First Drive: 2018 Honda Amaze

First Drive: 2018 Honda Amaze

The second-generation Honda Amaze has landed in SA to take on rivals like the Ford Figo, Suzuki Dzire and Toyota Etios in the budget small sedan market, in which all are trying to capitalise after the exit of the segment-leading VW Polo Vivo sedan.

Aimed at first-time buyers as well as empty-nesters, the India-built Amaze is based on the Brio five-door hatchback and is offered in three derivatives priced from R179 900 to R208 900.

The car has grown in length and wheelbase to offer expanded passenger room, and the little sedan is surprisingly spacious, offering comfortable space for four adults. It also has a handy 420-litre boot (which includes a full-size spare wheel).

Apart from the generous cabin space it provides, stretching the wheelbase by 65mm has given this compact Honda a relaxed ride quality that avoids the choppy feeling of some small cars, as I discovered when driving the Amaze at its media launch in Cape Town last week.

Ground clearance has been raised to a higher-than-average 170mm to better deal with rough gravel roads and steeply-angled driveways. The taller stance doesn’t seem to have a negative effect on handling and the ’lil Honda nips quite neatly through tight turns.

The work done to improve the car’s refinement also came to the fore, and the Amaze hummed along the Cape’s roads without sounding rowdy. Overall refinement and NVH has been improved substantially, thanks to enhanced sound proofing as well as optimised engine mounts.

Power, as with the previous car, is supplied by a 1.2-litre normally-aspirated petrol with Honda’s i-VTEC intelligent valve timing management system. It’s paired with the choice of either a five-speed manual or a continuously variable transmission (CVT), and drive is to the front wheels.

Outputs are modest at 66kW and 110Nm, but with a kerb mass of just more than 900kg the lightweight car has a decent power-to-weight ratio. At sea level it has nippy commuting performance, and the ability to cruise freeways without feeling underpowered or buzzy.

The three-pedalled version has a light clutch and a pleasantly slick feel to the manual gearshifter, and it would be my personal choice. However, the two-pedalled version isn’t as bad as some CVTs I’ve driven. In urban commuting it delivers a smooth, step-free power flow without the excessive “slipping-clutch” effect of some of its ilk, and it has programmed “virtual” gears the driver controls with steering wheel paddle shifters.

Honda quotes 0-100km/h acceleration figures 12.3 seconds for the manual and 13.5 seconds for the CVT, with a 160km/h top speed for both derivatives. Fuel economy is rated as 5.6l/100km for the manual and 5.7l for the auto, and the cars I drove were sipping around 6.3l according to their trip computers.

The Amaze is offered in two trim lines: the basic Trend and the better-equipped Comfort. Trend is fairly well stocked with items like aircon, tilt-adjustable multifunction steering wheel, a four-speaker audio system with Bluetooth connectivity, remote central locking, electric windows, and 15-inch alloy wheels. Safety is taken care of by dual front airbags, ABS brakes and Isofix child seat anchors.

The Comfort adds automatic aircon and electric adjustment of the exterior mirrors, as well as automatic door locking once the vehicle starts moving. – Denis Droppa

2018 Honda Amaze Pricing:

Honda Amaze 1.2 Trend manual: R179 900

Honda Amaze 1.2 Comfort manual: R193 900

Honda Amaze 1.2 Comfort CVT: R208 900

Prices include five-year/ 200 000km warranty, two-year/30 000km service plan and three-year AA Roadside Assistance package. Services are at 15 000km intervals.