Small car, big heart: Honda Brio RS Black Top CVT 

Small car, big heart: Honda Brio RS Black Top CVT 

If you're thinking, "Wait, isn't this an old car?" upon seeing the small vehicle here, then you have every reason to think so. The Brio has been in the local Honda lineup for several years now, and as far as we can tell during this writing, the carmaker hasn't introduced any major updates to its littlest and most affordable hatchback. 

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • How much is the Honda Brio?

    Across its four variants, the Honda Brio retails from P650,000 to P808,000.
  • What is the price and key specs of the Honda Brio RS Black Top CVT?

    The Honda Brio RS Black Top CVT retails for P808,000. It is supplied with RS exterior details, such as 15-inch wheels and black grille.
  • But — and this is a big but — the Brio has lot going for it. The Brio remains relevant because of its one highlight ability, matched by many other compelling qualities that belie the car's age. Of course, you'll get to know these as you read our review on the Honda Brio RS Black Top CVT

    Pricing and key specs 

    Retailing for P808,000, the Honda Brio RS Black Top CVT we've tested sits on top of the three other variants of the Brio, whose prices range from P650,000 to P798,000. 

    The Brio RS Black Top gets its name from its gloss-black painted roof, which costs P10,000 extra over the Brio RS. The black-out roof is the only difference between the two Brio RS cars.

    Honda Brio RS

    Otherwise, the Brio RS models share Honda's RS design package that includes a gloss black grille with RS Emblem, 15-inch RS design alloy wheels, power folding side mirrors with signal light repeaters, and tailgate spoiler with LED third brake light. 

    Inside, the Brio RS cars get orange details in their dashboards and seats that liven up a predominately black cabin. 

    Honda Brio RS

    The Brio RS and the rest of the range get a seven-inch touchscreen audio that's equipped with Bluetooth and USB connectivity (except  for the base Brio S). A 1.2 liter four-cylinder engine and CVT is shared across the range, with the base model getting a five-speed manual. 

    Main competition 

    Given the Brio price range and the P808K-tag of the this Honda Brio RS Black Top, you do have to pay quite a big a coin for this small car. In terms of exterior size, the Brio is on par with the Kia Picanto, Mitsubishi Mirage, Suzuki Celerio, and Toyota Wigo, cars whose variants are about more or less P50,000 to P100,000 more affordable. 

    Exterior

    If you think the Brio RS looks familiar, then that's because the model shares many of its bits and pieces from the old Mobilio. The Brio's front end — especially the conjoined headlamps and grille — comes from the MPV, the front doors from the first-generation Brio, and the dashboard from the Mobilio-BR-V twins. 

    With these shared parts, Honda has saved costs in building the Brio, which, theoretically, should've lowered the retail price of the car. 

    Honda Brio RS

    But despite the cost-saving parts bin-sharing, the Brio's overall appearance hides this. Behind the RS accessories, you'll see the Brio's short hatchback rear and tall roofline that come across as cutesy, as well as the staid front end still that lends maturity to the look. It's this balance of cheekiness and classiness that makes the Brio stand out among its peers in terms of styling. 

    For the Brio RS, the look is made snazzier thanks to the aforementioned wheels and blacked-out bits. This Phoenix Orange paint job is exclusive to this Black Top variant, as is the bright Carnival Yellow color.  Other Brio variants get a set of silver 14-inch alloy wheels and a chrome grille. 

    Interior

    The Brio's manual aircon and other controls are easy to use, especially if you know your way inside a BR-V. What's also much appreciated is the Brio RS' orange details found in the dashboard, seats, and door panels. Seeing these is a breath of fresh air amid the sea of gray and silver that many cabins of today's cars feature. 

    But frankly, we think the weakest spot in the interior is its audio setup. The seven-inch touchscreen only supports Bluetooth and USB, while the sound coming from the four speakers and two tweeters up front isn't crisp. So, with the lack of phone mirroring, you'd have to make do with a phone mount and your phone for navigation needs. Some drivers would also note the absence of a push-start ignition as they twist the key to start the engine.

    Honda Brio RS Honda Brio RS What the Brio RS lacks in toys, though, it more than makes up for it with a spacious and relatively solid interior. Sitting at the front or rear of the Brio RS, and you'll be treated to decent amounts of leg- and headroom. Three people abreast at the rear will be short on shoulder room, though, but the unobtrusive wind and road noise that enters the cabin will make you think that you're inside a bigger vehicle. The Brio RS feels comparatively refined in its class. 

    The Brio RS' cargo room is decent, too, while the one-piece folding backrest of the rear bench opens up more room. 

    Driving impressions 

    The Honda Brio RS is small car with a big heart. Whereas its rivals are powered by smaller one-liter, three-cylinder engines, the Brio packs a 1.2-liter, four-cylinder engine with 90ps and 110Nm of torque under its hood. The Brio's engine make it feel more refined than its rivals, and almost as civilized as bigger vehicles. 

    Thanks to the four-cylinder engine's even weight, the Brio RS' engine doesn't shake about in the engine bay and send vibrations to the steering and gear shifter, as three-pot engines are wont to do. The Brio RS' bigger engine means it won't work as hard to maintain highway speeds, too. With its CVT, the Brio RS' maintained an 80 to 100kph cruise between 1,500 to 2,000 rpm. 

    Even at city speeds, this hatchback's engine continues to impress. Low-end torque still isn't a Honda mill's strength, but the 110Nm is enough to get the Brio RS swiftly up to speed. The laid-back nature of the engine is combined with another pro — excellent fuel economy. That quality alone already makes the Brio RS worth of consideration. 

    Honda Brio RS

    Under our watch, the Honda Brio RS achieved fuel economy figures ranging from 15 to 22.6kpl. This story tells how we reached those numbers in detail. 

    The hatchback's driving dynamics added to the fun of watching the fuel consumption readout. Steering could use more feel, but its lightness makes mincemeat of parking and diving into gaps in traffic. It also has responsiveness that makes sweeping bends a delight. Body roll and road imperfections are noticeable, though, but you have to remind yourself that this is a small car with a tall body.   

    Verdict 

    With a price tag well above its competitors, is the Honda Brio RS worth its price premium? If we're looking at the other Brio variants, the model's refinement and stellar fuel economy, Honda's entry is king among mini subcompact hatchbacks. The Brio RS, on the other hand, is better left to those willing to shell out more for style. 

    By offering a big-car feel brought by its ride quality and engine, the Brio goes against the segment's usual formula of offering small displacement engines and gadgets galore. The Brio's fuel-sipping nature, meanwhile, makes the car more relevant than ever. 

    Honda Brio RS

    Photos from Dylan Afuang

     

     

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