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The Honda Brio is on the sharp end of its segment

An engaging car for the budget-conscious

The Honda Brio has always been a fun-to-drive, economical small hatchback. PHOTO BY JASON DELA CRUZ

I’m constantly in touch with our managing editor through Facebook Messenger. We chat about cars—die-cast scale models, project cars, our favorite ones, and current cars that stir us, which can be stories on their own. The team coordinates with Sam as to what demo units are available so that we can plot schedules and articles.

He tells me that a German estate (aka wagon) is on the table, along with two crossovers. As much as the former is tempting, I won’t be able to maximize the experience. As for the other two demos, well, I’ve crossed them out for the time being.

I want something that’s nimble, something easy to toss around given the crazy volume of vehicles on the road. And it’s the Christmas rush. So this is what I have—the Honda Brio V.

The updated Brio is proof that designers need not to go overboard when refreshing a vehicle. PHOTOS BY JASON DELA CRUZ

I’m not too hot on the RS with the additional kit: more weight, more stuff to clean, and more expensive. The V is straightforward and has new six-spoke two-tone wheels.

The updated Brio has a more aggressive front end. The grille is bigger, resulting in a lower air intake and forcing a smaller gap between both elements. The headlights, too, have been restyled, with the DRLs on the upper edge, visually extending the chrome crossbar on the grille.

Weirdly enough, the fog lamps have been omitted. My demo is finished in Rally Red, adding some hotness to this hatch.

A simple, no-frills dashboard is all you need sometimes. PHOTO BY JASON DELA CRUZ

We at VISOR do love our music, however varied our tastes may be. That said, we appreciate a good sound system. Just before this Brio was launched, the team was chatting about the new Kenwood head unit, as pointed out by fellow writer Red Santiago, who’s big on audio. It sounds good even with the stock speakers, and is a welcome upgrade from the previous unit.

Ergonomic considerations with the interior reflect Honda’s knack for making fun-to-drive cars. The three-spoke steering wheel and the sporty-looking seats make it engaging, while things around are functional. This may be a mini hatchback with plastic bits in abundance, but the Brio doesn’t feel cheap.

The down-to-earth cabin is comfy and can fit five people. PHOTOS BY JASON DELA CRUZ

Over a two-week period in Manila, my wife and I divide the time: the first week in Ortigas, the second in Santa Rosa. Around the metro, the Brio is a wonderful urban companion—easy to maneuver, easy to park. Over the course of a few days, it yields 8km/L with moderate to heavy traffic.

Going out of the city for a vacation? No problem. PHOTOS BY JASON DELA CRUZ

As we head to the south, we take along a pair of full-size luggage. Folding the back seat does the trick, providing exact space for both side by side. We make the most of the space by resting our bags on the rear floor. While driving along SLEX, the Brio returns 13km/L with moderate traffic conditions.

True to Honda's ethos, this car is a joy to toss around on the twisties. PHOTOS BY JASON DELA CRUZ

Mechanical bits underneath are the same: the 1.2-liter four-cylinder i-VTEC motor with 88hp and 110Nm, paired with a CVT. It’s not the most rapid thing, but can be quite fun when pushed a bit more.

The wife and I have lunch with a couple of friends at an Italian restaurant along Aguinaldo Highway. While we could’ve easily taken CALAX and probably gotten there a few minutes earlier, I decide to take a familiar route with hilly and twisty pavement so I can play with the Brio.

Given its short wheelbase, the little hatch handles well; the steering has good feel; and the CVT manages to stay in the sweet spot during spirited moments.

If anything, the Honda Brio is a whole lot of fun to be had brand new for under a million. PHOTO BY JASON DELA CRUZ

“Is that car still under a million pesos?”

I get asked this question a few times while the car is in my possession. Can’t blame anyone for asking. Inflation is real. When this was launched in 2019, the V variant cost P646,000. It now goes for P827,000.

Considering that cars are so expensive these days, this Brio offers good value. If you want something more fun, there’s the manual in entry-level S trim. But the V with the CVT is the realistic choice with all that traffic in mind. It’s an honest car that adds fun to the daily routine.

Jason Dela Cruz

Jason is a veteran member of the motoring community, having worked as an automotive journalist and a car industry executive. He is now based in Cebu, where the car culture is vibrant.