The company’s operations have returned back to normal and production has limped back up since. However, there has been one other deficiency in Honda’s portfolio in India – a very key ingredient for success in today’s skewed market scenario. And, that is a diesel engine in its most vital models.
Honda has always meant petrol for Indian car buyers and that hasn’t stopped them from buying cars such as the CR-V or the Accord. But with the overwhelming majority of small car buyers now choosing diesel over petrol and Honda increasingly relying on its hatches for volumes, a diesel engine in its grasp is being sorely missed.Find best offers on Amaze
Honda has had large diesel engines in its European line-up and its i-CTDi and i-DTEC engines have been around for sometime. With a plan of catering to markets like India, Honda had earlier this year showcased a small 1.6-litre diesel engine. Finally, a slightly smaller (1.5-litre) version of this diesel engine will make it to the Indian market shoehorned into the bonnet of the ‘Amaze’ – the sedan version of the Brio hatch.
That said, the new Amaze is now on offer with a CVT transmission, only for the petrol version though, a segment first. A facelift usually results in a younger, more appealing looking car, and of late it also includes the addition of newer features and technology. The Amaze gets exactly that. With competitors like the Maruti Suzuki Dzire and Ford Figo Aspire offering more bang for the buck, the Amaze was beginning to feel a bit dated inside out. So it gets a revised front end including a new grille and bumper, and redesigned tail lights at the back. The grille gets more chrome, like the other newer Hondas, especially the Mobilio, extending all the way to the headlights on either side. The bumper is now more muscular thanks to what look like flared nostrils at either end to house the fog lamps. The tail lights look a lot more attractive too, thanks to the new design.
The Honda Amaze gets a major change on the inside. It gets an all new glossy black dashboard with centre console resembling the Honda City. This new dashboard gives the car a premium feel. Now, there is a new in-dash music system layout and even climate control too. A new instrument cluster too has been added to the Amaze., however the same steering wheel is retained. The new Amaze facelift comes with a similar set of features like integrated music system with bluetooth, steering mounted audio controls, dual airbags, ABS, climate control AC being some of them.
Where the Honda Amaze has an advantage over the competition, it is the rear seat space. The rear seat knee room and head room are one of the best in its segment. The Amaze with its 400 litres of boot space is one of the largest in its segment. The Amaze is a practical compact sedan and this is what works in its favour.
We’re familiar with the 1.2-litre i-VTEC motor, having driven it extensively in the Brio and the Jazz. Like all modern Honda petrol engines, it is near-silent at idle and has good overall refinement. Like the Brio, it’s available with either a five-speed manual gearbox or a five-speed automatic.
The performance is similar too. Responses low down are great (better still with the automatic and its torque converter push) and it gets off the line eagerly. Unfortunately, it is let down by a weak mid-range, and you will find yourself shifting down every time you want to pick up the pace. This can be very annoying when you’re cruising on the highway, and here’s where you’ll really feel this engine’s lack of grunt. Its real strength is in its top end and it gets a second wind if you rev it beyond 4500rpm. However, here’s where things get quite noisy, and we can’t imagine too many Amaze owners will be gunning it to its redline in everyday driving. The five-speed manual is a delight to use – very light and accurate, with a compact lever and short throws. The clutch is light too, which should be helpful in traffic. The automatic gearbox is closely related to the one used in just about every automatic Honda car in India. Honda uses a CVT automatic for the Amaze (and the Brio) in Thailand, but has opted to use the five-speed torque converter in India to save on import costs. It’s a good thing they have, too, as this ’box works well with the 1.2-litre i-VTEC engine, with smooth and quick responses off the line. There’s a bit of a flat spot in the middle, however, amplified by the engine’s weak mid-range, so fluctuating your pace in stop-go traffic can result in some hesitation in the power delivery. Although the shifts themselves are quick and seamless, the gearbox doesn’t have the sharpest reactions to your throttle inputs. Punch your foot down to overtake and there’s a noticeable pause before it kicks down a gear, but once it does, it’s happy to let the engine soar all the way to its redline before shifting up.
Now, on to the 1.5 i-DTEC ‘Earth Dreams’ diesel engine, which has been derived from the larger 1.6 diesel that powers European Hondas. This made-for-India 1498cc motor is a state-of-the-art four-cylinder engine that features 16 valves and twin overhead camshafts. Honda has focussed on reducing friction and weight as far as possible, and to this effect, has worked with Idemitsu to develop a special low-friction oil just for this engine. Also, the block is all-aluminium, which reduces weight considerably, and the engine sits on liquid-filled mounts instead of standard rubber ones to minimise vibration.
Fire up this engine and what immediately becomes evident is that the great refinement that Honda cars are famous for is more down to its silent petrol engines. You will feel a shudder from the front of the car as the motor rumbles to life, before it settles down to a reasonably quiet idle. But the clatter starts as soon as you get off the line, and it never goes away. The vibrations can be felt in the pedals too. It’s like having a loud, chatty passenger in the car with you. This is a result of the engine block being made of aluminium rather than iron – the less dense material is nowhere near as good a sound and vibration insulator. It’s a bit of a sore point, but thankfully it’s the only one; in just about every other way, this engine is an absolute gem.
Set off, and you’ll notice there’s precious little turbo lag. That’s because Honda has tuned the engine and the fixed-geometry Honeywell turbocharger for better low-end response. Unlike the compact diesels we’ve become used to, it produces its power in a smooth, linear manner, rather than with a sudden burst, and it has a lot of elasticity for a diesel engine. Peak torque of 20.4kgm is produced at 1750rpm, but there’s plenty of shove right from about 1200rpm, and it pulls strongly to about 3800rpm. The power then gradually tails off till it hits a very conservative 4200rpm rev limit. In fact, this diesel engine doesn’t rev anywhere near as high as some of its competition and this is because Honda’s research has shown Indian drivers tend to upshift early. The Amaze managed an impressive 0-100kph time of 12.97sec, but we feel it could have been faster still if not for the rev lock Honda has installed in the interest of engine preservation (it will not rev past 2000rpm when the car is stationary).
The Amaze cruises quite well too, thanks to reasonably tall gearing, and the meaty torque spread makes light work of overtaking on highways. The only issue is that, even at cruising speeds, you can’t get away from the engine drone. At 120kph, the 1.5 diesel turns over at a vocal 2,800rpm
When you talk about ride quality, Honda cars usually have a good balance and the Amaze is no different. Honda has set up the suspension for a family car and hence the ride quality is good. The Amaze absorbs most of the craters in the road with ease without making the passengers uncomfortable. With a ground clearance of 165 mm, one would expect the Amaze to bottom out frequently, however this ‘Made for India’ car will truly surprise you. Yes, it did kiss its underbelly on a few occasions but it stayed clear more often than we would have imagined. Handling is predictive and the steering feels quite mannerly at high speeds. The Amaze is certainly not the sharpest car in its class, but it’s one which gives you a healthy dose of fun when driven on the limit.
With the launch of new rivals in the compact sedan segment, the Honda Amaze started looking old amongst the fresher lot that come with new styling and latest equipment. However, getting some drastic changes inside out, the Honda Amaze facelift now offers a much more appealing package that can fend off some of its competitors. The heavily revised interiors are a fresh breath of air but the only chink in its armour is the lack of rear parking sensors that are only available as an accessory. The updated front and rear profile get sleek design elements that give it a broader stance and makes the Amaze’s presence felt on the road. Honda has marginally increased the price but it’s worth the extra penny spent.