Brio New Love. New Groove 4,73,245 * Amaze Badle Aapki Duniya 5,58,251 * Jazz Sexy & I Know It 5,99,005 * WR-V WOWR-V 7,78,017 * City Worlds Ahead 8,71,520 * BR-V Be Ready Vehicle 9,21,760 * CR-V One Life. Many Lives. 24,39,885 * Accord Hybrid The Ultimate Honda 43,21,237 * * All prices are Ex-Showroom Delhi Prices.
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The Honda City's 5-speed Automatic is a competent gearbox. Plonking this transmission into the agile & peppy Brio seems like a good recipe. It definitely sounds more exciting than the "geared for economy" CVT offered in the Thai-spec Brio. Compared to the Brio MT, the AT's turning radius has increased by 0.2 meters, due to the wider track needed for accommodating the AT gearbox. The box wasn't originally designed for the Brio; this combination is available only in India.
There are no changes to the Brio's beige & black interiors, save for the AT gear shifter, missing clutch pedal and gear mode display on the instrument console. The Brio doesn't have a dead pedal, something that should have been in the "must-have" list for engineers. Still, there is sufficient space for your left foot, and the floor is nicely contoured as well. The ergonomics are top notch overall.
Only thing I really missed was the driver's seat height adjustment. There is definitely a compromise with this "one size fits all" approach and I found the seat to be a tad too high for my taste. Those with a shorter build will be happy though. The chunky steering wheel has no leather cladding, yet the choice of material is good.Expectedly, the gearbox doesn't get the City's paddle shifters. The AT has a standard P-R-N-D layout, along with the old school D3-2-1 modes to compensate for the absence of tiptronic.
The gearshift knob is carried over from the Honda Civic, which is surely better than the plain-jane piece of the City. Note that the gear modes aren't illuminated at night.The Brio's 1.2L i-VTEC engine is rated at 87 BHP (@ 6,000 rpm) and 109 Nm of torque (@ 4,500 rpm). The powerplant starts with the now familiar sounding note. Within the first few meters itself, I could feel the extra support from the torque converter.
Low end response is stronger than in the Brio MT, the engine now pulling with a certain amount of eagerness. With light accelerator inputs, upshifts are pretty early @ 2,000 rpm. Prod the accelerator some more and you'll see the gearbox moving up at 3,000 rpm. Along with light controls, good visibility and a short turning radius, the Brio AT is absolutely effortless to drive in dense city traffic.
The gearshifts are acceptably smooth, though you still know when the gearbox is moving up or down. Crawling in traffic, even without any accelerator input, the Brio AT moves with a lot more pace than is normal. In a gridlock, you'll need to generously apply the brakes to keep crawling speeds in check.The ratios are smartly chosen for this 1.2L engine. The initial 3 gears are quite short, while the 4th & 5th are tall.
Out on the open road with a heavy right foot, the gearbox responds well. Shift times are good and the Brio holds gears to the redline. The AT is quick to respond to any inputs from the accelerator pedal. Acceleration is satisfactory, though of course, the Brio AT is nowhere as quick as its MT sibling. One area of disappointment is the NVH at high rpms; the engine & drivetrain sound more stressed and unrefined, compared to the Brio MT.
It's only when you start driving with medium accelerator inputs that you start discovering the gearbox' shortcomings. With the accelerator pressed halfway, the otherwise well-sorted transmission ends up feeling puzzled. You'll frequently find it revving the engine by holding onto a gear unnecessarily, or upshifting when the same isn't required. I had to make the Brio AT upshift at times by releasing the accelerator pedal and, conversely, pressing it a little harder to drop a gear.
The Brio AT felt perfectly at home cruising on the Greater Noida Expressway at 100 kph. The engine was spinning at a relaxed 2,100 rpm, with the car feeling perfectly planted. 5th gear is a lot taller than on the Brio MT which sees 100 kph @ 3,000 rpm. Highway fuel economy should be satisfactory. Just like the Brio MT, the AT's top speed is electronically limited to 140 kph. When cruising on the highway, I missed paddle shifters the most, as I couldn't figure out a way to accelerate in the same gear; even the slightest pedal pressure makes the gearbox drop a gear, when it could very well have accelerated in the same gear.
The go-kart like agile handling remains the same, along with a quick & reasonably direct (albeit over-servo'ed!) steering. You can have a whole lot of fun throwing the Brio into corners. The weakest link is the tyres that start protesting early in the game. The suspension set-up remains similar to the MT variant we tested last year, with the same uncomfortable rear suspension on bad roads. High speed composure for such a small car is impressive.
Last edited by GTO : 1st April 2013 at 22:04. Reason: Max torque made at 4,500 rpm