Honda Amaze i-DTEC First drive

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BY
VIVEK VENUGOPAL

February 22

In many ways, this reminds me of the 2003 City. It wasn’t a car you’d buy for the looks, performance, handling or the fun factor normally associated with a Honda, but it sold like the morning daily. Everyone who thought with their head, had to have one and for a period, it defined the midsize car. This is one of those moments where the rule book will be rewritten, because the Amaze is not just a new car that takes the City’s old magic into smaller, more affordable package. Its trump card is the new diesel engine under the bonnet.

Although the City’s then radical looks were a design development, the Amaze’s upright shape is dictated by the current sub four metre small car legislation. At the front, the Amaze gets a twin slat chrome grille and body coloured fascia on the front bumper. It looks quirky from certain angles, but the boot is rather well integrated into the Brio. There are two distinct parallel character lines arising from the two ends of the car and fading into the rear door. The rear glass is rather upright but the boot looks larger than in most sub four metre sedans giving it a more balanced side profile.

Inside, it is a clever architecture utilizing vertical space in good measure to compensate for the lack of floor space. The expansive dashboard is the same as in the Brio, using decent quality materials but we do wish the design could have been better. Seating position at the front is also familiar with thin, contoured and highly supportive seats. The rear seat is also well formed with good support and adequate headroom. Cruciallly, the Amaze has more boot space (400L) and rear legroom than its immediate rival, the Swift DZire which takes a lot of space in the engine bay.

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The Amaze comes with two engines – a 1.2litre petrol and a 1.5litre diesel. The latter is the real reason why this drive was so important. It is Honda’s first ever diesel motor in India. This all aluminium 16v, DOHC engine at 152kg is the lightest in its class and has a number of friction reducing technologies in it, including a newly developed low viscosity synthetic oil. It develops 98bhp at3600rpm and 200Nm torque from 1750rpm and is mated to a new light weight 5-speed gearbox.

The engine doesn’t quite impress you at first with its refinement, the aluminium block not containing the vibrations as well as most cast iron units. Also, the hydraulic engine mounts do send a shudder up the chassis on start up and shut down, but these are about the only problems you can find with the Amaze. It pulls off the line cleanly and starts making its power from low revs. Power delivery is very linear unlike the 1.3Multijet which wakes up in one go after 1900rpm and this gives it the impression of a larger engine. The build up of power is quite progressive and acceleration is strong. This is not to the usual QM roadtest standards, but on a very hot day, we managed a quick 0-100 run in 12.8 seconds. Power tapers off at about 4000rpm in a very non Honda-ish way. However, there is absolutely no turbo lag and this makes it one of the best diesel cars to drive in stop and go traffic. Add to that a Honda claimed 25.8kmpl and we have a winner here.

The 1.2litre petrol is the same 87bhp, rev-happy 4cyl i-VTEC unit that made the Brio so likeable. It needs to be revved hard to get power out of, but once you get it spinning above 4000rpm, it’s a joy. Like the Brio, it also comes with the option of a five speed automatic, making it a very good city car.

Handling was one strong point of the Brio, but Amaze has its suspension tuned more for comfort. The new Torsion beam rear suspension is softer and ride quality is even better than the hatchback’s. The suspension irons out most potholes and even reacts well to the occasional unmarked speed bump that can take one by surprise. It is possible to carry a higher speed through broken patches, the relatively high profile tyres doing a fair bit of cushioning too. Where the Amaze falls short of the Brio is in the handling although this isn’t much cause of a concern for the target customers. There is less grip and the 175/65 R14 tyres now feel overwhelmed at the sight of a corner. The Amaze is 30kg heavier than the equivalent petrol model of the Brio and the diesel is about 110kg more. To compensate it has stiffer Mc.Phersons up front and wider 5.5J rims instead of the 5J rims on the petrol variant. The light steering coupled with the 4.5metre turning radius of the Amaze (4.7m for the AT and diesel) makes it a very nimble car in the city.

The Amaze is arguably one of the best sub 4 metre sedans there will be. It is a well thought out product that offers decent space and comfort within its tiny foot print. The boot is sufficiently large and rear legroom is adequate for most. The pretol offers the option of a slick manual and sensible automatic. The diesel takes the car to another level offering good performance and stellar fuel efficiency. We only wish it was more refined. Like a Honda should be.

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BY VIVEK VENUGOPAL

ASSISTANT FASHION EDITOR

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