After driving the new Honda Amaze 2018, we can say that it is probably the most balanced package in its class
It was Tata Indigo that kick-started the sub-4 meter sedan segment in India and it did pretty well in the taxi segment, but it was Maruti Suzuki Dzire that made this segment popular among private car buyers. But despite the popularity, no manufacturer made a good looking sub-compact sedan since they were literally hatchbacks with sedan-like boot slapped on to them. So this segment can be credited for offering some of the ugliest-looking cars in the country. But it all changed in April 2013 with the launch of Honda Amaze. Though this too was a Brio with a sedan-like boot, Honda managed to make this car look well proportioned.
The car started off really well, as people finally had a worthy alternative to the Maruti Suzuki Dzire especially for the ones who didn’t want a ‘too-common’ car. It’s been over 5 years since its launch, and people now have better options available. And with Amaze’s sales coming to its lowest point, it was time to bring in its next-generation model that finally happened at the 2018 Delhi Auto Expo. The new Honda Amaze 2018 received quite an overwhelming response at the biennial show, and we recently got the opportunity to drive it in and around Bangalore to find out if it’s any better.
Let me first start with the design, which according to me is the biggest change of course besides the all-new platform. So when I first saw it at the 2018 Delhi Auto Expo, I found its design quite unusual it was the most boxy sedan I had ever seen. In fact when you’ll look at its front from sides, it has that SUV-ish stance and Honda probably has done it on purpose since people now prefer more masculine-looking vehicles. So it’s safe to say that it’s a polarising design, some will like it absolutely and some won’t. I initially didn’t like its front profile too much, but it started growing on me as I did spend some time with it. Read – Upcoming Maruti Suzuki Cars In India
At the front you have all-new halogen headlamps with LED daytime running lights, a City/Civic-like thick chrome strip, a sportier bumper with fog lamps positioned neatly. In short, the Honda Amaze 2018 now has the new family face. Though, I still feel that the projector headlamps would make the front look appear better. On the sides too, it looks pretty neat with a prominent straight character line that makes it look longer than it actually is. What’s also new is the 15-inch alloy wheels for the top V and VX trims, though the alloys look rather plain in comparison to some of its rivals. The door handles too are in body colour, and they feel rather nice to hold. Also See – Upcoming Honda Cars In India
While all may not like the car’s front, it genuinely has an appealing rear profile, thanks to those C-shaped tail-lamps and sportier bumper and nicely designed shark fin antenna. The tail-lamps are plain too, and you won’t get LED inserts in them like the Dzire offers. So overall, I think the Amaze looks a lot better than before and may not appeal everyone but to a majority of people.
The interior was the biggest let down of the previous-generation Honda Amaze, and I am happy to report that it now looks lot more up-market and at par with most of its rivals if not better. Though the black-beige dual-tone theme is the same as before, the dashboard gets an entirely new design with new chrome-surrounded AC vents which look similar to that of the new Honda CR-V’s. Though the plastic used in the cabin feels solid, it lacks the premium feel due to minimum use of soft touch materials. Having said that, it gets piano-black inserts on the dashboard, doors, and the newly-designed steering wheel that give it modern touch. The steering wheel feels good to hold and can be tilt-adjusted. Also see – New Honda Civic 2018 Price & Launch Details
The biggest highlight on the inside, however, is the new touchscreen infotainment system. It feels lot more responsive than even the Honda City’s unit and we didn’t find it laggy as well, after all it’s the Digipad 2.0. It also supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto along with mirror link. And it has built-in navigation too. Front seats too are completely different, and they feel lot more comfortable than before. They now have optimum cushioning, adequate thigh support and side bolstering, and the backrest angle too is pretty good. And unlike the previous-generation model, the front seats get adjustable headrest which I think was the much needed change. The driver-seat, in addition, can be height adjusted manually.
The rear seat of the new Honda Amaze 2018 is probably its biggest advantage over all of its rivals, it feels the most spacious car in its category – thanks to the increment made in the wheelbase and the overall length. Its wheelbase is now 65mm more than the previous model at 2470mm, and the car is 15mm wider too at 1695mm. And with Honda’s brilliant packaging, the Amaze in fact offers more space than the Hyundai Verna which is a segment above car. No matter what your height is, you have ample legroom and knee-room. The support for the thighs is also alright, though the headroom could have been slightly better especially for taller passengers. Three people can sit abreast pretty comfortably if they are average in build. And if two people are sitting they can also use the centre armrest that also has two cup holders, the armrest could have been wider though for two people to use it comfortably. Unavailability of the rear AC vents is another disadvantage that the Amaze has when compared to its rivals, but the Air-conditioning unit of the Amaze is probably the best-in-its segment. It’s in fact the same unit that is available on the Honda City. That means it has bigger compressor than before and it actually cools down the cabin pretty quickly.
When it comes to features, it’s a pretty loaded car. You get some modern-age features like Engine start-stop button, electrically-adjustable and foldable ORVMs, cruise control, steering-mounted control buttons, keyless entry, all four power windows, driver-side one touch up-down window among others. In terms of safety too, it’s a much better package now as from the entry-level variant, one gets driver & front passenger side airbags, anti-lock braking system (ABS) with electronic brake force distribution (EBD) and ISOFIX child seat mounts. The vehicle’s chassis now uses better steel material and even the outer shell uses better grade material which ensure that it can handle frontal (offset deformable barrier – 64-56kmph, flat barrier 50kmph) side (moving deformable barrier – 50kmph) and rear (moving barrier – 50kmph) collisions in a much better way. Read – New Honda CRV 7 -Seater SUV
Now is the time to talk about the most important bit – performance. And I share my opinion on how does it feel to drive, let me give you a brief on what all has changed under the hood. So it has received an all-new platform that’s lighter and stronger than before – thanks to the high-tensile steel used for it. Also, the front and rear treads have grown in size by 25mm and 17mm respectively and the suspension’s geometry is different (damper angles are different too). Now what difference the aforementioned changes have made, more on that later. Let me first make it clear that the engines are the same as before i.e. 1.2-litre i-VTEC petrol & 1.5-litre i-DTEC diesel. While the petrol engine produces the same 88bhp and 110Nm and is more or less similar to the previous one, it’s the diesel engine that has gone through some changes. Besides the change in the block design and head cover, Honda has also used an engine undercover among other changes to improve the overall insulation of the car for which it has faced a lot of criticism in the past. And you’ll feel the same as soon as you start the engine, it feels lot more silent at idle (read at par with most of its rivals) and even at low RPMs you’ll feel much less noise and vibrations inside the cabin. I won’t say it’s still as silent as probably the i20, but it surely is liveable and should not be a deal breaker for most.
There’s a diesel CVT automatic version too, and this combination is not just the first for Honda but even for the Indian automobile industry. But for this variant, Honda has detuned this engine. As against Amaze MT’s 99BHP and 200Nm, the Amaze CVT’s engine belts out 79bhp and 160Nm. And let me try and explain why they have done it (detuning). CVT transmission by nature is not known for handling high/healthy torque, and is the reason why we have so far seen it with petrol cars only. So to help the transmission handle the torque better across the rev-band, the only option was to detune it. Though the power output has certainly gone down, you won’t feel it under-power at any moment – thanks to pretty healthy torque (almost flat curve) right from the word go. And this not only makes it more enjoyable than its petrol CVT counterpart, it’s in fact better than most AMTs and torque converter-equipped diesel models. Sure it doesn’t have the paddle shifters, but as and when you feel like speeding up – just press the throttle and it responds pretty quickly.
I didn’t get the opportunity to drive the diesel manual, but I did spend some quality time with the petrol variants. The petrol version carries the same 1.2-litre naturally-aspirated i-VTEC engine which may not feel as peppy as Suzuki’s 1.2-litre K-series unit, but it surely is pretty refined. You’ll have no problem driving it around city roads with gentle throttle inputs, also you can actually drive it in the third gear at speeds as low as 20kmph. This means, you won’t have to frequently change gears. The mid-range performance too is alright if your purpose of buying this car is to have a refined & relaxed drive from point A to point B. So for the relaxed highway cruising, keep it around 3400-3500rpm at around 100-110kmh. So overall, the Amaze petrol manual version may not excite people who are expecting so much fun (BTW, petrol variants of most of its rivals are more or less same in overall characteristics) but to the ones who want an easy-to-drive refined vehicle.
And after driving the petrol version for good 50Kms, I drove its CVT variant which was there earlier as well. It’s the same CVT and gearbox combination that was offered on the previous generation model, and it behaves almost similar. This means it loves to be driven with light foot, and it will do alright. In case you feel like flooring the throttle, it would only become noisy and will still take its own sweet time to speed up – so be easy, it’s not a DSG gearbox. Having said that, it’s one of the smoothest gearbox in its class and you’ll have no problem driving at slow speeds or comfortable highway speeds. And the petrol variant also gets the paddle shifters unlike its diesel version, and that gives you a better control over the speeds especially in the case you want to overtake. For people not in the know, CVTs come with two pulleys (instead of gears) one of which is connected to the engine and the other one to the gearbox for transmitting power to the wheels. Since it doesn’t offer fixed rear ratios, it would allow the engine to run at optimum RPMs required for a certain speed. This makes them more fuel efficient than traditional torque-converter gearboxes.
Ride quality was always Honda Amaze’s strong point, and this has only become better. It now takes care of the undulations/rough patches like a boss and thus giving a comfortable ride experience to its occupants. Even at high speeds, the car felt much more composed and calm than the Dzire or the Xcent. Honda has achieved this with the help of new chassis with wider front & rear tread, revised suspension geometry and different damper angles. It’s probably the most balanced setup in its class, it’s optimum for both city and highway driving conditions. The steering too feels great in overall weight especially at highways, and it feels very communicative and engaging. The feedback is quite precise and unlike Hyundai’s steering wheels, you won’t feel it dead at any point. So be it the quick lane change or shape corners, you will feel confident.
Coming to the brakes, they are progressive in nature just like the previous model and the new model continues to feature disc brakes at the front and drums at the rear. But this time around ABS + EBD are standard across all trims, thus making it safer at times when you brake in panic situations.
Since design is simply a matter of personal taste, I leave it up to you. So I’ll give my verdict on the things that matter the most – interior and performance. The vehicle’s cabin feel upmarket and no other car in its class can offer you the kind of space the new Honda Amaze 2018 does. Having said that, the use of soft touch materials would have made it even better. The car also feels lot more refined than before and Honda has done a pretty good job by bringing the NVH down and the diesel CVT could be a game changer for them. So according to me, the new Honda Amaze 2018 is probably the most balanced package in its class.