Honda Brio 1.2 V CVT review: Full of verve

2019 Honda Brio

With all the tech doodads built into cars these days, we sometimes forget that at its core, a car is a means to transport people or goods from Point A to Point B as simply and as easily as possible. I’ve tested cars with voice commands, handsfree features, infotainment systems that put our own home entertainment system to shame, and driver assist technologies that render drivers’ instincts almost useless.

Which is why it’s sometimes nice to be reminded about the basics—and that’s what happened when I tested the 2019 Honda Brio. Now, don’t get me wrong. The Brio isn’t a barebones car; it’s just that this subcompact hatch doesn’t have too many bells and whistles. What it is is a practical, comfortable ride that’s economical to drive and nice to look at at the same time.

The front looks more refined than the model it replaces. Its angular front-end and squarish headlights make it look like the front of the current-generation Mobilio. Overall, it’s an attractive small car with modern angles and charming proportions.

This second-generation Brio ditches the controversial large tailgate glass for a more conventional one. I wasn’t a fan of the first-gen’s flat all-glass tailgate, but it does have more character than the current model’s rear end. I’m still on the fence about this as of writing.

The current Brio comes with a 1.2-liter engine, a step down from the previous gen’s 1.3-liter mill. It’s also now mated to a CVT instead of a conventional auto gearbox. Producing 89hp and 110Nm, the engine seems such a letdown. But in real world scenarios (a.k.a. city traffic and crawling speeds), this is enough. It picks up speed pretty fast, at least until the needle reaches around 100kph, after which you can feel the engine struggle.

Even with a lead foot and driving in 20kph traffic, I got about 10.5kpL. In mixed city-highway routes with speeds between 20 and 60kph, I got about 14.2kpL. Do note, however, that most of the time, I was either driving solo or with just one passenger.

Ride quality is pretty good; the Brio manages our road imperfections quite well. The car is fun to drive and handles well. It’s also easy to park thanks to the big windows and low
beltline. I wish it had backup sensors though, at the least.


The Brio can accommodate five grown adults, although the three at the back might feel a bit cramped. Shoulder room is a bit tight, but surprisingly there’s ample head and knee room.

The cargo area is surprisingly big for a small car, accommodating up to 258 liters when the rear seats are up. You can expand that up to 710 liters when you fold down the rear seats. Note, however, that 60/40 split isn’t available so the whole rear bench folds down.

Honda Brio 1.2 V CVT specs

  • TRANSMISSION: Earth Dreams CVT
  • POWER: 89hp @ 6,000rpm
  • TORQUE: 110Nm @ 4,800rpm
  • BRAKES: ventilated disc front, drum rear
  • SUSPENSION: MacPherson strut with stabilizer front, torsion beam rear
  • TIRES: 175/65 R14
  • SAFETY: driver and front passenger airbags, ABS with EBD, immobilizer, G-Force control
  • DIMENSIONS: 3,900 x 1,680 x 1,485mm; 969kg
  • PRICE: P658,000

Speed Says

The 2019 Honda Brio 1.2 V CVT offers a fairly good feature set that’s enough for your everyday needs. It’s solidly built, fun to drive, comfortable, and economical—qualities that you should consider when you’re in the market for a practical daily car. 

Words Katrina Rivere-Diga
First published in Speed Magazine September 2019 issue

Read more: Honda Civic 1.8 E review: Refined sedan in sports car clothing


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