SUBCOMPACT cars will always have a spot in the evolving vehicle segment. No matter how the Crossover SUV segment dominates the industry, the small sedans and hatchbacks are here to stay and will never lose their preferential factor, at least for first-time car buyers.
After the recent launch of these updated models, Honda Cars Philippines Inc. (HCPI) hosted a ride-and-drive event for media members to experience the enhancements. But this time, it is more than the usual long drives with the integration of various technical exercises. These series of tests are to validate each of the vehicle’s strong points.
Tech and aesthetic enhancements
The New City’s main highlight is the inclusion of the brand’s proprietary Honda Sensing as a standard feature. Developed under the grand concept of “Ambitious Sedan,” the top-spec RS receives newly crafted RS-exclusive add-ons (redesigned front grille and front/rear bumper with carbon-wrapped lower molding). The LED Daytime Running Lights and Fog Lights are also standard. The flank’s sharp horizontal character lines inspired by the Katana Blade in Motion now have a new Side Sill Garnish (exclusive to the RS). Of course, the newly designed sporty 16-inch Alloy wheels.
The New City highlights a premium, functional, and spacious cabin inside. The better visibility is courtesy of the updated windshield shape, minimizing blind spots. New accents are Dark Red front panel garnish, high gloss black interior (RS), and high gloss black front panel garnish/silver interior (V). There is also a new 4.2 Full Color TFT Meter with Red Ambient Light Instrument Cluster (RS) and a 4.2 Full Color TFT Meter with white and green Ambient Light for the rest of the variants. The eight-inch Advanced Touchscreen Display Audio (RS, V, and S) now has an improved LCD, better reverse camera resolution, and wireless connectivity for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (RS, V, and S).
The New Brio has a newly designed Piano Black RS Front Grille featuring a new design pattern with a bigger opening. It is complemented with All-LED Headlights (RS), freshly updated Fog Lights and newly designed Fog Light Garnish (RS), Daytime Running Lights (RS and V variants), RS-design Side Sill Lower Garnish, a Tailgate Spoiler, RS-design Rear Bumper Lower Garnish and Tail Lights. More so, the updated 15-inch RS Design Alloy Wheels (RS), 14-inch Alloy Wheels (V), and 14-inch Steel with Cover Wheels (S).
Inside, the hatchback features Black Fabric Seats with Red Accents for RS variants. The improved and standard seven-inch Capacitive Touchscreen Audio has new audio controls with illumination (RS and V) with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, Bluetooth, Android Smartphone Mirroring, and six-speaker audio setup (inclusive of additional two tweeters for the RS variants, and 4-speaker audio set up for V and S).
Both updated models retained their respective powertrains. With its tried-and-tested 1.5-liter DOHC i-VTEC with Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), the New City generates 119hp and 145 N-m of torque. Then, the New Brio with its 1.2 liter 4-cylinder SOHC i-VTEC engine generating 89hp and 119N-m of torque mated to a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) and a five-speed M/T option (1.2 S MT Variant).
Technical tests superiority
The participants did a series of technical driving exercises on the asphalt grounds of the Batangas Racing Circuit. The circuit laps for both models incorporated the element of fuel economy to make the test more engaging and, ultimately, safer. Cruising speeds were maintained even without braking when entering tight turns by not pushing the throttle to achieve the ideal speed and theoretical fuel consumption reading. These methods showcased both vehicles’ impressive agility by simply operating the steering correctly while following the markers.
The New City was also tested for its ability to maintain stability and control even when doing sudden braking on slippery surfaces. But the most compelling test done was the notorious “Moose test.” Accelerating to a cruising speed, a sudden evasive maneuver was done without applying brakes. Impressively, the vehicle retained control when the expert driver attempted to counter-steer back to the original path.
To demonstrate the New Brio’s outstanding agility, a Gymkhana test was done where each participant went through the course design with cone markers to mimic numerous and alternating tight turns. Even in stock form, the New Brio performed well. All the drivers needed to do was to accelerate, brake, and steer correctly.
Fun to drive
The long stretches of freeways are where the New City’s Honda Sensing function shines. Like any Honda model equipped with the brand’s driver assist functions, the long drive was more relaxed and compellingly safer like how Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Low-Speed Follow (LSF) actively kept the pace based on the vehicle upfront, picking up and slowing down by applying brakes to keep a safe distance. The system also works well with Lead Car Departure Notification System (LCDN).
As expected, the Lane Keeping Assist (LKAS) actively senses and works during lane changes and even on long bends with visible lanes. As for the Road Departure Mitigation (RDM) with Lane Departure Warning (LDW), it actively applied slight resistance and movement during lane changes without using the turn signals, almost like a constant reminder. Of course, the Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS) was always active in flashing warnings on the screen for collision alerts.
As for the New Brio, considering its small engine, overtaking slower vehicles while hauling three adults plus cargo may be a hurdle, but shifting to Sport mode aided the motor in retaining higher revs for more torque. Providing more allowance for momentum was necessary. On tight turns is where the Brio’s nimble frame shines as the vehicle maneuvered well in great form and control. Good steering feedback made every entry to and exit from tight turns easier.
Reaching the beach resort destination in San Juan, Batangas, feeling relaxed was not surprising. Because onboard, whether the New City or the New Brio, space for three adult occupants was never an issue. Long drives with these subcompact models are really comfy, fun, and safe.
Image credits: Randy S. Peregrino