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'DNA' drive: Brio, the love-omatic car

Friday, 12 October 2012 - 10:45am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

Given the huge increase in cars in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities and with the infrastructure being what it is (stagnant), there is a valid case for an automatic transmission in a small car.

Why would a small car need to have an automatic transmission, one might ask. It is a good question as normally speaking, small cars are nippy and nimble, easy to handle and fun to drive, most often. However, given the huge increase in cars in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities and with the infrastructure being what it is (stagnant), there is a valid case for an automatic transmission in a small car, after all. That is the view taken by Honda Cars India and the company has added an automatic gearbox to the Brio, the one that does duty in the larger City saloon as well.

In its short life, the Brio has garnered more than a few accolades from various publications and television channels. Honda recently invited several publications to the capital of India for half a day to evaluate the Brio Automatic, to show how a good car had been made better, before it is launched in India. DNA was among the invitees and here is what we found.

Looking at the exterior of the Brio, there is no difference between the manual version and the yet-to-be launched Automatic or Love-omatic, as Honda calls it. The only difference can be seen inside the car, the normal gear lever having been replaced by a 5-speed automatic gearbox. 

The options include Park, Reverse, Neutral, Drive and D3, 2 and 1. While Park, Reverse, Neutral and Drive are self-explanatory, D3, 2 and 1 are the pseudo manual ratios. While 1 and 2 are used when additional torque is required or for engine braking, D3 has an interesting use. But more on that later.

The Brio Automatic uses the same engine as the manual version, i.e. a 4-cylinder 1.2litre i-VTEC engine that develops more than 85bhp at 6000rpm and 109Nm of torque at 4500rpm. Honda claims a fuel economy figure of 16.5kpl, but that of course will vary from driver to driver. Nothing has changed in terms of features – the Brio still has a lot of safety features, like dual SRS airbags, ABS brakes with EBD and more. It even has the same looks and dimensions. So, the only way to figure out the change is to drive the Brio and that is exactly what DNA did.

The route given started from the Grand Hotel in South Delhi and took in both India Gate as well as Greater Noida (UP), offering a mix of city driving with pockets of bad traffic thrown in as well as a few highway section that would allow the Brio to stretch its legs. In dense city traffic, it has to be admitted that the automatic transmission was a boon, allowing the driver to concentrate on driving the car.

However, after a while it became very obvious that the Brio’s gearbox takes a bit of time to respond to kickdown, a time gap that could mar a potential overtaking situation, like a sudden gap opening up in traffic. On the highway, too, kicking down resulted in some pretty good acceleration for a tiny 1.2litre engine, but again after some lag. The solution is to slot the lever into D3 from D before overtaking — the resulting rise in engine revs makes more torque available, thereby making overtaking much easier.

While it wasn’t possible to take any measurements for acceleration, it was certainly possible to see how fast the Brio’s 1.2litre engine could go. It was very good to see that not only could the Brio top out at well over the three-figure mark which is the speed limit on the Greater Noida Expressway but also, it was extremely stable and confidence inspiring to drive at that speed.

The Brio has been launched in two variants, S(O) and V and should be priced about Rs55,000 to Rs65,000 more than the equivalent manual variants.

Estimated price: Rs55,000 to 65,000 more than the MT equivalent
Engine: 1.2L SOHC i-VTEC petrol
Kitna deti hai? 16.5kpl
Fuel tank size: 35 l
Tankup good for: 577km
Power: 88PS @ 6000RPM
Torque: 109Nm @ 4500RPM
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Dimensions: 3610mm x 1680mm x 1500mm
Boot space: As before

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