I hadn’t given the Honda Amaze much thought just yet. We don’t see as many of them on the road as the Swift Desire or the Verito. Maybe because the Amaze was launched just this year. Honda had finally added a diesel horse to its Indian stable and that created quite a buzz. But as I said, I hadn’t formulated an opinion about it. That was until I drove one.
Honda invited a few of us auto enthusiasts and Twitter addicts to drive their Brio and Amaze from Navi Mumbai to Aamby Valley City, Lonavla, and back. You don’t get such opportunities often and so sane people don’t decline. Well, I’d like to think I’m sane.
|Honda Amaze VX|
I had never driven the car nor had I been inside Aamby Valley. This event would let me do both. I got to drive the highest variant of the Amaze – the VX (petrol) both ways. The 1st thing that struck me on getting in was the air conditioning. It was so powerful that I leaked more water than I drank during the day. In fact, as evening settled in, my friend sitting at the back asked us to turn the A/c off. And mind you he’s the guy who complains why rickshaws don’t have air conditioning. That speaks volumes for Amaze’s in-car cooling. It’s especially useful in India where the summer is boiling hot and winter is just a word. As you start driving, you notice how nimble the car is. As one who drives compact hatchbacks (Santro, Polo and Swift), I thought I would have to be careful lugging a car with a boot around. But you don’t feel the weight of the boot or the extended wheelbase at all. It didn’t strike me until the end of the day that I had been driving a sedan effortlessly. The bootspace and rear leg room in the Amaze borders on levels of 'obscene'. The tallest and widest of people can sit comfortably. And you can load 2-3 dead bodies in the boot and still have space for luggage. Of course, smoothness doesn’t need a mention. That’s expected from Honda; Honda and refinement are synonymous.
|Amaze-ing bootspace! Don't you agree?|
As we hit the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, the 1.2 litre powered Honda finally got to stretch her legs. There we got to experience how planted the car is. It isn’t often that you average 130 kmph in an entry level sedan packed with 5 people and camera equipment. The expressway has a many fast sweeping bends, which the Amaze lapped up with Amaze-ing stability. I didn’t have to lift my foot off the gas. Plus the car did a top whack of 145. Bet she would’ve gone faster if the load was lesser.
Once we reached Lonavla, I got my wish. The camera crew got off. No more camera, no more restrictions... just the Amaze, my friend and me. I’ve always loved the road from Bushi dam to Aamby Valley because it’s filled with twists, turns and slopes. You get to test the limits of a car/bike (or yourself). And the Amaze didn’t disappoint in handling. The front end entered every corner with confidence and the car went exactly where she was directed. The ABS offered one of the best feels while braking, allowing me to complete turns shuffling between the brake and throttle. We also took the car off-road a little, and she was fine there too. The McPherson struts and Torsion beams hauled the 965 kg vehicle decently over stones and gravel. The height adjustment option of the driver’s seat was a blessing at this time, giving me more visibility of the road (or gravel). Priced between 6-8 lakhs on road Mumbai, this is the perfect entry level sedan. It has everything a family can want.
The only drawback of the vehicle is the sluggishness while accelerating. The car takes a few moments to gain momentum, as if the engine has a turbocharger with some lag. Lifting off from the 2nd gear is difficult; you have to use the 1st gear if you’re standing still. The people at Honda say this is a rev happy vehicle, and she did sound throaty at high revs in lower gears. But you wouldn’t want to push the car to 6k revs in the 2nd gear. Plus, like the Honda Civic (which, sadly, Honda doesn’t plan on bringing back soon), the gear lever feels woody. Not like the Hyundais or the VWs. But I guess that’s trademark Honda by now.
We had a great time at Aamby Valley. The city is a township in itself. Beautiful roads, plantations, houses similar to those in Bali and auditoriums... but that’s a different point altogether. We were given a presentation on some ‘Wow’ aspects of the Brio and the Amaze. It’s amazing to know that while the Brio is more spacious than the Maruti Alto, it has a shorter wheelbase. The management of Honda were patient in answering all our questions. Lunch was great too, contrary to mediocre food dished out at most events. And then there were the events. The slalom course challenge in the Brio and Filled Tumbler challenge in the Amaze. Glad to say that yours truly won the Filled Tumbler challenge, spilling a mere 100 ml of water while driving through the cones. The event was perfect. Hats off to Anmol, Songita, Diwakar, Subesh and Shweta from Bloggers’ Mind and to others for organizing an awesome event. The challenges were designed around the strengths of the cars. It was an event focussed on showcasing the abilities of the car instead of just creating hype. It was great to meet and interact with Shivani san, Shakeel san, Siddharth san, Sen san, Aneesh san and others from Honda. They were warm, approachable and hospitable. As the saying goes “You meet the nicest people in (a) Honda.”