The Brio Amaze is no more; the next generation of Honda's budget-oriented compact sedan is known simply as "Amaze", to differentiate it further from its hatchback sibling. We drove the newcomer at its launch in the Western Cape.
Unlike manufacturers that earn rebates on import duties because they produce vehicles in South Africa, local importer Honda South Africa is completely at the mercy of the exchange rate. Its products have always demanded a premium, but models such as the Civic and CR-V have become markedly more expensive than their traditional rivals, which reflects in Honda's low sales volumes. In an effort to counter this, Honda SA has been on a product offensive in the more budget-sensitive segments of the market. The Japanese brand has seen considerable successes with its Mobilio and BR-V models, and now its attention has turned to the sub-B segment sedan market.
With the Volkswagen Polo Vivo sedan no longer in production, Honda reckons it can take some of that share with its new Amaze sedan. From launch, there are 3 derivatives with 2 levels of trim and 2 transmission options. The line-up begins with the 1.2 Trend Manual, followed by the 1.2 Comfort Manual. Finally, at the top of the pile, is the 1.2 Comfort CVT – the only automatic option.
The Amaze adopts the latest Honda design face - which is modern and quite stylish.
Features and space
The seats are upholstered in cloth, but synthetic leather seat covers can be ordered as a no-cost option. A basic 4-speaker sound system is fitted with FM/AM radio functionality, as well as MP3 playback and Bluetooth functionality. USB and auxiliary audio sockets are standard, plus the audio system's functions can be controlled via the multifunction steering wheel. There are storage spaces in all 4 door mouldings and cup holders are located in the centre console, as well as the rear armrest.
As before, rear legroom is merely fair (aft occupants will feel more hemmed in than in the Suzuki Swift Dzire, for example), but the claimed boot capacity is a satisfactory 420 litres, which is 20 litres larger than that of the previous Brio Amaze model. Despite it being physically larger, thanks to the new platform, it's considerably lighter than the Brio Amaze sedan that it replaces. In terms of safety, there are 2 airbags at the front, plus ABS with EBD.
The Amaze's boot offers reasonable luggage-carrying capacity.
Engine and transmission
The Amaze is powered by the tried-and-tested 1.2-litre 4-cylinder petrol motor, which drives the front wheels. In Amaze application, the motor has been refined for efficiency and boasts outputs of 66 kW and 110 Nm. Thanks to the Amaze's low kerb weight (just over 900 kg), performance is adequate. You have a choice of a 5-speed manual gearbox or a new continuously variable transmission, which is augmented by shift paddles on the Honda's steering wheel. The manually-equipped Amaze is said to accelerate from 0 to 100 kph in 12 seconds and said to consume just 5.6 L/100 km, while its CVT sibling is fractionally thirstier at (a stated) 5.7 L/100 km.
The no-cost option seat covers bring some plushness into the cabin. Definitely tick that box!
What's it like to drive?
The Honda Amaze does "what it says on the tin" (to use the hackneyed, but totally applicable, phrase). The newcomer's low kerb weight makes the car feel light and effortless to pilot. The engine is reasonably responsive around town, but you need to rev it hard to get the most out of it. We suspect that at altitude, with 4 people (and their luggage) on board, the performance won't be brisk, but the fuel consumption should be on par with those of its rivals if you adopt a measured driving technique.
Manual-equipped Amaze derivatives are likely to make up the bulk of sales and customers will be pleased to hear that the gearbox is still typically Honda: a light and fuss-free shift action, with minimal clutch action. The ride quality is fair at this price point, but tyre and wind noises are quite noticeable. The Amaze's steering is a bone of contention for us, as there's too much play before the car changes direction. We'd prefer to have a bit more of a direct action, but the weighting and feel impress.
We also had a chance to drive the CVT-equipped derivative, which should take the pain of traversing congested traffic on your daily commute. The aforementioned shift paddles work perfectly well and add a touch of sportiness to the package, but the CVT does a good job of hustling the Amaze along quietly and smoothly. It's only when you plant the throttle pedal that the dreaded "CVT drone" becomes apparent. The Amaze is hardly ever going to be driven like this, so it's not a cause for concern.
The cabin of the Honda Amaze is cleanly designed, but there are some very cheap plastics here.
With the departure of the Volkswagen Polo Vivo sedan, the lower-end B segment sedan market is ripe for the taking in 2018. Suzuki was first out the blocks with its Dzire sedan, Ford has introduced an upgraded Figo sedan and now Honda has joined the sub-B segment with its Amaze. All of these have to contend with the Toyota Etios sedan, which may be getting on in years, but still offers commendable value for money.
The Honda Amaze is imperfect, but that's to be expected at its price point... There are some sub-par finishes in the cabin – the glovebox door, for example, doesn't close tightly and when you're driving, there's considerable wind noise. However, these are insignificant when you look at the standard specification and the range's price list. In a price-sensitive market and with a rapidly-climbing fuel price, having a compact family sedan coming to market at under the R200 000-mark is commendable and with a decent warranty/service plan from Honda, the Amaze does quite a lot right. We look forward to pitching it against its rivals.
Coming in under R200 000 is critical for cash-strapped consumers and we think the Amaze will find some sales success
Honda Amaze - Price in SA
The Honda Amaze is sold with a 5-year/200 000 km warranty, 2-year/30 000 km service plan and 3-year AA Roadside Assistance package.
Honda Amaze 1.2 Trend Manual - R179 900
Honda Amaze 1.2 Comfort Manual - R193 900
Honda Amaze 1.2 Comfort CVT - R208 900