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.

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 F1 Boss got suddenly replaced

Whatttt… After a successful Barcelona F1 testing (well, McLaren-Honda manages a 35 lap, far better than only 6 the same day 1 year ago), Honda today announced a shocking development about the replacement of Honda F1 technical boss, Yasuhisa Arai effective March 1st.

Replacing Arai-san would be Yusuke Hasegawa, currently (taking deep breath to say it in one sentence) Honda Managing Officer and Director, Honda R&D Co., Ltd. Automobile R&D Center, Chief Operating Office, Advanced Research Division.

Hasegawa-san is not a stranger and if you think this guy is just another R&D guy, you are more than wrong, like wrong wrong. He’s been in many field of Honda research field, from applied technology, component, and most importantly, Asimo and hybrid development. He’s the one responsible for Honda groundbreaking Earth Dreams i-DCD hybrid system that put Honda (finally) at even ground with Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive system. Subjectively, the i-DCD dual clutch transmission offers more engagement and feel unlike Toyota CVT transmission.

Though some would fuss about the impending doom McLaren-Honda is going to face yet again in the recent personnel change, I see the positive side of this. I emphasize Hasegawa-san on Asimo development, why? Because Asimo is a complex thing, and you know what else is complex? F1 power unit…. No, not engine. Formula 1 new power unit is the reason Honda is back, because it offers a challenge that is currently inline with Honda future planning, to provide hybrid solution to the masses.

It looks like Hasegawa-san position as F1 technical boss is a match made in heaven. However the funny thing is, some argue that F1 development never translates to production car development… Looking back, Honda VTEC was never derived from F1 technology, because it is forbidden for F1 cars then and and now to have variable cam. Now with Hasegawa-san involvement, it seems like F1 car will get a taste of consumer grade development experience.

Godspeed Hasegawa-san, now bring back Honda legendary engineering back into that power unit.

Source:

Honda to get new F1 chief

Yuusuke Hasegawa profile on development of earth dreams hybrid

 

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

Honda City Generasi Ke-4 Resmi Diluncurkan di India

Honda meluncurkan City generasi ke-4 (atau ke-6 bila Honda City tahun 1981 juga turut dimasukkan dalam sejarah) secara resmi di India dengan perubahan-perubahan yang cukup signifikan.

Perubahan fisik yang lebih dinamis mengadopsi kredo desain “Exciting H” yang lebih dulu diadopsi oleh Honda Fit generasi ke-3. Tampilan depan yang agresif seakan merupakan sebuah evolusi desain dari Honda City generasi lawas, namun lekukan baru serta garis-garis yang lebih tegas memberikan kesan agresif untuk City generasi terbaru ini.

Pada bagian samping, lekukan garis tegas memanjang hingga ke bagian lampu belakang memberikan kesan dinamis yang sensual. Tak hanya sensual, desain premium Honda City juga tercitra pada bagian lampu belakang yang kini menjorok ke bagasi serupa seperti Accord Euro (Acura TSX).

Perubahan signifikan pada Honda City generasi terbaru ini adalah memanjangnya jarak sumbu roda (wheelbase) menjadi 2600 mm dari 2550 mm. Honda pada peluncuran City menekankan pembesaran wheelbase ini yang berujung pada perluasan interior kabin dan memberikan Honda City kapasitas penumpang terbesar dibanding kompetitornya. Jarak tandem (jarak ruang antara penumpang depan dan belakang) serta ruang kaki diklaim terbesar dengan perbandingan pada kompetitornya.

Mengenai jeroan, Honda masih mengadopsi suspensi McPherson Strut dan Torsion Beam yang mengijinkan kapasitas ruang kargo terbesar dikelasnya. Di sisi mesin, Honda memberikan dua pilihan pada calon pembeli Honda City dengan mesin bensin 1.5L i-VTEC dan mesin diesel 1.5L i-DTEC. Honda belum memberikan angka daya mesin, namun melihat generasi terkini, mesin 1.5L i-DTEC mampu menghasilkan daya sebesar 100ps dengan torsi 200 NM, sementara mesin 1.5L i-VTEC mampu menghasilkan daya sebesar 120ps dengan versi terbaru yang digunakan pada Fit RS menghasilkan daya sebesar 132ps.

Dari segi fitur, Honda India tidak lagi tanggung-tanggung untuk City terbaru. Dari segi sistem, Honda menyertakan tombol start stop dan keyless entry, serta sun roof. Pada interior, Honda kini mengadopsi kontrol tombol sentuh kapasitif untuk pengendali sistem AC. Sistem audio kini diperkaya dengan sistem bluetooth terintegrasi untuk menyalurkan panggilan telepon dari smartphone Anda, kontrol terintegrasi pada setir serta integrasi dengan kamera mundur. Tak hanya itu saja, Honda City kini hadir dengan delapan speaker, dua di masing-masing pintu untuk menghasilkan rentang suara tinggi dan rendah yang matang.

Honda City akan dijual secara resmi di India pada bulan Januari 2014. Kapan di Indonesia?

Sumber:

Honda India Official City Website

Paultan Honda City pictures

Honda VEZEL, JDM New Baby CR-V is Stunning

Stunning is one word best describing Honda new compact SUV, the Vezel. Launched this December in Japan, the compact SUV which is based off the Fit/Jazz plank is amazingly well designed. For quite sometimes, I criticize Honda design language for being too safe which is good for not offending those with sensitive design issue, but boring nonetheless.

The Vezel however… Well… Let’s just say the Vezel is the most beautiful production Honda car I’ve seen in 10 odd years, besting the S2000, Accord Euro (Acura TSX) and the Acura ILX. The sculpted lines are greatly defined, where a line starts, it ends gracefully and functionally. Take a look at the crease from the side profile, it looks like it came out of nowhere, but to me it looks like an end of a circular line from the A pillar to the hidden door handle and finishing on the front doors, which if you take a measurement divides the area on the upper and lower part dead in the center-ish. The swooping roofline is pronounced even more with the upper rear spoiler and the rear featuring panel formed lighting integration, much better than the third generation CR-V. The front featuring compound HID and LED cluster is bold and premium looking, contemplating the new Honda wing design language.

But the most amazing part of the car, despite its premium looking design is that… It was based on the Fit (using Jeremy Clarkson and his snarky expression). Yes, from the market that brought us the kind of big actually small Suzuki SX4 crossover and Nissan oddly looking Juke, the Vezel is a jacked up compact car which means it won’t punch a hole in your wallet.

Power comes from Honda Fit 1.5L newly developed i-VTEC DOHC with available hybrid engine option. Now for a tall car like this, you will be surprised that Honda is making the car available with a 1.5L engine at all… Well, worry not since Honda new L15 engine produces 132 Ps @ 6600 RPM and 155 Nm @ 4600RPM… And you’re saying what? Well, 2004 Honda Stream which uses D17 1.7L engine produces 129 Ps @ 6300 RPM and 154 Nm @ 4800 RPM. So to the technically challenged, that means the new 1.5L engine is simply more powerful than the old 1.7L engine. My family used to own 2004 Stream with D17 and 4AT. That engine is pulling a 7 seater wagon with gusto, I don’t see why the L15 will not be sufficient for the Vezel.

I’m pumped, this is the for a long time I wanted a Honda car so bad, not since the Prelude (lost dream). Seeing that Nissan with the gaudy Juke is making quite a business case in the developing countries (potholes and standing water in rainy season problems), the Vezel with its proper mini SUV design is guaranteed an easy sell.

More info as the car is officially unveiled at Tokyo Motor Show.

Source:

Honda Japan Vezel website

HONDA MAKING TURBO ENGINE! HOLY TURN AROUND!

Well, Honda did makes turbo engine, but it’s only for one off racing purposes… Not anymore, Honda is finally making production turbo engine with plenty of extremely exciting products and concepts. The aptly named VTEC TURBO sounds very boyish (I was expecting VTEC-T), but it’s the end result that counts.

To start it off with a bang, we now have confirmation that the second generation NSX will be powered with a twin turbo 3.5L V6 hybrid, exclusively developed for the car. Why is this such a big news? Because it was feared that Honda will just use RLX hybrid engine which produces respectable power (377HP), but falls way off from the competition which has north of 400HP. To make matter worse, Honda was known to dislike turbo, so a tweaked RLX engine can only get south of 400HP at the max… It was a joke. With a turbo, the engine can be boosted to a power target, and can be future proof if need be. Let’s just say that in two years time suddenly all sports car gains power, well, Honda engineers can just up the boost and increase horsepower for the NSX.

No power figure given but time and again Honda claims that the car will rival Ferrari 458 which produces power shy of 560HP. Then again, Honda with the NSX has advantage in form of Sports Hybrid All Wheel Drive, a four wheel drive system that vectors power back-forth and left-right of the driving wheels and it’s a hybrid. Why a hybrid is good for the NSX? Good question, because the instantaneous torque from the electric motor can fill the lack of power for when the turbochargers are still spooling. All sign points to the right direction.

The second is the Civic (Euro) Type R, now confirmed running a 2.0L turbo engine which produces power “more than 280HP” as told by Motorauthority on their track day at Honda proving ground facility. The response is very positive, turbo lag is barely noticeable and there is a “Type R button” when pressed, changes the characteristic of the suspension and engine tuning. The Tochigi oval track that took 15 seconds to finish a lap now can be blown away in just 10 seconds after the “Type R button” is pushed… Type R button…

Also, Honda release a press statement on their intention to streamline the turbo engine in its lineup. So far the confirmed turbo engines will be 2.0L, 1.5L and 1.0L. I don’t think it’s too far fetched where the engines will go, the 2.0L will definitely comes to the big cars, such as Accord, CR-V and the likes, while the 1.5L will go to medium size sedans and SUV like the City or Crider, while the 1.0L will go into the small compacts like the Fit/Jazz.

And that is why my friends, fun time for Honda fans is now restarting!!!

Source:

Motortrend NSX drivetrain

Motorauthority Civic Type R turbo driven

Honda new turbo engine press release

Honda Crider 2013, Honda City XL

Guangzhou Honda has launched the Honda Crider, a junior executive sedan that is aimed at the raising middle class target market which has become the most lucrative automotive market in China. The media dubbed the Crider as a premium vehicle specific to the Chinese Domestic Market (CDM), with accented upscale look supported by the the inclusion of LED adorned dual projector headlights, huge chrome grill, big engine and upscale interior.

From design standpoint, the Crider sweats presence. One glance of its fascia and onlookers will take notice of the aggressive air dams, the compound LED dual projector headlights and the aggresive lines going backwards. It seems the double triangle design creed from the Brio managed to sneak into the Crider design, with stellar looking result.

The size of the Crider has been a much debated topic around the automotive net, it looks big, but the wheel size indicates a smaller vehicle per the spy pictures. With the official figures though, we can finally objectively measures the size of the Crider… And it’s quite a shocking revelation…

The Crider (length x width x height) measures at 4650 x 1750 x 1505 mm with a 2650 mm wheelbase which objectively makes it a bigger car than the Civic which measures at 4550 x 1755 x 1435 mm with a wheelbase of 2700 mm. Everybody is surprised, including yours truly, because the car was shown with a silhouette of the City, it is even based off the Fit/City platform, complete with McPherson strut and torsion beam suspension. The car used to be accepted as the next generation City, which is now in doubts because the car grew exponentially from the current generation City which measures at a measly 4410 x 1715 x 1470 mm with a wheelbase of 2550 mm.

Size wise, the car looks to be a dead ringer replacement for the Civic, even the engine crosses the Civic territory, as it is using the same engine, a 1.8L i-VTEC producing 138ps (102kW) @ 6500 RPM, and 172 Nm @ 4300 RPM, slightly less than the Civic, but only 2 ps less, it’s a no issue.

Price wise, the top of the line Crider is priced around RMB 160k and lower which again overlaps the Civic price especially the 1.8L because the 2.0L Civic Type-S is priced topping at RMB 180k.

All signs are pointing this car as a Civic successor in China, bearing the same price, same features, bigger size, same engine and a design catered specifically to the market. But is it worthy as a Civic successor? Honda is aiming high in China, predicted to be one of the biggest automotive market if not THE biggest, Honda is poised to lead the segment with the Crider. The Civic is the pinnacle of Honda history but the world is changing a new. There is one more thing that I haven’t point out that makes the Civic seems redundant in comparison to the Crider; the trunk space of the Crider is a massive 588 Liter or 20.7 Cubic Feet of space, compared to the measly 12.5 Cubic Feet or 354 Liter on the Civic. This is because the Crider uses torsion beam suspension on the rear that opens up the trunk space below, where the Civic uses multilink suspension which eats the space above it (the trunk).

An argument can be made that the Civic will drive better compared to the Crider, well, because it is. The multilink suspension allows independent movement of each wheels during rough roads, while the torsion beam doesn’t allow independent wheel movement. However, it can be countered with suitable spring/absorber combo and personal driving adjustment during rough roads. Also, on everyday drive, you will almost never get to know the difference between a car with multilink suspension and torsion beam unless you’re driving fast and furious style.

All in all, the Crider should be a hit in China, it hits all the right note in a country where its middle class is rising at a phenomenal rate. Luxurious and unique, it offers something the Civic starts to lack in recent years, character. The Civic is declining in characters and as a technology showcase, it used to be a technology demonstrator, the CVCC, the 3 stage VTEC, the K20 i-VTEC, and ultimately the Type-R. Currently the Civic has been degraded to a huge extend, a basic sedan, a lackluster hybrid, no Type-R, and bland models makes the car looks to be holding on to the past and quality only which the competition starting to catch up. The Crider looks like a fresh start, it’s a bling decked out functional car that’s not going to win (m)any underground racing scene, but it sure is going to win the market.

Source:

Guangzhou Honda Crider website

Honda Civic USDM website

The Little Car That Could (Honda Brio Review)

Brio-duo

When Honda introduced the Jazz in the ASEAN region, the car received very favorable review, charting high on automotive sellout ranking in almost every country it landed on. Why shouldn’t it? It is a groundbreaking sub compact that almost redefines the category. The ULTRa seat concept that allows the rear seat to fold flat or folded up, the central mounted fuel tank, the airy cabin, the fuel sipper i-DSI engine and the CVT are all unique to the car where such technology/feature are unheard of on the competition side back then. As time goes by, raw material prices increased, and demands of Honda Jazz users are heeded, the car grew in size and becomes upscale. This leaves a conundrum, as the Jazz becomes more of an upscale solution, Honda left a void in the price range where the Jazz used to rein supreme, being replaced by entry level cars such as Nissan March and Suzuki Splash. Decision then made for Honda to roll out and take back the segment it used to lead with a brand new car, one that is slotted below the Jazz.

Honda introduced the Brio in December 2010 in Thailand, but the car was mentioned by Honda previous CEO, Takanobu Ito-san way back in 2008 as a small sub-Jazz solution. Alas, recession forced Honda to delay the introduction of said car per Autocar UK interview with the CEO and with a twisted humor that is fate, Honda Brio base of production in Thailand for ASEAN market got hit by a severe flooding and delays the introduction of Brio yet again outside Thailand. Still time heals everything, and finally the Brio landed inThailand, India and finally Indonesia in 2012.

(This review is based on the Brio entry level trim with automatic transmission)

Appreciates the smaller things

To differentiate itself from the competition, Honda Indonesia actively chose bigger engine and a complete set of safety feature as standard for the littlest Honda. Honda Indonesia offers the Brio in two trim levels, the E and the S. Which is a short hand of saying entry level and fully loaded. The message is clear, go big with the littlest Honda.

Starting from the outside, the Brio measures partly at 3.610 x 1.680 x 1.485 mm with a wheelbase of 2.345 mm, thus effectively the car is shorter in length and height than the first generation Jazz but retains about the same width. For comparison, the first generation Fit/Jazz measurements are 3.845 x 1.675 x 1.525 mm, with a wheelbase of 2.450 mm. The car is small as intended since its target countries like India excises tax for cars that are under 4.000 mm (4M) in length. Smart readers then ask, why 3.610 mm of length then? Why not make the Brio as long as first generation Fit/Jazz which is still far below India automotive tax rules? Well, the answer lies in the Brio Amaze, the sedan version of Brio, which have longer chassis that stops at the magical number of 3.990 mm.

Measurements aside, from the exterior design point of view, Honda took Brio design seriously, so serious Honda designers was sent to Europe to study all the compacts and apply it to the Brio. Designed in Milan, Italy, the car adopts the “double triangle” design that designers want people to see the car as “energetic” from all sides.  The double triangle theme is quite literal, as there are two main “triangles” that intersects the car from the rear and front of the car, giving the car a hunkered down look from all sides, be it from side profile, front or even rear. The rear especially also adopts a triangle stance giving the car a wide stance which looks very sporty which is particularly unfortunate that the car is equipped with a thin 175mm tire profile.

Being the entry level car for everything Honda on four wheels, one might suspect there will be a cost reduction measure on the car on some level and Brio is not immune to it. Thankfully, exterior wise the car does not look cheap barring the unpainted sideview mirror/door handles on the E grade and the odd unmasked side window frames. On most cars, window frames are masked with black coating/sticker to create a sense of one continuous huge window but the Brio omit this one design factor. For a small car the effect is quite huge (pardon the pun), the frames makes the small windows look compartmentalized thus making the car looks small.

Body plating is good, as there are no noticeable bending when the panels are pressed on any given point and the lower panel below the doors are covered with anti scratch paint for debris protection. Moving towards the front, the headlights are as simple as it can be, the bulbous curved housed a reflector type lighting and side blinkers, a simple solution as expected on an entry level car. The lining of the headlights doesn’t go anywhere instead the engine bay goes around it, similar to the first generation Honda Jazz albeit with smaller headlight. The headlights inner edge points toward the frontal opening logo with a “winged” chrome slats that covers the Honda logo at an angle that brings the frontal area  in the line of the double triangle theme.

From the side, the A-pillar arcs under the engine cover like the CR-Z although less pronounced, but it still makes the car looks like it has a big engine bay (hence big engine) from the side. The end result is very apparent as opening the engine bay shows a large space above the tightly packed drivetrain.

The layout is neat, all control sticks and mechanics are well laid out. From its placement, the drivetrain looks like other L series drivetrain with the same peculiarly placed intake far behind the ECU near the firewall. Unlike the Thailand and India version which has an air inlet scoop that channels cooler air straight to the intake hole like the Freed/Jazz/City, Indonesia version sadly has no said inlet scoop. In theory, the effect is detrimental, as the engine will continuously breathe hot air, which lacks oxygen molecule, which will cause inefficient fuel burn and thus reduced fuel efficiency at least in stop and go traffic. During test drive session thankfully the effect was unnoticeable if any. The air inlet scoop just directs air from the front of the car to the intake area but the car frontal area still allow air to come inside the engine bay.

From the rear, Honda employs an original solution to a long in the tooth design and technical creed with the all glass hatch. From technical point of view, it’s quite brilliant, by eliminating the metal panel, weight and cost are reduced significantly and this also comes with no loss in comfort especially noise insulation. From aesthetic point of view, the all glass hatch also works wonders visually, it made the car looks big from the rear and visibility from driver’s position is amazing. However, from safety and function point of view, it’s another different thing.

As it is, the Brio doesn’t have heating element on the glass hatch nor a wiper, as there are no latch point to attach things on the glass. The lack of heating element and the wiper are not in favor of safety riding especially in rainy part of the season. When it got cold, the rear glass might get foggy of the temperature difference, and after a heavy rain light mud will wash over the rear glass because of the difference in pressure on the rear hatch during high speed cruising. There is another thing about backing up during heavy rain which obviously will obstruct the driver’s view behind. These are minor annoyance but one that Honda with all of its safety engineering heritage should address from day one.

Thankfully though, the Brio comes standard with a huge spoiler on the rear that covers the viewable area of the rear glass at an angle, this in theory should alleviate the problem of rain water obstructing rear view. Unfortunately, I cannot test this notion as even though it’s a rainy season, my test drives with the car always was blessed with sunny day.

The overall look of the car from the rear also accentuate the whole triangle concept to the next degree, to the discerning eye, it’s mostly trapezoid, but again it supports the wide accented sporty  look of the car (minus the thin tires). The triangle taillights with the large circular brake lights and small blinkers is designed nicely flushed with the all glass hatch, you could almost mistook the car for having no rear hatch at all. Being an all glass hatch with nothing to attach to, the hatch cannot be opened from the outside except from a lever next to the driver seat and access key. The latch mechanism is located at the chassis while the latch sticks out from the inside of the glass hatch with the anchor point outside used as the handle.

Noticing about the beauty/peculiarity of the all glass hatch, one cannot just gaze into the hollow of the cargo bay of the car. Yes, out of the box the car does not have a cargo cover or tonneau cover and the big glass hatch despite having the lower area blacked out still have high visibility to your cargo bay. Honda sales team was instructed to mention about applying thick black film coating over it but earnestly, rear view should be as clear as possible. This car should have a cargo cover as standard and not as an option (which is available).

On a side note: In terms of safety, the all glass hatch according to Honda sales team is up to 30 something times stronger than “regular glass”, maybe they’re comparing to the glasses used on the Brio, but the bottom line is that it’s quite thick. I’ve described that sound insulation is quite good above, that means the glass is as claimed, but 30 times might be slightly overcompensating.  For those who worry that any low impact from the rear might hit and shatter the glass, do not worry at all. Brio chassis actually extends well after the all glass hatch ends which means low impacts will hit the steel chassis first. This is unique because usually a car chassis is mostly square in shape and the rear portion ends well before the bumpers outer edge.

Going back to basic and functional

From the inside, the Brio is quite spacious thanks to thin door liners, compact dashboard with a conservative design and clever choice of light color materials. The dashboard area is covered in three different colors, beige for the glove compartment, dark grey for the upper dash area and some lightly gun metal colored dash for the audio and driver’s instrument panel which is easily removable to support a personal styling from the car’s owner. The center console housed the A/C controls with the least function ever found on a Honda; The usual 4 speed blower fan is there, but no heating control and only two vent option, the regular front vent and low/front vent, a clear cost cutting measure by any choice of words.

On a side note: the cost cutting measure for the A/C controls are actually very valid. In this tropical climate, I’ve never used the heater on any car whatsoever. By eliminating the heating element, Honda is saving the cost for the car as intended, removing the least used feature of a car in country where heat is everywhere and the coldest area driveable by a city car like the Brio is just a tad cooler than the average national climate.

Luckily Honda did not skimp on the instrument panel, two analog tachometer and speedometer , gear selection display on the automatic version, digital odometer, regular template of warning indicators, real time average fuel consumption indicator and the ECO light indicator. Unlike other modern cars with real time fuel consumption indicator, the Brio only shows the average consumption and the optimal fuel consumption indicator is the ECO light. For the ECO light to activate, the ECU will signal when you’re driving in the most efficient manner which I’ve been able to trigger it most of the time with an efficient driving technique on the automatic model which I test drove.

Some omissions are there on the E grade, no vanity mirror on the passenger side and no backseat pocket are minors. However, things like pocket door liner which are left uncovered exposing the door sheet metals front and back, no grab rails and wind up window on the rear are glaring. The grab rail is safety function, on a small and low car like this, old folks needs something to hold onto exiting the car. The wind up window is dangerous for kids, as there are no way to lock the handles and they can just roll it away without supervision.  Finally the exposed door sheet metal, it’s not so much as a function than cosmetics as some hate it but funny enough some love it. For years, interior modders are matching the interior color of a car with its exterior, now the Brio E grade exposed sheet metal are making things easier to match the tone albeit under the ruse of making things cheaper.

Seating configuration on the car is best summarized as “efficient”. The two front seats at first glance looks thin, because it is, however the padding is certifiably thick and seating on both front seats, I don’t feel any discomfort from its thinness, in fact the seat is nicely curved to my body and the bolster support is very nice. Foot area for rear passenger is generous and I can sit adequately comfortable behind the driver’s seat where I set the driver’s seat position to suit my 1,82 Meter tall stature thanks to the curved back of the front seats.  Back seat support for the rear passenger is acceptable, not ideal for long travel, but the padding is sufficient enough to be comfortable on short to medium trips.

In terms of utilities, the Brio breaks Honda mantra of usefulness. The first generation Jazz has it all, multi configurable seats, spacious cargo and 60:40 split seats, sadly the Brio has none. Most Honda to date excels at utilities; the Stream fold flat third row, the Freed fold up seats, the City class leading trunk space (and reclining seats at top trim), don’t have to mention the new Jazz utilities, and so many other examples from Honda automotive products… The Brio simply has none.

The cargo bay is small, about the same size as the average city car. With the seat up, it can only hold objects up to 350 mm in width or about small 14″ laptop bag from trunk lid to the back of the rear seat. Off course the rear passenger seat can be folded forward to give way for bigger cargo space but with no split seat, you lose rear seating for oversize cargo.

Brio’s lack of split fold seat is quite the drawback for this car. A small cargo bay on hatchbacks usually warrants a split fold seat whereby one seat is folded leaving one side still be able to seat a person (or two). Honda goal with the omission of the split folding seat is definitely for cost saving measure, however this is not warranted as the car loses its appeal on the utility side big time. As is, the Brio is a runabout car in terms of utility, best suited only to move people from point A to point B or well suited to two person only if wanting to carry oversize items. In Honda defense, all the car in the category has no split rear seat, but I expect Honda to be better, oh well, can’t win them all.

One interesting aspect and can be considered safety feature of the car on the cargo bay is the hidden space just below the hatch latch mechanism. From the side profile and the rear, the car doesn’t look it has a “butt” or the usual protruding bumper, but actually, the chassis extends well over the hatch like I mention above. This hidden space houses the car jack and provide physical barrier for the glass hatch above it. I’d prefer Honda give the hidden space a hatch or something proper, the car jack as of this writing is just covered in the carpet liner which looks like an after thought.

Made for fuel efficiency

When the Brio was designed, it’s not intended only as an affordable entry level car, it was also designed to push the boundary of fuel efficiency achieved using conventional technologies at affordable price. Mild hybrids, with automatic start stop engine tech sounds simple but it also means more moving parts. Full hybrids cannot come cheap yet with the electric motor and engine management system. Small diesel have to cope with good quality diesel fuel which is lacking in terms of infrastructure especially in Indonesia. Other cars in the category resort to running 3 cylinders at the expense of power, and some only comes with manual transmission to not rob the engine of power.

On a side note: Manuals are inherently more fuel efficient than conventional automatic because of manual’s mechanical linkage where the automatic doesn’t have one. Automatics are called slushbox because it is, there are no mechanical connection from the engine to the driving wheel, instead connection are through a device called torque converter that runs on fluid. Modern automatics achieves good fuel efficiency by using tall gearing which Honda also used on the Brio. This way an automatic car can use higher gear to offset the robbing effect of the torque converters.

The Brio resorts to Honda old trick, why change what’s good already. The Brio comes with a small engine, but it’s more of a carry over engine than a purpose built one. The L13 is derived from second generation of the L15 series engine that is used on the JDM FIT GE6, or second generation Fit/Jazz. The engine is the same at least spec wise:

  • SOHC 16 valve i-VTEC
  • Displacement: 1,339 cc (81.7 cu in)
  • Bore x Stroke: 73.0 mm × 80.0 mm (2.87 × 3.15 in)
  • Compression Ratio: 10.5:1
  • Horsepower (Brio)  : 73 kW (100 PS) / 6,000 RPM
  • Horsepower (FIT)     : 73 kW (99 PS) / 6,000 RPM
  • Torque: 127 N·m (94 lb·ft) / 4,800 rpm

One thing to note is that the 73 kW of power converted to PS is confusing, due to imperial and metric measurement difference. Some online measurements measured 73 kW as 100 PS others as 99 PS. 1 PS or one pferdestärke (German for horse power) difference is big especially in a car this light and I couldn’t get any objective measurement on this scale. Suffice to say that the Brio engine is a lot of fun be it 1 more or less horse power. Speaking of weight, the Brio weighs healthily under 1 ton. Honda Indonesia did not state the weight of the Brio, but the India market Brio automatic weighs in at 950 Kg. Given that as far as I can see the difference between the Indonesia and India market Brio is on the omission of the air inlet scoop, 950 Kg is a safe number to bet on, with any deviation not exceeding 1 Ton. For comparison, the similarly equipped L13A FIT GE6 weighs in at 1080 Kg.

In Japan, the L13A powered FIT GE6 is mated to a CVT unit while the Brio sans for the Thailand market all got a 5 speed automatic  with the standard 5 speed manual. The Fit returns 19.5 Km/L with the manual gearbox using the new more stringent JC-08 government sanctioned fuel consumption test. With the Brio lighter weight and same internals, in theory by 99% level of confidence, the car should break the magical 20 Km/L barrier in mixed driving.

The Brio is available in 5 speed automatic and the usual 5 speed manual gearbox. The use of the 5 speed automatic can still be considered class leading since the competitors all still use 4 speed. In theory, this allows the car to have better acceleration with better fuel consumption on long straight than its competitors. Cars that are equipped with a 4 speed automatic gearbox needs to trade off between acceleration and fuel efficiency since too short gearing for better acceleration means high RPM at high speed, thus more fuel spent. Too long gearing for leisurely cruise and fuel saving means losing acceleration during back to back traffic. Honda Brio 5 gear automatics allows for an extra gear that is suited to cruising, allowing the engine to engage  speed with low engine rotation (less fuel). Not stopping there, the Brio automatic also has Honda’s Grade Logic Control that smoothly detects upshift and downshift on inclinations.

The magic of aerodynamics

Honda tackles Brio fuel efficiency in a very different way of the other automotive brands. The use of a carryover “big” engine and available 5 speed automatics seems making the Brio not so serious in the fuel efficiency department. Well, the fact that L13A is already fuel efficient is a different story, but Honda engineers sought a remarkable way for the car to achieve fuel efficiency via aerodynamics.

Honda engineers employs several trick that showcases extreme ingenuity in a stale world of simple automotive engineering. Below the front bumper, Honda employs an air dam. It’s something simple like a piece of black plastic that runs along below the bumper that diverts airflow away from below the underbelly of the car. As in a shape of wing, a car has (relatively) flat underbody and curved upper body (the cabs), this in turn makes Bernoulli’s principle applied to a car as well, the faster a car goes, the more lift it will generate. The bigger the lift force is, the less contact tires applied to roads for light vehicles and it will cause even the most experienced driver to lose control of a car. The goal of the air dam is simply to obstruct as much air as possible to the underbody, minimizing the effect of lift, increasing safety in faster speed and reduce drag.  Well, the thing is, it also reduce the bumper’s ground clearance, so do mind the clearance when parking head first with the car.

On the bottom side of the car Honda engineers slides (yes, pun intended) in something unexpected. The car’s underside is covered with plastic cladding to improve airflow during medium to high speed cruising. In theory the smooth underbody minimize the amount of air turbulence and increase fuel efficiency. On normal car without underbody cladding, there are all sort of hanging bits and bolts like fuel tank, suspension setup, exhaust system and for rear wheel drive cars, the rear axle. These items have different shapes and size, and airflow will be obstructed which creates turbulence and drag and therefore lessen the fuel economy of the car at speed. The inclusion of the plastic cladding is a very nice surprise for this car as even car double its price might not even have it.

DSC_0342

Speaking of aerodynamics, I always mock the use of thin profile tires on the Brio, but it does have its engineering intent. Thinner tires means less mass to move by the engine, and also less drag especially at speed. The Bernoulli effect comes back to haunt us as the faster the tire spins, the more lift it will create, and with bigger surface area the lift will be more pronounced especially on a light car. The use of a wider profile tires will necessitate the car to go lower than it is, which is not advisable without stiffening the suspension and/or living in a country like Indonesia where potholes are more abundant than honest politician.

The Drive

Seating on the driver’s seat, I was expecting a low slung driving position but it’s not the case as the seat is adequately high even though there are no height adjuster. Seating is comfortable, the instrument panels are easy to read and the controls are all in hand reach. Visibility all around is good thanks to the heightened seat position and the thin A-pillar improves forward viewing area. The car comes with a powerful and class leading powertrain in the category at 100PS, while the competitors are hardly able to reach 90% of it (Kia Picanto edges closest at 87PS) and in automatic trim it carries a 5 speed automatic while the competitors uses 4 speed automatic.

Even with the most powerful engine in its class, the Brio is first an economy car and in its automatic trim has quite tall gearings. Gear changes are fast, I can feel that on city cruising speed (50 KpH), the gear changes before 2000RPM, and holding speed at city cruising limit the car’s engine only spins  below 2000RPM. Maneuverability at leisurely speed or around tight corners is very good thanks to good weighted steering feel and short wheelbase.

At leisurely drive, the tall gear hunts its way to fifth as soon as possible, and with 1-step gear changes, kickdowns at leisurely drive is literal, the car feels lazy to support its runabout nature. Not feeling that Honda spirit, I change the gear lever to D3, and suddenly the car comes alive. Gear changes are just a press of a pedal, acceleration is brisk and I can feel the urgency of the engine hitting peak torque and horsepower in high RPM. Unlike some of its competitors that are only powered by a 3 cylinder engine, the Brio’s 4 cylinder develops power fast and consistently in all RPM range as the car feels fast but one to be careful driving it at full tilt because of the lighter side of the steering feel at speed.

One thing to dislike about the ride on the car is the peculiarly soft suspension. I can’t press this enough that the car engine and automatic gearbox are the jewel of the car, however the suspension is not able to cope with the demand of spirited driving as body roll is a problem in spirited driving. In a more leisurely drive, the car behaves nicely as intended; the soft suspension is kind to my back on undulating surface and pothole impacts are absorbed nicely. However, one have to drive at constant speed as the suspension feels different during acceleration, it feels as the dampers could not keep up with the spring and even though problems are non existent during city driving, one might want to upgrade the suspension on the Brio to enjoy the wonderfully engineered engine and gearbox.

In terms of fuel efficiency, the nature of test drives session are inherently random at best. Be that as it may, my test drive session revolves a 15 minutes back to back traffic and 10 minutes of smooth sailing. The return is a consistent 1L for 12 Km for a back to back traffic with moderate acceleration, and at long straight the onboard mileage computer easily reaches 1L for 17Km like it was nothing. With careful driving, I believe I can break through the 1L/20Km barrier mark with the car and with hypermiling thrown in, getting past the 1L/25Km should be achievable (I can get 1L/24Km with my Freed on highway with hypermiling).

What is Honda if not showing the green aspect of its products, while the Brio has no ECON function, it features a light up ECO notification whenever the ECU deems that the driver is driving efficiently. There are no specific rule to activate the ECO light, but the most consistent way to activate it is simply to lightly press the pedal at constant speed.

DSC_0318

The evenly lit notification is not just for show though, at first I personally thought that the function is gimmicky, that it will light up only at specific condition like coasting or cruising. However, on slower speed like back to back traffic, slow acceleration grants the driver with the ECO light too, and even between gear shifts. This means that the ECO light can also coach the driver to driving efficiently, granted that the notification light is situated near the edge of the tachometer and can be glanced easily while driving.

In the end: Is it worth it?

Buying city car today is a very tough decision, it’s a very crowded market with  plenty of amazing products from all the competing brands in Indonesia. Honda Indonesia decision to bring ABS and airbag as standard on the Brio is commendable to leverage the notion of safety, and the most powerful engine combined with 5 speed automatic gearbox set it apart from the competition technicality wise. However, the car does not bring the accolade of utilities Honda so very well known for and just aims for mediocrity to be on the same level as the competition. Small cargo bay and no split fold seats makes the car just another city car in the mix in terms of utilities.

The car is aimed at the young and young at heart demographics, complete with the easily replaceable panel for easy personalization, but what is the real catch for this car? A fast runabout? Surely Honda does not want to put this car as the midnight boy racer image…

No. This car is about safety and fuel efficiency.

Even though Honda struggles to differentiate the Brio and the Jazz, the truth is small cars are dangerous to drive because it’s a small car which usually powered by a small engine. Honda should leverage on the technical prowess of the car as a safety feature. The powerful 100PS engine should make it easier for a car the size of Brio to merge in highway at speed with the other cars. Overtaking on speed will be swift and safe from speeding car on the fast lane. Finally, the smart automatic gearbox is very efficient at returning mileage while providing the car with much needed power on tap (on D3).

Even though the Brio is far off as the first car for a small family (that place is reserved for the Brio MPV), it is a nice second car that begs to be personally modified with features that are all related to safety including the powerful engine.

Edit: 26/06/2013: First post, need some pictures and some edits.