside, the massive change in dashboard almost make the BR-V a class higher than the Brio or Mobilio, with angular dashboard design that seemingly lifted from the Jazz/City.

Mechanically, by Honda Indonesia website, the car receives slightly more powerful engine with 120PS (Mobilio 118PS), a new ratio for the CVT unit and a 6 speed manual transmission. All running on a wider 16″ track.

Visually, the changes are more than skin deep though. From the specifications, the car grew taller, wider and longer. One thing to note is that the BR-V wheelbase is actually 10 millimeter longer than the Mobilio; A very peculiar trait. You can chalk up the size increase from the width, height and length of the car because of the stylized bumper and body cladding, but wheelbase is an absolute measurement of the space between the wheel axles and additional 10 millimeter means theoretically the BR-V offers better leg room than the Mobilio.

Sitting inside the BR-V second row however, I feel no different to the Mobilio, still generous leg room, and with enough width to seat 2 adults comfortably. To my great delight and surprise, it’s the third row, which offers improvement especially the headroom. On the Mobilio my head hit the roof liner with the seat fully reclined, but on the BR-V, I have about 3 Cm of clearance with the same seating position. The third row seating position like Mobilio is still not very well comfortable for my build, but the additional headroom is a very welcome change.

In short the BR-V, at first looks like a Mobilio with revised front end is basically a bigger car inside than the Mobilio, even excluding the body cladding, bumper and roof rack. This is quite the news and one that Honda should put in its marketing materials. I myself visited 5 of Honda dealership in my town checking out the BR-V, and only one salesperson daring enough to accommodate my aggressive questioning. So I sat on both Mobilio and BR-V, and I experienced first hand that the BR-V offers improvement in higher ceiling.

Oh by the way, any of you readers from Jakarta, Indonesia and interested on buying a Honda, please give a shout to Mr. Suno from Honda Mugen Pasar Minggu. Very helpful salesperson. Tell Michael sent you.

All the Brio based car shares this style of dashboard from 2016, with the BR-V at the top end having Multi Information Display (real time fuel consumption meter)

The Brio, Amaze, Mobilio and BR-V completes Honda first attempt to mass produce a platform with minor retooling and many parts sharing. In Indonesia the numbers speaks for themselves, the increase in Honda sellout year on year is massive, pushed by Brio and Mobilio sellout. However not everything is fine as in India, the Brio and Mobilio sales have been lackluster, only the Amaze helps Honda bottomline from the platform. The main problem lies in the India market itself. As a market with 1+ billion population, India is considered a veritable cash cow for many automotive brands, both domestic and import. As such, potential buyers are flooded with choice. It seems that the Brio with its barebone design and to some extent the Mobilio cannot survive in a competitive market. A stark contrast to Indonesia market where 7 seater MPV is only dominated by Toyota/Daihatsu collaboration Avanza/Xenia for almost two decades, which used as a benchmark really is not that high to begin with.

Personally, I want some changes to the platform, but only slightly. The biggest change I want is to make the floor flat from the first row to the second row seat structure (right now the floor only flat up to the leg area of the second row). This way, the third row will have a natural leg room while the bench seat sits on top of the fuel tank/spare tire/utility space. The new Toyota Sienta uses this kind of seating arrangement to great effect. It’s very simple on paper but perhaps slightly difficult to cram all under smaller package like the Mobilio and BR-V, however the result would be a better seating position for adult on the third row.

For a first effort, the Brio platform offers a good… Well… Platform…. For Honda to develop. Its modularity might hold the key for Honda approach in the future for developing countries. However lesson should be learned from India, the Brio should leverage its cost saving in economy of scale only and not doubling down on cost benefit ratio by choosing cheap material and simplistic interior. The Fit, Civic, CR-V and Accord might be Honda most recognized global model, but will the Brio platform able to be integrated to Honda mainstay portfolio? Only time will tell, and one I eagerly awaits what’s in store for the second generation.

IT ALL STARTS NOW: 2015 Acura NSX

With a new slogan, “Precision Crafted Performance”, Acura finally unveiled its king in slumber, the second generation NSX on Detroit Auto Show with a fizz, a buzz, and a poof.

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The Acura NSX concept dated from three years ago is obsolete as the production model has bigger dimension and gain plenty of surface detail while losing some minor ones. Most notable is the bigger side intake pods and the bigger hood vents, now positioned more towards the middle of the hood. The rear loses some intricate detail but retains some unique details such as sculpted opening at the base of the trunk. The front fascia screams Acura through and through with the signature LED jewel eye headlights and the now sedated beak which now looks a lot like Mazda signature smile with massive openings. Many are as  king about what the purpose of those three huge opening is on the NSX concept NSX chief engineer, Ted Klaus giving an explanation, it is to cool the electric motor and components as well to provide aerodynamic ground effect as the air comes out from the hood vents towards the back.

The unique floating c pillar, made famous by gothic church architecture dubbed a flying buttress serves both as structure and aerodynamic aid. It is stated that as air sucked into the front of the car, it comes out from the hood vent, flows through the flying buttress and give the rear an aerodynamic push.  The NSX rear, largely unchanged from the concept, features a huge bottom diffuser and two openings near the edge of the bumper. This is also an aerodynamic aid as air exits through it to help with down force. By Ted Klaus statement, an active aerodynamic aid (mostly in the form of electronically controlled rear wing) is not needed for NSX as it achieved all of its aerodynamic function from just its design.

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The biggest change and one that is very important for the car is the change of engine from a transversely mounted naturally aspirated V6 combined with electric motor, to longitudinally mounted turbo charged V6 combined with electric motor. Even though the combined output from the original design should be respectable, it would not be enough in the world of big V8 and turbocharged engines from the likes of Nissan GT-R and the new German performance line. Being transverse, the engine package will be compact to allow many utilities such as bigger trunk like the original NSX. But like the original NSX, it was damn hard to add more power to a transverse drivetrain, adding turbocharger is almost impossible without major change in the internal tubing, wiring, and mounting. There are even rumors about major infighting in Honda about the engine choice as the American team wanted a turbocharged engine while the Japanese team wanted a naturally aspirated one. Somehow, logic prevailed, and the NSX finally gets its much deserved turbocharged unit.

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Why the NSX needs to go the force induction route? Because a lot of things really, but mostly it’s all about future proofing the car. The original NSX went through its 15 years of life with just two engine revision, with 20 horsepower increase between both. If somehow Acura didn’t go into the 6 year cycle to update styling and power, with a turbocharge engine, they can just increase boost, refine the engine mapping and get more power easy. For comparison, Nissan GT-R, was launched with “only” 480 horsepower back in 2009. The same engine now produce 545 horsepower in the base trim while the performance Nismo variant gets 595 horsepower, an increase of 115 horsepower in 6 years from the same engine.

Ted Klaus stated that the NSX will come “north” of 550 horsepower, and like the Civic Euro Type R, that number is a base estimate with production version gaining more power . With this route, Acura can easily offer an NSX Type S with around 600 horsepower.

The NSX utilizing a hybrid setup also should achieve great numbers on paper, especially for spec hunters who only see numbers instead of real life performance. An internal combustion engine achieves its maximum power at peak engine rotation, which takes time. Compounded with turbochargers which takes time to spool to boost the engine, you’ll have plenty of “where is the power” moment or the famous “Vee-TACH just kick yo!” when the engine finally reaches peak power. With an electric motor which provides peak power as low as 1000 RPM, it can help boost the engine power early before the turbocharger spooled and provides boost on the top.

Another technical aspect to note is the new dual clutch 9 speed transmission. Honda introduced its own developed dual clutch 8 speed transmission for the new line of Acura TLX and ILX. While there’s a ZF sourced 9 speed transmission that is being used on the V6 version of TLX and rumored to be available on the upcoming Honda Pilot, it is a single clutch design aimed to increase fuel efficiency rather than outright performance.

It’s too early to say that Acura is back to form of its greatest era, the nineties. The Legend, a car with classical design, performance and value that rivals the Germans. The Integra, a car that proves engine size is nothing without balance. The NSX, a supercar with sense, reliability and value. Those three cars opens up what defines Acura as a performance luxury brand. Over the years however, Acura became diluted, chasing an imaginary numbers which should be the domain of Honda. The pursuit of performance grinded and Acura became a Honda+ solution, down to its mechanics.

The NSX was not the start, Acura TLX was the breakthrough product for the brand. Yes it uses Accord engine and platform, but even just using a different transmission, it is enough for the car to differentiate itself from the supposedly “pedestrian” brand. It would be great if the Acura brand can get its own platform, but that’s another story, as everything starts now.

For an abridge design change for the NSX, here it is, in its 3 glory years of development.

New Civic Type R The Story So Far

2015 couldn’t come soon enough. With the new NSX and Civic Type R, Honda is finally ending its sports car drought. The CR-Z is a commendable effort, introducing a sporty hybrid is no easy feat, but sadly an effort quite misunderstood. The CR-Z is a sporty hybrid, but one must know what a hybrid drives first to understands and appreciates the value of CR-Z. Those who values the CR-Z will appreciates a good handling compact with sporty aspiration but at the same time, can be driven slow and steady to preserve mother earth’s precious oil reserve. Those who don’t understand the value of CR-Z will hate its less than mediocre engine compared to traditional high strung high power engines.

Well, revel on the Civic Type R ladies and gentlemen… As Honda have confirmed a production sport car true to Honda racing heritage. The Civic Type R has been confirmed to be powered by a newly developed 2.0L turbocharged engine producing “more” than 280 bhp. Honda chief engineers even want to beat Renault Megane RS Trophy achievement as the fastest front wheel drive car on Germany fearsome Nürburgring track. Dubbed by Honda engineers as a “racing car for the road”, the 2015 Civic Type R took Civic Euro 9th generation chassis and hit the ground running. Honda decision to treat the Civic Euro was heavily criticized by most Honda communities including yours truly. The major consensus is that the 9th generation Civic Euro is… A reskinned bigger Honda Fit, complete with the magic seat and the much dreaded McPherson Strut and Torsion Beam suspension.

So why Honda decides to use Civic Euro as its next Civic Type R? Nostalgia? Or because it’s one of Honda “we do it because it’s hard” kind of thing? Well, we may never know… But one thing for sure, Honda is making it happen. I can only explain that torsion beam does have its merits. Since the rear wheels are connected, it introduced rigidity to the rear suspension, one trait all racing cars has. Also, there’s the fact that THE fastest front wheel drive production car to lap Nürburgring, the Megane RS Trophy… Uses similar suspension setup as the Civic Euro. So if Renault engineers can pull it off, why can’t Honda engineers does it too?

The Civic Type R journey is truly something to remember by. It all started way back in late 2012 where spy shots reveals a regular Civic Euro with an ugly ass wing taped (it doesn’t get any janky than tape to stick something to a car) to its rear. The rumor mill is hot with Type R successor which ended production in 2010. But it was 2013 and still angry from V8 FR flagship sedan and V10 exotic sports car cancellations, the fans just gave it a meh and be done with it, expecting another half effort attempt at the car, a tuned Civic Si for the European market. It’s not until a hotter rumor, one which stated the car will be turbocharged then everybody’s attention is piqued.

Then, Honda CEO Takanobu Ito dropped the nuclear bomb of the decade. Honda will go turbo for the new Type R… Oh my, how the community riled up and dance in glee and shirtless. The rumored 1.6L turbo gave way to a 2.0L turbo and the challenge to be the fastest front wheel drive production car to run in the Nürburgring. It was an ecstasy, so many have hoped Honda to leave its comfort zone behind and create an over the top car, and they did it.

Around August 2013, a new camouflaged Civic Type R spy shots emerged with what everybody concludes is undergoing comparison with its rivals. The car now has a lower suspension profile, wider tires, wide body kit and a better integrated aerodynamic rear wing. The huge intercooler is visible from the spy shots, confirming the turbo charging aspect of the engine.

Finally on November 2013, Honda did a media event, showcasing its future technology. A global event, it showcases Honda new multi gear dual clutch transmission, the turbo engines, a light weight CR-Z, and the venerable Civic Type R. Covered in matte black paint, the Civic Type R prototype again receive some minor modification, especially in its front fender having aerodynamic bits. The auto jurno from Topgear and Autocar expresses a universal praise about the car.

Honda answers the problem of having a torsion beam rear suspension by introducing an adaptive damper, an adjustable suspension for the car. Which at the touch of the “Type R” button, stiffens to support more aggressive throttle tuning, steering, and reduced traction control.

Entering the new year we now have another sketch of the Civic Type R from Honda, and one which fuels the eagerness of people awaiting Honda return to sporting form. The sketch shows airlets on front and rear fenders, massive diffuser and an integrated rear wing-rear lighting system. The integrated wing flows elegantly as it harkens to the old days of NSX integrated rear lighting – wing system.

Anticipation is through the roof about the Civic Type R. It is the defining moment of Honda return to sporting form of the 90s. Which was marked by amazing cars like the NSX, the Integra Type R, the Civic Type R and the Prelude. The 2000’s was the decade of confusion in Honda history. The ending of S2000 and the NSX was disheartening as  the US only Civic SI single handedly carried the torch of sporting car from Honda.

There are more rumors abound about Honda not only making the Civic Type R and NSX as their sporty offering but until these two cars launches sometimes next year, I think Honda fans needs are all covered up.

To watch the journey of 2015 Civic Type R you can watch here at

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aha-DQB3xDY

Source:

Autoblog Civic Type R spy shots

Autocar Civic Type R first drive

Topgear Civic Type R first drive