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2018 Honda Amaze Diesel First Drive Review

What is it?

 

Why I would buy it:

Better NVH characteristics, all-new looks, fresh interior design, additional features, easy to drive (CVT)  

Why I would avoid it:

If you are looking for comfortable rear seating for three, cramped rear headroom

 

Honda is ready to induct its all-new Amaze into the Indian compact sedan segment on 16 May. In case you didn’t know already, the second-generation Honda Amaze is based on a new platform. However, the talking point of this iteration definitely has to be the addition of a CVT gearbox on the diesel variant from a mainstream manufacturer. This essentially means that the diesel and petrol mills will now be available with both the manual and automatic transmission.

When it comes to appearance, the Amaze is an amalgamation of design cues from Honda’s own CR-V, Civic and City. So, the more angular headlamp design, chrome intense grille and tail lights may ring a few bells. But having said that, there’s no doubt that the overall design is far more sophisticated than the outgoing model. This is essentially due to a more flowing shape, snazzy nose, prominent shoulder crease, smart alloys and a higher bonnet-line. But, it still carries a chopped-off look especially on the front end.

How is it on the inside?

Straight-off, we appreciated the fresh styling of new dashboard. It gets a dual-tone black-beige shade with glossy black trim and silver accents highlighting the air vents, stop/start button, gear lever and air-con controls. You’ll also notice the refreshed climate-control layout that now has rotary knobs. Then there’s the large seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system, a new instrument cluster with twin dials, 1-litre bottle holders on all doors and the centre console, and a chunkier three spoke steering.

When it comes to quality along with fit and finish, although it is similar to Maruti’s Dzire, it isn’t a match for the Hyundai Xcent. That said, we felt that the matt-black trim on the dash and steering didn’t really gel with the rest of the interior trims. Plus, the misaligned shut-lines of the glove box on our test car didn’t look promising either. Let’s move on to the seats now. The large front ones have good cushioning with acres of headroom, just about enough contours, adequate knee room and the right amount of shoulder support for a comfortable drive. However, it is slightly short on thigh support.

That said, the well cushioned rear bench has a nice backrest angle with lots of legroom and adequate thigh support on tap. Even the long side window makes for an airy cabin experience. On the flipside, seating for three felt cramped and headroom could get tight for tall occupants. As for the boot, the 420 litres of luggage space is reasonably deep and can swallow most of your baggage requirements.

Some of the new features include integrated LED turn indicators on the door mirrors, new design alloy wheels, smart entry and a shark-fin antenna. It also gets safety features such as dual-front airbags, ABS with EBD and Isofix child seat anchors. Other unique bits are the large touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, paddle shifts for the petrol CVT model, a multi-function steering with cruise control and push button start. The CVT will not be available in the top-of-the-line variant.

How does it drive?

Since the majority of our readers would want to know about how the new diesel CVT version performs, we shall begin with this variant. Power is down to 80bhp and 160Nm in the CVT version (from the manual's 100bhp and 200Nm) and Honda says it was done in the interests of better drivability. Twist the ignition and we noticed that the sound deadening job has worked wonders in this iteration since the diesel clatter is well subdued than in the earlier car. Once on the move, the turbo-lag is taken care of by the CVT gearbox and it gets off the mark strongly. This in-turn is complimented by an even beefier mid-range. 

Driving this diesel CVT turned out to be quite effortless both on city roads or the highway. Just like all CVTs, this one has a rubber band effect too. So, flooring the accelerator pedal will get you to witness the revs clinging close to the red-line. When briefly compared to the Maruti Dzire AMT, we’d say that the Amaze’s CVT makes its power delivery feel a tad more enthusiastic, but the former definitely screams more refinement.

In the Amaze CVT, there's even an 'S' mode (for more response) which keeps the power output in the meaty range of the revs. However, having noticed that the engine noise did increase considerably in ‘S’, we eventually stuck to 'D' since it had enough zest for most driving conditions. When a sudden burst of acceleration or an overtake needs to be performed, the motor responds better to partial throttle inputs than flooring the accelerator pedal. Furthermore, for steep inclinations, this CVT also has the 'L' option to dish out more torque at the lower rev band.

When it comes to the diesel sibling with a 5-speed manual gearbox, this one also benefits with a lot less engine noise (like the CVT) than the earlier diesel Amaze. It has a lot of grunt that’s usable from lower down in the rev band, which in turn almost nullifies the effects of the turbo lag. A strong surge in performance can be seen from as low as 1500rpm after which the tacho needle races steadily to the 4200rpm redline.

Thanks to so much torque at hand, driving it in any condition is a breeze. In fact you don’t really need to downshift to carry out a quick overtake, and most of the time you just have to enthusiastically depress the throttle to ride the wave of torque in the same gear. And while we’re talking about gears in the diesel Amaze, the shifting action is slightly rubbery and the clutch pedal is heavier than the petrol Amaze. The latter simply spoilt us with a slick gear shifting action and a light clutch.

Honda’s new Amaze is 17kg lighter than the outgoing model despite the 65mm increment in wheelbase, and the increase in front and rear track. And it’s all down to the high tensile steel being used. While the suspension geometry has been changed, some suspension bits have also been strengthened for better ride and handling characteristics. And this shined through while driving the new car. 

The ride on the new Amaze is comfortable. The well-judged dampers absorb most bumps with ease and it is only over the harsh ones that the suspension noise thuds through into the cabin. The suspension setup is quite absorbent regardless of whether you’re crawling in the city or doing highway speeds. But it is on the softer side which also results in some amount of up and down motion when you pick up the pace.

We remember noise insulation (road noise) to be was one of the biggest concerns on the outgoing Amaze. Although it felt improved in the new car, we shall reserve our final judgement after driving it on concrete roads, since we mostly drove on tarmac in Bangalore. When it comes to the steering, it had a progressive feel which in turn suffices for regular city and highway manoeuvres. Although it isn’t particularly engaging while driving fast, we believe that it does the intended job well.

Should I buy one?

What marks the all new Honda Amaze down is the slightly rubbery diesel gearshift, a tad heavier clutch pedal (over the petrol), cramped rear head room for tall occupants. What helps the all-new Honda Amaze claw back into the segment are its desirable looks (pun intended), an updated feature list, a new platform with larger dimensions and a more sorted ride. 

The highlight is invariably its attractive looks and availability of the new CVT gearbox version on the diesel variant. The 2018 Amaze makes sense to those who are looking for a safe and spacious compact sedan that looks contemporary, is feature laden, easy to drive, and offers one the peace of mind involved in owning a Honda. We also feel that the price of the all new Honda Amaze will be crucial to its success, but we’ll just have to wait it out till mid-May to find out.

Where does it fit in?

The all-new Honda Amaze will sell alongside rivals such as the Maruti Dzire, Hyundai Xcent, Volkswagen Ameo and Ford’s Aspire. Looking at the drivetrain and transmission options on the new Amaze, Honda is definitely aiming at the Maruti Dzire since the latter comes with automatic options for both the petrol and diesel version. However, the Amaze automatic could end up being more expensive since a CVT transmission will cost more than an AMT gearbox.


Pictures: Kapil Angane


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Honda Amaze Price in India

CityOn-Road Prices
Kolkata₹ 6.6 Lakhs onwards
New Delhi₹ 6.63 Lakhs onwards
Bangalore₹ 7.08 Lakhs onwards
Mumbai₹ 6.84 Lakhs onwards
Chennai₹ 6.77 Lakhs onwards
Hyderabad₹ 6.9 Lakhs onwards
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