Mumbai: Honda's first entry level mid-size sedan is here and marks the Japanese manufacturers' entry into the diesel segment in India. In a segment that is dominated by Maruti's Dzire, the Amaze promises to better the leader and bite into the major chunk of the entry sedan pie. We drove the production ready car in India and came back impressed.
Look at the car from front and one will think its a Brio since it shares the same front half with the hatchback. The only difference being a new front grille that houses a twin slat chrome grille and a fully body coloured bumper. From the side is where one will notice the car is entirely different. The three box sedan is under four metres and still manages to smartly incorporate a boot, it is stubby like in the Dzire but has been integrated well. The wheelbase has increased by 60mm over the Brio and hence the roof and rear door have also grown. The sharp shoulder line runs all the way from the front number to the rear door like in the Brio, however the Amaze gets another lower shoulder line that runs from the rear door to the tail lamp giving definition to the sides. The wraparound tail lamp looks more like the Honda City's arrow shot design from the side. At the back, the car looks like a smaller version of the City. The rear bumper is flat but has various lines running around it. A chrome strip runs across the boot and looks very similar to the Maruti Dzire. The petrol and diesel variants get different design alloy wheels. These are the only external differentiators apart from engine badging.
Inside, the car gets the same Brio dashboard and retains the black, beige and brown colour scheme. Fit and finish is good and the cabin is a nice place to be in. The seats are the same one-piece units as in the Brio but with a different fabric pattern. The biggest USP of the Amaze however is rear cabin space. Despite measuring under four metres, the maximum rear knee room is 930mm, exactly as much as the bigger Honda City. This makes it as spacious as a proper C-segment sedan. The floorboard is almost fully flat which means three adults at the back can be accommodated comfortably. There is also a centre armrest with two cup holders. All of this cabin space doesn't mean boot space is compromised. The Amaze's boot offers 400 litres of space, a shocking 85 litres more than the Dzire.
Since the diesel is the more important model, we drove the car first. The engine is a 1.5-litre i-DTEC unit with Earth Dreams Technology, Honda's new series of engines. The aluminium head is mounted to open deck aluminium block where the cylinder is kept cool by a continuous water jacket. The engine also features light weight pistons and connection rods. This along with other weight saving measures make the 1.5-litre. i-DTEC motor the lightest diesel engine in the country. As we mentioned after our first drive in Japan, the engine produces 100PS at 3600rpm and 200Nm of torque from as low as 1750rpm. Crank the engine and one is surprised that the engine is actually quite silent, as revs climb there is some engine note is seeping into the cabin despite the diesel variant getting more sound deadening material than the petrol. On the road, the engine is smooth and power delivery is linear with hardly an turbo lag. The gear ratios are well spread and the five-speed gearbox offers seamless and precise shifts. Cruising at triple digit speeds is effortless. Step on the throttle and there is a surge of power upwards of 3000rpm till the 4000rpm redline. We tested the car's acceleration and the car crossed the ton in 13.3seconds making it the quickest car in its class. Power hasn't eaten into efficiency, we couldn't test the car's mileage but the ARAI claimed figure is a shocking 25.8kmpl making the Amaze diesel the most fuel efficient car in the country.
The petrol variant shares its engine with the Brio, the 1.2-litre unit produces a similar 88PS at 6000rpm and 109Nm torque at 4500rpm.The engine is peppy and since the Amaze has gone up in weight by just 20 kilos, performance is very similar. We couldn't test the car but expect segment best performance from the petrol as well. The engine is mated to a 5-speed manual transmission or a 5-speed torque convertor (that will be available from launch). The manual box offers precise shifts and is a joy to use. The automatic unit offers quick shifts but just like the Brio, it takes some time to get the engine to spin after stepping down gears. The ARAI claimed figure for the manual and automatic variants are 18kmpl and 15.5kmpl respectively (down by 0.4kmpl and 1.0kmpl to the Brio).
As mentioned earlier, the wheelbase has been increased over the Brio by 60mm to 2405mm. The Brio is a good handler and its flickablilty remains high. The Amaze doesn't lose out on this nimble character, it features a similar MacPherson suspension up front and a H-type torsion beam at the rear. The petrol Amaze feels very similar to the Brio and is easy to drive in town, it feels much smaller than the competition and is effortless to drive around, the steering is quick and sharp and is a boon. Around corners there is body roll but it is never a problem, despite running skinny 175-section tyres mounted on 14-inch wheels, the car holds its line quite well and there is enough feedback from the steering. At 1060kg, the diesel Amaze is quite light but is still 110kilos heavier than the petrol variant. This increase in weight is apparent especially after driving the petrol car. It is slightly front heavy but it still handles quite well. It isn't the best handling car in its segment but feels rather neutral. Despite both cars being light, high speed stability isn't a problem, we tested the diesel up to 150kmph and the car maintained a steady line. The electric steering weighs up quite well too. The car even does a decent job when it comes to soaking up potholes, it isn't the best out there but still offers a good ride.
The Amaze will be available in three variants each for both petrol and diesel. The car comes fitted with a host of standard and comfort features, there are a few unique features like power folding mirrors, special heat deflecting windshield and standard ABS across all variants (competition please make note) while top variants also get dual-front airbags. In terms of pricing, expect the Amaze to be priced on par with the Maruti Dzire or slightly cheaper. This means the petrol model should start at a Mumbai ex- showroom price of Rs 5.3 lakh for the basic variant and Rs 6.5 lakh for the top end while the diesel model's price should range from Rs 6.3 to 7.5 lakh (all prices estimated). Competitive pricing, spacious interiors and best in class performance means the Amaze has all the right ingredients to become a winner. Competition watch out.
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