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