Honda has not introduced the EarthDreams diesel motor to this entry-level hatchback. The 87bhp, 109Nm torque delivering 1.2-litre petrol motor from its earlier model is retained. This four-cylinder i-VTEC mill comes mated to a five-speed manual gearbox, while Honda is also offering an option of a torque converter automatic transmission. We took the former out for a spin and the moment we started driving, we got a feel of the good power to weight ratio. This is superior to the Swift or the Grand i10. The peppy motor helps pull the car away from standstill easily. The bottom end response is not very spectacular, but the Brio is livable at low rpms. In fact, while crawling at low speeds it manages to get going in the second gear. This helps in rush-hour traffic and doesn't give you a chance to complain about lack of torque. With short and light throws the gearing feels nice and it is easy to work through gears for this slick gearbox. The clutch is short and light on the foot too.
We realised it is even more fun to drive on an open road when we it took it for a run on a long stretch. The engine is refined at high rpms too and feels eager to rev every time you push the accelerator pedal. And once you do that, the car smoothly accelerates to 100kmph thanks to a good mid-range. While attaining this three-digit speed in fifth gear, the engine is spinning at less than 3,000rpm. A downshift is all that's required to overtake fast moving vehicles. Yes, the powerplant feels flat post 100kmph, but its overall performance on the highway is satisfying.
The car is super silent at idling and NVH levels are good. The engine gets fairly vocal at high rpms (above 4,500rpm), but then it is a sweet engine note. Some tyre and road noise does seep into the cabin. The suspension set-up is on the softer side so the ride quality becomes wavy on highways. While driving you realise the front takes bad patches easily but sharper bumps/potholes have to be taken at slow speeds, otherwise a jolt is felt by the second row occupants. Nevertheless a ground clearance of 165mm helps the Brio clear even large speed breakers at ease.
The Brio’s straight-line stability is impressive and the car maintains its composure even while taking bends. It is well balanced to keep you involved while taking corners, but the body roll becomes prominent. The fast and direct steering also boosts confidence. Certainly it’s light at slow speeds but inconsistent in weighing up at high speeds, so getting used to it takes some time. Stopping power comes from front discs and a rear drum setup. These brakes have a good bite and the pedal has an excellent feedback. Parking becomes an easy task also because of the compact dimensions, small footprint and a short 4.5m turning radius.