Road testing cars is, broadly speaking, a matter of repeatability where the different cars are driven over the same roads in roughly the same weather conditions so, in addition to assessing all the other elements of build, fit, finish and the like, there is a benchmark against which to evaluate.
This repeatability can vary in intensity depending on the actual level of testing – from festooning cars with all manner of test equipment and measuring devices to my own, more gentle approach of reviewing the driving experience without the technical input.
The weather, however, does not always play ball and sometimes a car will find itself caught in the spotlight – the Honda Amaze being one of them.
Slightly gustier winds than usual during the test cycle brought into the focus the Amaze’s aversion to side winds, the car reacting quite strenuously to the breeze and requiring constant monitoring to keep it in a straight line.
Now, there may well be other cars we have tested that have escaped this specific notice because we ran those on a windless day – in which case, they simply got lucky.
However, let us go back to the beginning.
Honda elected – like Suzuki with the Dzire – to separate the hatchback that continues as the Brio by designing and building a new sedan from the ground up.
The new Amaze is only 5 mm longer and 15 mm wider than its predecessor, but the wheelbase has grown by a substantial 65 mm, which translates into shorter overhangs and more interior space. The new car sheds 40-60 kg due to the use of high tensile steel that is lighter yet stronger than conventional pressed steel panels.
Honda claims that the overall structure has been further strengthened, cross sections have been beefed up and crumple zones are stronger.
The front is dominated by Honda’s characteristic ‘solid wing’ appearance, which manifests itself in a broad bar extending across the width of the contrasting black honeycomb grille. It also provides a visual link to the bold halogen headlight clusters.
A lower air intake is framed by recessed, black-framed fog lamps in the case of Comfort models. A slim, colour-coded splitter below the air intake adds a sporty finishing touch.
Viewed from the side, the alloy wheels and tyres – 175/65 R15 – look just a tad small inside the sculpted wheel arch. At the rear the ‘C’-shaped tail-lamps give the car a mini-Civic look.
The Amaze’s all-new platform features an independent, McPherson strut-based front suspension, and a torsion beam rear set-up.
The Amaze is softly sprung and the travel range of the suspension is quite long. While this results in good bump absorption over broken roads, it has a tendency to ‘bob’ when the surface is rippled and, although ground clearance is rated at 170 mm, with a full load of passengers, the rear suspension compresses quite a bit.
Its steering has some weight to it and, while it remains consistent, it is not very precise. The turn-in is not as sharp as it could be and it does not feel agile or willing to change direction quickly. Understeer is noticed a fair bit when driven briskly. Body roll is on the higher side, again as a result of the softer suspension set-up.
Smart cloth upholstery is used to trim the contoured, supportive front seats and rear bench seat. Genuine Honda synthetic leather seat covers can be ordered as a no-cost option.
Gloss piano black detailing on the dashboard adds to the ambience, while the ergonomically designed dashboard features a driver-centric instrument binnacle with analogue dials for speed and rev count. The binnacle also houses a digital trip computer.
The centre stack is home to a sound system offering FM/AM radio functionality, as well as MP3 music file playback and Bluetooth, which allows hands-free telephony and music streaming. The four-speaker system also provides USB connectivity and an AUX socket.
A multifunction steering wheel allows safe and convenient control of the audio system, as well as making Bluetooth-linked hands-free cellphone calls. Generous cabin storage includes pockets in all four doors and cupholders in the centre console, while a fold-down rear seat armrest also incorporates cup holders for rear occupants.
Because of the new Amaze’s comparatively long 2 470 mm wheelbase, the interior is airy and spacious, with ample leg and headroom both front and rear. The boot capacity is 420 litres – 20 litres more than the original Brio Amaze.
The new Honda Amaze is powered by a 1 199 cc unit that employs Honda’s i-VTEC intelligent valve timing management system. Maximum power output is rated at 66 kW, reached at 6 000 r/min, combined with a torque peak of 110 Nm at 4 800 r/min.
With a kerb mass of just more than 900 kg, the Amaze is able to deliver swift performance, and frugal fuel economy. Honda claims a 0-100 km/h time for the manual model tested of 12,3 sec but this ran closer to 12,6 on my stopwatch.
The manual-transmission has a combined cycle fuel consumption figure of 5,6 l/100 km and this gives and average tank range of around 630 km – a major plus factor considering the way in which the fuel price keeps on climbing.
All Honda Amaze models are fitted with dual front air bags, inertia reel seatbelts front and rear, and IsoFix child seat anchors. On the active safety front, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution (EBD) are standard.
The new Honda Amaze range consists of three models, all employing the same engine, but offering a choice between two transmissions, and two trim levels.
The most affordable Amaze is the 1.2 Trend, available as a manual gearbox model only. However, even this so-called base model offers buyers an extensive list of standard equipment.
Exterior features include a roof-mounted sharkfin antenna, and a high-mounted third brake light. Inside, smart cloth upholstery is standard, as is the tilt-adjustable multifunction steering wheel. The four-speaker audio system features FM/AM and MP3 functionality.
Inside, the Comfort includes everything that is standard on Trend versions, but adds automatic air-conditioning and electric adjustment of the exterior mirrors, as well as automatic door locking once the vehicle starts moving.
The range is supported by a full 5-year/200 000 km warranty, as well as a 2-year/30 000 km service plan, and a three-year AA Roadside Assistance package. Scheduled services are at 15 000 km intervals.
So, back to the wind. It was just unfortunate for the Amaze my test schedule fell on one of those days and that it took the edge off what is generally a good car. I also feel the low mass of the Indian-built car – even with high tensile steel – contribute to it not feeling quite as solid as Japanese manufactured Hondas.
However, I was impressed with the overall standard of fit and finish with all the panel gaps nicely even and a lack of body rattles and noises.
As for that darned wind, I will leave it to heavy metal rockers Manowar to have the last word:
“Fly away to a rainbow in the sky gold is at the end
For each of us to find there the road begins
Where another one will end here the four winds
Know who will break and who will bend
All to be the master of the wind”