Finally out in the real world for a drive with Honda's Amaze and style, space, dynamics and the best fuel efficiency in the business are there for the taking says Adil Jal Darukhanawala after hitting the roads in both petrol and diesel-engined versions of Honda's smallest saloon
There is quite a buzz as we enter the large conference hall in one of the major 5-star hotels in Goa on a balmy March evening. Scurrying around are familiar faces from Honda Cars India Ltd. But this time round you also see a great deal of new Japanese faces as well, already organized and sitting in time honoured Land of the Rising Sun officiousness. That it was time for business was a fact clearly underlined but more importantly this was also the strongest sign of a new commitment to India. Woven into this though was the basic premise of Honda wanting to go back to doing what it knows best – delighting users and what better way to do that than to just go ahead and Amaze its legion of diehard users as well as would be buyers with a sub-four-metre saloon offered with a choice of petrol and diesel propulsion!
Ever since Honda committed itself to doing diesel some three and a half years ago, the first signs of its oil burning desire to impress key markets in Europe and Asia have just started bearing fruit. Under its Earth Dreams Technology we have already seen the exquisite 1.6-litre i-DTEC engine powering the European Honda Civic to a warm reception and it is this engine which is the bedrock of all small diesel engine development from Honda for Asia as well.
Given the fact that our babucracy has signed off on the 1.5-litre capacity limit for diesel engines to qualify for the tax-buster slab, Honda had no option but to play within the very same 1.6-litre i-DTEC architecture by tweaking the cylinder dimensions but then with the base unit already very innovative and tech-rich, the end result is nothing short of stunning. For everyday use that is, and not for those who want a Honda in the original City mode of the late 1990s – civilized fire-breather and what not! Given that this is Honda at its mass-market best, the new Brio-based saloon is probably the most serious offering from Japan Inc in quite awhile!
From our first three-lap steady-speed run on a small road course on the Motegi Twin Ring circuit in Japan late last year to a full-fledged first drive in real world Indian conditions, much has become apparent, the Amaze with diesel power is now into full series production and the specs have been frozen to a price and performance proposition which I am happy to state ticks near almost all boxes on the desirability list of a punter seeking a car in this cut-throat segment where the Suzuki Swift D’Zire is cock of the coop!
Pardon me if I haven’t brought in the 1.2-litre petrol-engine in - as yet - but obviously Honda and diesel is the undoubted big story here. We had already revealed much of the technology in our detailed report featured in our December 2012 issue but to that we have new information where some of the secrets of the all-aluminium diesel and its best-in-class performance can now be marvelled at!
Honda has gone many an extra mile to not just help the Amaze allow it to impress on paper but also over its entire operating lifecycle. The DOHC 16-valve engine displaces 1,498cc and features cylinder dimensions measuring 76.0 x 82.5mm. This small bore, large stroke combination has been the best bet to eke out the gains with Indian diesel fuel quality as also the dusty operating environs but there is more to the engine than just this.
Apart from the lightweight (courtesy of the aluminium alloy block and head) and high strength (by design given its open deck engine block config and also a lightweight crankshaft), Honda engineers have incorporated all the friction busting techniques at their disposal making it earn its living by delivering strong torque across the rev range. A striking detail among this is an all-new engine oil formulation, devised in conjunction with its lubrication partner Idemitsu. This is an ultra low viscosity oil which not only helps keep the i-DTEC mill in operating cleanly (from a combustion and emissions perspective) but also helps enhance efficiency as well as engine durability without sapping power when needed.
Given the fact that the 1.6-litre i-DTEC mother unit as used in the European Civic is good for 120 PS and 300Nm of torque, albeit using more electronic tech aids and a different turbocharger, this 1.5-litre i-DTEC for India (and Asia might we add) has been rated at 100PS (at 3600rpm) and it whips up 200Nm of torque at 1750rpm (twice that produced by the 1.2-litre petrol engine we might add).
By and large there is nothing revolutionary about the entire common rail direct injection system but just thorough Japanese methodology wrought in at every nook and cranny to demystify technology in its simplest essence and the payback to the owner-user is huge. Driveability is great which is just what this category of automobile thrives on and while it won’t be the one to win traffic light Grand Prix races with, it is surely the one for all (young impresarios to the level headed stoic types) to flaunt with its strong returns where it pleases – in the fuel efficiency game!