Author's note: I really appreciate all the advice everyone gave me on which Android smartphone to choose and welcome more opinions on the same. One of the more common replies I got was "Just choose one and go for it. The more you check things out, the more confused you will get." They are right, of course. And if you think choosing a mobile is taking me long, let me assure you... choosing my first car took the better part of eight months and even caused a company to cancel production of a car!


Chapter 1: The Criteria
The DDLJ garden pose!
When the need to get a car for everyday purposes finally overcame my willingness to compromise, there were a few things that were a priority to me when I started making my list.
1. A petrol engine: Irrespective of the sky-high rates petrol is going, the fact is that I would never be doing 40kms a day (or it's monthly equivalent) on a regular basis.
2. Mileage: It does matter.
3. Hatchback.
4. Ease of driving: More on this later.
5. Looks: I know it is subjective for all but then, have you see the new StingRay? Who designs such boxy models anymore?!
6. Not a Maruti: In 2011, if you had asked me, I would have blindly said 'Maruti only', citing the 'gazillion service centers-cheap parts-Indian' trinity. Somewhere down the line, my priorities changed. Exclusivity became a major factor.
7. Price: below 7 lakhs. But I was willing to compromise for quality.




Chapter 2: The Contestants
We are indeed blessed as compared to a decade ago in that we have over a dozen vehicles that actually fit that criteria, ranging from the Tata Nano on one end to the Skoda Fabia at the other end of the spectrum. Again, I realize everyone has their own individual opinions and choices so bear with me even if you disagree. 

  • Toyota Liva: Toyota, to me, made a major misstep here. They had the best chance to use their reputation and launch an awesome sauce hatchback in India. What they gave us instead was miles below their usual caliber. The dashboard parts are shoddy (even after re-doing it this year) and the petrol engine was one of the weakest I test-drove, struggling so bad I wanted to prescribe nebulisers and inhalers for it's breathlessness (sorry, that's doc talk). 
  • Volkswagon Polo: Loved the build and quality. Oh, these Germans. There was much to adore in the fit and finish. The engine was better than the Liva but not the best. The priority for boot space over rear leg room seemed a bit baffling for me but perhaps makes more sense for a country thinking of a 'two adults in front, two kids in back" concept. Still, it was definitely on my list.
  • Ford Figo: Much better than I expected, frankly. As with the previous two, the diesel engine was better than the petrol. Very affordable prices. He was very much, in the running to be chosen.
  • Hyundai i10/20: Did not really consider Hyundai because we have an i20 at home. 
  • Tata Nano: Well, I was in the showroom and one of the salesmen came over with a couple who wanted a test drive and led them straight to me. It took him a good thirty seconds of turning his key in my... 'let's say' pocket before he realised I just look suspiciously like a Tata Nano because of my belly and was not the test-drive car. Not a big Tata fan... poor after-sales service. Sad that Fiat chose them as their after-sales service partner. Ruled Fiat out instantly. 
  • Nissan Micra: I think the new one has improved over the older version I drove but I felt it was just okay, while driving. Nothing great.
  • Honda Jazz: This I coveted badly. I remember seeing it when I was a pg in Pune and thinking 'meh' because I was not that much of a car-freak. But once, I went through the sites, read and saw the reviews, it seemed like a total diva for me. The ultimate in luxury hatchbacks, the joy of Honda's unmatched petrol engine and looks that were unique. It would have meant compromising on price (7.52 on road) and mileage (decent, but not great.) And yet, I almost finalized on it. 

Chapter 3: The Twist     
Long-term followers of Godyears know that I and God have a wonderful relationship. 
I choose/decide something and God goes "Bwahahahahahahahahahahahaha No." If you were following the recent mobile debate, you would have known that I had been leaning slightly towards the HTC One. Of course, God noted it down in his 'Screw Roshan' register and well, HTC One disappeared from all online stores and even most of your regular mobile showrooms in India presently. Yes, I'm that good. You don't believe me?

Earlier this year, I had all but signed the papers on buying a Honda Jazz when Big G up in heaven noticed my desire. He did his inky-pinky-ponky-thingy and out of the blue, Honda announced to everyone's surprise that they were stopping production and sale of the Jazz altogether in India. The 'official' reason they gave was that they were focusing on the launch of Amaze in the coming months. But we all know it was me, don't we? 
Yes. I confess... I made the Japanese stop selling Honda Jazz and the Taiwanese stop selling HTC Ones in India. 

Chapter 4: The Surprise Winner.
With Jazz out of the reckoning, there was once more the small issue of finding a car to buy after eight months of reading reviews, debating with owners and watching videos. While visiting the Honda showroom in Kannur (big thumbs up to them for being so accommodating, courteous and nice), I did get a glimpse of the Brio as well. Unique design aside, I did like the build quality and dynamics and ended up asking for a test-drive. And that was when I truly fell in love with it. Two days later, I signed the papers for the newly configured top end model Honda Brio VX-MT and a long month later, the Brio came home.





Chapter 5: The Experience
So what was so cool about the Brio that got me enamoured when I had not even considered it the first time around? Well, it's the same factors that I mentioned at at the beginning and still talk about when people ask me even today. 


1. Petrol engine: Honda's 88bhp 1.2L i-VTec remains the best in the business. There is no sensation of struggling over slopes and inclinations. This was the same engine that Jazz had but now mated onto a much lighter body, you can imagine what it does to the overall peppiness of the vehicle. The engine is silent to the point of raising a doubt whether the car is actually running or not. Gear-shifts are buttery smooth too.



2. Mileage: The brochure claims 19.2 kmpl, I believe. 3000kms and a service later, I would say from experience that I get roughly 15-16kmpl in regular traffic and 17-18kmpl on the highway. Honda has an Eco-light feature which lights up when you are driving at your most fuel-efficient best. One morning, when I was in no particular hurry and had no cases for the day, I did take the car out onto the highway for a 50 km ride, aiming explicitly to keep that green light on as much as possible. When I was done, the indicator revealed that using the Eco-light as a guide had given me 21 kmpl. All of this with the A/C on, mind you (...yes, I'm a snob. Get over it.). Something to consider when you are not in a hurry to reach your destination. 



Seriously, does it not look like a toy?
3. Hatchback: On the outside, it looks like a small toy. It's smaller than most of it's rivals. But the difference is Honda knows to scoop out space on the inside. I've taken my family, fellow doctors and their kids along and all have commented on that aspect: the rear seat legroom is a lot more than they anticipated and they can relax and sit inside. The quality of materials used is what you expect from a brand like Honda (Toyota Liva, please note the point!). 

I love the electric blue shade. Stands out in a crowd.
4. Ease of driving: I'm not a regular driver and this is my first car. I want to openly and sincerely thank Honda for making me so much more comfortable and at ease while driving. The car is as good as an automatic, allowing for a leisurely ride with minimal gear-shifts necessary. I had chosen the new top-end model so I got all the required bells-and-whistles and also the rear defogger and driver-seat height adjust, two major complaints from the original version. For those wondering, quick acceleration does take a second more but you can literally feel the moment the engine kicks in and the car zooms ahead. Unlike other cars which seem to struggle or appear breathless, this car races ahead with an almost race-car like roar,which is so unlike it's normal silent demeanour.  Steering too is very responsive and allows for some wonderful maneuverability in tight angles. 

The glass boot is actually quite
sturdy in reality.
5. Exclusivity: Maruti produces and delivers nearly 15-17,000 Maruti Dzires' in one month ALONE. Honda, at their full production capacity of 10,000 cars a month of all their brands, sold 32,000 Brios last year. And while I do see a quite a few Brios in my hometown, driving off to other parts of Kerala reveal surprisingly few Brios along the way. Maruti, Hyundai and Tata truly rule the hatchback roost in our state at least. So if you are driving a Brio and see a blue Brio flashing its blinkers at you, take it for granted... that's me saying 'Hi five, Brio bro/gal/in-between.'

Other points to note:
  • Boot space: From experience, I would say two regular luggage bags and a laptop bag. Still, a 60:40 split of the rear seats like they did in the Jazz would have been wonderful.
  • Had planned to change the music system with the money I had saved but I now enjoy the one provided. There is no CD player, mind you, but that was never an issue for me. Please note: Unlike most USB ports which are horny men looking to pair up with any willing pen drive, my car's USB port was a demanding female who had a swayamwar of pen drives whom she rejected before finally accepting and singing for the Sandisk Cruze model. (I don't know if it is an anomaly or others with the same Honda music system faced it too. She would read the others but normal bumps on the road would cause her to stop. Can you imagine... she even turned down Batman!! I mean, who the hell turns down Batman???)

    Batman was not
    amused
  • Love the steering wheel - not just the audio controls - but the tactile feel itself. There are even contusions at 10 and 2 o clock where your thumbs would be while driving. 
  • I added the blue lights below the driver and passenger seats.They light up when the doors are opened. I like the effect it gives.
    Too much Blue!?! There's no
    such thing as too much Blue!!
  • Perfect car for city travel but was remarkably stable even at much higher speeds. No sense of wobbling or loss of control. Friends who have driven it too concur. 

That's it from my side. From Mangalore to Kochi, the car has already been places in its first hundred days and taken me along with it for the journey too, as a courtesy. It's an absolute pleasure for riding enthusiasts and newbies alike and will likely convert the latter towards the former group, if you give it a chance. 

On our first day out.


51 Comments

Kalpana Solsi said…
You know so much about vehicles . I can only recognise Maruti 800 and Nano and the rest are all cars to me who carry from one point to the other.
I'm so glad you're enjoying your Brio, Roshan. Do you always wear t-shirts to match? ;)
As much as I liked your old template, this one is much more user-friendly.
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karanth S R said…
Hey Congrats on ur new BLUE CAR :) Liked the Godyears' new look.
One more thing, pls let the world know, next time on wards whenever u r deciding on any brand of any product, so that those who are planning to buy that one will buy before it disappears from the market :(
Rohit said…
Wow! U just convinced me to get one nw! :)
Nisha said…
Brio guys would be proud of this review! Congratulations on the first car... it would always remain special :)
Rainbow Hues said…
That's a cool roundup! Thanks.

I like the new look of your blog
Wait a sec.. are you telling me that they let you back on the streets once again? Sigh.. so much for the safe streets of Kannur..
Dobby has no master!! Dobby is a free elf! Dobby can break the streetlamps of Kannur once more!!
Thanks.. as usual, lots of decision making in changing the look of the site :D
What to leave in, what to kick out.
Nisha, definitely will be. And I'm glad I chose one which I know atleast wont conk out on me.
Go for it ! You really cant go wrong with a Honda... or you can opt for a 2014 Honda Jazz... yes, they made sure I spent all my money and bought a car before announcing they were bringing it back.
Thanks.. glad you liked it.
Regarding my magical luck, I guess I forgot to mention my powers in the stock market too.
I kept my eye on a particular stock while it was zooming from 20 to 50Rs per share... everyone talked of 80, 100 and more. Today, thanks to my interest in it, the stock stands at 70 paise.
Yes... I really am that good.
In that particular instance, the words basically summed up my life story so... :)
True, the old template gave a blurry image in the main page for every post snippet and no matter what, I couldnt correct it. Went through dozens of templates before finally taking the basic one you see and just adding my own usual touches with headers, color schemes et al.
God knows how many times this template has changed over the years.
I was much the same till atleast 1.5 years ago. Did not even know most of the names. Did a proper bit by bit analysis while deciding what to get. That really changed it for me.
Rohan said…
Good review !! Even I feel like getting one brio now!!
Binu Thomas said…
Very elaborate review of Honda Brio. Brio was also on my shortlist last year. Then somehow budget increased ;) and I ended up with Swift Dzire..

Also, before you shortlist / decide to buy something, pls let us know about it. Atleast give us time to buy it before it goes off the market :P
Shilpa Garg said…
Wow! That's a comprehensive round up. Congratulations for your new car. I like the colour too!
Happy driving!
Anonymous said…
I love Brio ! I know nothing about mileage, performance and all that stuff but it is the cutest car ever. Everytime I see it on the road my heart skips a beat :P

If and when I buy my first car, this is going to be IT
jaish_vats said…
I am really really bad at cars. At the most what I notice is the color and I can't reallydistinguish between a Honda and a Toyota unless it's shape is extremely unique. That's a nice blue u got there. Happy driving
abdulla khaleel said…
buy a blaupunkt audio too.. and shade ur hair blue..
Yeah... I will blink as our paths cross. :D
Me said…
Wow..... lovely review... and btw just to let you I am planning to buy one this Diwali :P
I remember the picture...was it not on facebook? And I said something about matching tee? I LOLed at the part where the customer thought you were a Tata Nano :D :D hahahah
Anyway nice review...prospective buyers may be benefited !
As I told Karanth above, you should see my magic with the stock market.. have crashed stocks against all odds :)
I knew I didnt want a regular white/light grey shaded car.. so it really came down to the red and blue versions in the end.
Definitely go for it.. its really fun to drive. No hassles, no complaints till date. Have gone on some of Kerala's worst post-monsoon crater roads and done really well against my own expectations.
I was the same till less than 2 years ago.. did a whole thesis on them while hunting down the pros and cons of each
Actually had plans to change audio.. may do so in coming year but for now, am satisfied with this music system.
As for shading my hair.. what hair? Theres barely a few 100s more left. Let them die in peace! :(
Yay!! Pictures as soon as it arrives.. we are blogger buddies and Brio buddies too! We can look down on those lesser mortals who drive Tatas and Marutis and laugh at them arrogantly.. mwahahahaha!
:) yup same pic..
Do inform new buyers to read this if they're on the lookout for a cheriya vandi and are confused on what to buy? Atleast, they will learn to jot down their priorities and then choose their vehicle if nothing else :D
BK Chowla, said…
Times have cahnged.there was a time when Fiat used to cost Rs 11000 and the waiting periopd was 9 years.
Now,buying a car is part of shopping schedule
Anonymous said…
They have stopped production of Jazz? I always wanted to buy that as my second car.
Cant imagine that sir. Today, accessories alone for the car cost 11,000. Even a good music system costs that much and more.
Relax. 2014 Jazz is coming.. new look though. cHECK ONLINE pics...
Karanth S R said…
OMG :O secretly send a message to the MD of that company to shut down n start a new venture all together ;)
I'm scared to... if he finds out I was the cause for his flourishing company to collapse, he will spend what little paise he has left and get me beaten up !
Anita said…
Hi Roshan,

I came across your Brio review today and loved it – it’s really what a prospective buyer needs :-)

I've been researching cars these past two months as I plan to buy one in the next month. I loved the Honda Jazz ever since it came out – in fact, I loved it without knowing which model it was. I first saw it a year ago while driving by, and its sleek, refined design immediately struck me as different from all the other cars. I went home and looked up images on the net, and realized it was the Honda Jazz. Sadly, by the time I decided to buy my second car last month (my first was an Alto in 2005), the Jazz was out of production and the new one would be out only in February 2014. I have to say though, that I actually preferred the old design of the Jazz to the new one. Somehow, the lines of the new one just don’t draw me in, though I’m sure the new model will be an improvement over the old one.

I’m a researcher, like you, and when I’d gone through all the models you’ve mentioned, it came down to the new Swift and the new i20 for me – though I leaned towards the i20 for its features and looks. As of the last two days, the Brio looks like a contender too. I like the specs…my only concern is boot space (non-folding seats too – right?), size of the car and though I know many people find it ‘cute’), the rear – especially the bumper - looks angular and kind of flattened out and toy-like compared to the beautifully rounded curves of the rest of it.

Still, I would choose between the i20 and the Brio now.

You’ve mentioned you have an i20. I was wondering if you could help me out with your take on the i20 user experience? I like the way your review addresses a prospective buyer and doesn’t just focus on purported facts and figures like other reviews (which all read alike, as though taken from the same company manual). I know I might be encroaching on your time, so I’ll understand if you can’t do it, but if you could, I’d much appreciate it.

Best regards,
Anita

PS: Is that your beagle/basset hound in the picture? Adorable! :-)
Anita, I'll try to answer your queries as best as I can? If there are any further doubts, please feel free to ask.

First of all, I totally agree that the old look of JAZZ was more pleasing to the eye than the one which is coming out. Sad in many ways, but cant help it, I guess.

Regarding the points you asked:
1) Boot space: Brio has just adequate space for one big travel suitcase or two duffel bags and a laptop. Lack of non-folding seats was a missed opportunity for them, frankly. I would advice you to definitely not just take my word for it but inspect it yourself at the nearest Honda showroom so you know exactly what I mean.

2) Honestly, I'm quite huge as a person. Yet, I've never felt cramped for even a moment in the Brio. Its where they beat Swift and even the much larger VW Polo. The car is definitely smaller on the outside but inside, they've carved enough space so that even if the people in front are relaxing and sitting, those in the back wont feel their legs touching the seat in front of them. Sadly, Polo made a major error in that aspect.

3)REAR: Haha.. thats always going to be a point of debate. Whether you like the rear or not. I personally do. I prefer to think of it as a more futuristic design. One of the reasons I chose it was for the 'unique' aspect and I have not been disappointed.

The i20 is a darn good car in its own rights. the present models comes with literally all features and facilities and is relatively large for a hatchback. The drive (petrol) is better than most of its competition though I would still rate the Honda experience better. Servicing is actually just as expensive as Honda in my opinion (Either way, please ask for a bumper-to-bumper insurance. Most salesmen dont tell about it. 4-5k extra, but it ensures that should any accident occur, you only pay Rs1000 for full replacement. Your traditional insurance has a lot of loopholes and hidden clauses)

For me, the i20 was a decent city ride. It does not have the power of the Brio and can thus struggle at slightly higher speeds on the highway. Its mileage too was less compared to the Brio. But it is very spacious, much better bot space and very admirable suspension for our Indian roads. It does however cost atleast 1.3 lakh more than the Brio presently, comparing similar models. If price is not as much a factor, definitely I would say consider the i20 as well.
In the end, I believe you need to write down the factors that matter to you the most (like how I did at the start of this post - speed, boot space, comfort, audio, mileage.) From there, you can get a clearer idea.

And yes, thats a new beagle puppy we have at home... Snoopy ( http://www.godyears.net/2013/08/a-faithful-hint-of-citrus-and-coffee.html )
Anita said…
Hi Roshan,

First things first - your beagle Snoopy is A.D.O.R.A.B.L.E. :-)

Thanks so much for your take. I basically need a city car, but there are times when I will be taking the car out for long drives, and with luggage, so I guess boot size and handling are important factors for me. But I usually drive alone or with just one passenger, so I suppose I could always put a bit of luggage on the back seat. (The Brio rear - you're right, it's a love-it-or-hate-it thing. If I buy the car, maybe it'll grow on me.)

The insurance point is great advice, I'll keep it in mind, thanks. My budget is 6-7 lakhs (all-inclusive) so I guess that’s not so much of an issue. Audio is important, especially USB, because though I have an iPod, I usually transfer my ‘music of the day’ onto a flash drive and plug it in. A CD player is not important for me at all – I’ll probably never use it. The AC is important for me (and for everyone else in India) too :-)

I stand at the dizzy height of 5’3”, so I can’t imagine any car being too small for me :-) but leg space is always welcome for passenger comfort. That makes suspension important too, and I was wondering if that was good in the i20.

I’ll test drive both cars and then make a choice. Once again, Thank you so much for taking the time out to reply. Take care and have fun enjoying your new Brio :-)

Warm regards,
Anita

Unknown said…
thank you for the amazing review. I am planning to buy my first car as well soon. I love the brio but will only be able to afford the smt version. I have just learnt to drive and after a lot of begging and pleading I finally got to drive my dad's honda jazz. You literally cant tell if the engine is on. The gear changes are butter smooth and very forgiving. I am worried about the sheer silence of the engine though....hope one gets used to it quickly....I hope that Honda does something about the boot space or the folding seats. I am the proud owner of an htc one :) however let me make you feel better, the camera sucks in low light situations. but it doesnt bother me much because the screen is awesome!
Glad you liked the review.
The engine is easily the most silent one in India, as far as I know. But sadly, they did not do anything about the boot space and foldable seats after the first year while releasing the next variations in 2013. It would have honestly made the car perfect.
And yes, I did try out the HTC One in a showroom and loved the screen... simply a class apart from most others.
G@rry said…
Thanks forgreat review..
Teja Rao said…
we had a wagonR. We sold it few days back n planning to buy a new car within 4-5 lakhs of budget. So my dad liked wagonR much n he's planning to buy the same car (new model).. I personally liked brio so much. I suggested him that car but he said he needs comfort. And wagonR is much spacious than Brio. I didn't know how to convince him. But "Brio I love u".. This is one of the cutest cars I have ever seen.
wagon R is more spacious than Brio? I really doubt it.. I've travelled in both and even the Wagon R owners loved my Brio better. If you mean boot space, then also its probably only marginally better than the Brio.
A year on, I'm still enjoying the Brio.. no complaints or maintenance issues till date.
Naveena TR said…
I'm planning to buy Brio S MT (non ABS). Does Brio S MT come with optional ABS?
Thanks for your help
as far as I know, The Brio S MT does not have ABS. I'm not really sure if they have the feature of an optional ABS.
Anonymous said…
brio will outrun wagon r in every ways... except for the reason that wr is a tall boy car so geting in and out will be much more easier
Anonymous said…
no brio smt does not have an ABS option
Robin said…
Great write-up Roshan. I was googling Honda Brio + toy car and stumbled across your blog. Just like you, I am on the verge of buying my first car and have been debating New Swift vs Brio vs i20 Elite, wit h the Brio holding a bit of edge for me. Just that, a few friends mentioned the 'toylike' aspect, so was wondering whether that was a common complaint. I had even decided on the Electric Blue.
not really... appearing 'toylike' is a feature common to all hatchbacks owing to their sub 4 metre length. The car itself is an absolute delight