SOMERSET WEST, Cape Town – Neatly poised to answer the call from both a cash-strapped South African buying public as well as this market’s ever-growing fleet requirements (including services like Uber), Honda SA is looking to build on the steady momentum created by the first-generation Brio Amaze Sedan (launched in 2013) with the introduction of its new, second-generation model.
Interestingly, with the deletion of the Brio name from the sedan’s tailgate, it also seems likely Honda’s popular small hatch is destined for deletion from local price lists from the middle of 2019, with the second-generation five-door Brio not earmarked for our market.
As curious as this decision seems, it places even greater pressure on the new Amaze to make up the numbers in terms of Honda’s significant presence within the local affordable motoring scene.
Built on an all-new platform, the new car is both larger and lighter (17 kg) than the model it replaces, with a 65 mm longer wheelbase and wider wheel tracks, front and rear. With these increased dimensions comes a 20-litre increase in claimed luggage capacity.
While both trim levels (Trend and Comfort) offer smart looking 15-inch alloy wheels as standard, the higher-spec model is distinguishable thanks to colour-coded door handles and side-mirror caps. Also available (though pricing has yet to be confirmed) are a Chrome Package and a Utility Package, with the first adding yet more chrome highlights and the second bringing added body protection to the already fairly distinct exterior styling.
While price-specific hard plastics abound within the new interior, there remains a welcome sense of solidity to each appointment, something of which Honda is rightly proud. The standard features list across the range includes a Bluetooth-enabled audio system, a multifunction steering wheel, electric windows and air conditioning (upgraded to climate control in Comfort spec). Clearly targeting the fleet market, Honda will also custom-fit a set of leather seat covers at no additional cost should the customer seek a suitably more upmarket look and feel to the Amaze’s interior.
Powered by a naturally aspirated 1,2-litre engine, the Amaze makes the most of its sub-1000 kg frame to offer a pleasing combination of keen performance and impressive efficiency. Mated with the five-speed manual transmission, I was able to realise an indicated 5,4 L/100 km over the Western Cape-based test route, each cog-swap completed via a lightweight clutch pedal and precise shift action. I suspect this figure will increase slightly in the range-topping CVT model, with the generally smooth workings of this transmission easily ruffled under hard (read: keeping up with traffic) acceleration.
Impressive levels of interior comfort (front and rear) aside, one of the highlights of the new Honda Amaze package is its well considered ride quality. Not a car you’ll likely associate with hard cornering (depending on how deep into his shift your Uber driver is), the Indian-built (but Thailand-developed) Amaze’s suspension offers decent levels of body control through corners and segment-leading compliance over even patchy road surfaces. If the electric power-assisted steering is particularly light in all conditions, it nevertheless helps the new Amaze feel both light on its feet and easily manoeuvrable, especially around town.
Adding peace of mind to the Amaze package is standard ABS-assisted braking (with EBD) as well as front airbags and Isofix child-seat anchorage points.
Comfortable, spacious, efficient and, by all accounts reliable, Honda South Africa has high hopes the new Amaze will not only carry the baton in what is proving to be an ever-important segment (including fleet, first-time and downsizing buyers), but also to fill the gap that will be left once the final order of Brio hatchbacks has been accounted for.
Complete with Honda’s latest family face, there’s both a welcome back-to-basics honesty (it does exactly what it says on the tin) associated the new Amaze package that should endear it to a South African public growing increasingly weary of false promises.
Look out for a road test of the new Honda Amaze 1,2 Comfort in the December issue of CAR magazine.