The Maruti Suzuki Dzire is the king of the sub-4m hill. There’s no arguing against that one really. Just look at their numbers and you’ll know. And it isn’t just the vastly improved third generation version we’re talking about. That has been the case right from the beginning of the sub-4m phenomenon. We had reckoned that Honda’s Brio-based Amaze would finally break that monopoly when it was launched in 2013 but sadly, the first generation of that product wasn’t what you wanted to write home about. Sure, it had some good bits and even some great bits but it didn’t excite. Neither the enthusiast, nor the consumer. So you wouldn’t be entirely in the wrong if you are feeling skeptical about the Honda Amaze preceded by the frequently abused “all-new” phrase.
Well, in this case pretty much everything except the engines. In its second generation avatar the Amaze is built on a spanking new platform. A platform that has ensured dimensional growth. So the new Amaze is longer and wider than its predecessor. Its wheelbase has grown by 65mm, to 2470mm, giving it the second longest wheelbase after the Ford Figo Aspire’s 2491mm. Body rigidity is improved, which equates to a potential for better dynamics, and the new platform offers better protection in front, rear and side impacts. Ground clearance is up by 5mm too, to 170mm from the earlier 165mm.
That of course is the biggest change, but that’s not all. As you can see from the photos the visual identity of the new Amaze bears absolutely no resemblance to the old car. While that may not be a bad thing because the old car didn’t really cut the most thrilling shape on the planet, fact remains the styling of the new car will split a living room straight down the middle. You love it or you hate it. There’s no middle ground. Honda’s upsizing the earlier 14-inchers of the old Amaze to new 15-inchers shod with 175/65 profile tyre suits the design quite well for they do a good job of filling up the wheel arches.
“The fact remains the styling of the new car will split a living room straight down the middle”
The interiors have been completely redone too, but the refresh is less radical to look at. The redesigned clocks actually look sporty and the large infotainment system with its piano black housing that dominates the clean dashboard suits it well. The seats are new too with new bolstering for better all round support but the cushioning is a tad too soft. What really stands out this time around though is how much Honda has improved quality levels. Nothing feels like it did in the old car. Here, everything is much much better.
Although the old Amaze wasn’t really short on space, this one feels even roomier. Which is great. More so, because Honda says this has been done without cutting down on boot space. The other thing that is new is the addition of Apple Car Play and Android Auto on that touchscreen, which is now actually responsive and visible even in bright sunlight. Not something we could say for the system on the old car. But perhaps the most significant thing is the addition of a CVT option, for the petrol as well as the diesel variant of the car. Yep, you heard right. For the first time ever, anywhere in the world, a diesel powered Honda gets a CVT.
What is not new are the two engine options. In case of the petrol, we continue with the tried and tested 1199cc four-cylinder SOHC with i-VTEC. That one puts out 88.7bhp and 110Nm of peak torque. The diesel option is the now familiar 1498cc four-cylinder turbo unit that puts out 98.6bhp and 200Nm on the manual and 78.9bhp and 160Nm of maximum twist on the CVT variant.
Both the petrol and the diesel feel sprightlier than before from the word go. Did I not tell you? The new platform also helps the Amaze lose some weight in its second generation. The gearbox has also been updated with a host of improvements. The end result is that sprightliness I just mentioned. On the twisty climb of the Nandi Hills (pretty much the only decent place to shoot in Bangalore), the diesel Amaze feels eager. It’s not exactly the stuff that will make you grin from ear to ear but will certainly make you smile. Even on the open highway, the diesel Amaze feels comfortable cruising at the now legal 100-120kmph. It’s still noisy but the amount that filters through to the cabin is significantly reduced. Wind and road noise is also significantly reduced in this generation. Again, a great thing because anyone who has used the old Amaze would know how noisy it used to be.
The petrol variant lacks the torque of the diesel, which, coupled with the lack of a bottom end, doesn’t feel peppy at first but it has a good mid range and top end. As a result once you get that 1.2-litre i-VTEC singing past the 3000rpm mark things get genuinely enjoyable for it is also a happy unit that doesn’t hesitate to rev all the way to its 6500rpm redline. However that lack of a bottom end might cause some bother when you need to crawl through traffic, which we thankfully didn’t have to courtesy Honda’s opting for a drive route that kept us away from Bangalore’s choc-a-bloc roads.
Although much was made of the CVT at the product presentation, it simply fails to excite. In the case of the diesel, power and torque are robbed to integrate the CVT with the torquey nature of a diesel engine. As a result the car loses that enjoyable peppiness. In the case of the petrol, there is no loss in peppiness but there is certainly one in the fuel economy department. In fact, the diesel CVT too is less economical than the manual. So the Amaze will have you pay a penalty if you opt for the convenience and the smoothness that the CVT offers.
In a way but not in the traditional sense of how the phrase is used at the evo India office. The new Amaze is certainly a better handler than the old one ever was and will not fail to put a smile on your face if you drive the correct variant (that would be the diesel manual). The steering, which has been redesigned and is now thicker, feels heavier than it used to be but more responsive. The extra millimetres in the wheelbase means greater stability on straights while the tauter chassis means you can throw it into corners a bit harder and she’ll still hold her line.
The suspension though is set up for a supple ride and you will notice a hint of wallowiness over undulating roads. Small price to pay for the excellent ride quality that the Amaze will offer all its occupants.
Seems like after years of products (barring the City of course) that didn’t really live up to people’s expectations of Honda, the Japanese auto giant finally has something that people will want to park in their garages. Prices will be out on May 16 when the vehicle is commercially launched and Honda would do well to put a competitive sticker on its latest baby. Be that as it may, the Dzire finally seems to have some real competition.