Driving Honda’s city dwellers to the limit

It was weird when I saw ‘Batangas Racing Circuit’ in the itinerary for this drive. Usual media drives just consist of driving from one place to another in a mix of city, highway, and rural roads. There are winding roads if we’re lucky. To see a circuit when we’re driving the new Honda Brio and Honda City was very interesting.

They gave us the rundown upon arrival at BRC. There will be a series of activities that will push our skills and the cars to the limit. We were tasked to run the old track for an EcoSpeed Challenge where we balance our lap times with fuel economy, the Gymkhana Challenge was going around a set course in the fastest time possible. There was also a Traction and Stability Experience with the Honda City to flaunt its handling, as well as a Moose Test Experience. With the sun up and on a dry track, we took turns in the four units of the Brio and City.

Honda Brio—Living up to expectations

As a small hatchback owner myself, driving the Brio is like watching a book-turned-movie and finding out it’s just as great. The steering is light with just the right amount of resistance, while the suspension is soft and more comfortable even on rough patches of roads. Of course, the bigger 1.2-liter i-VTEC engine is more lively especially on the highway, and as someone who’s used to a car with a 1-liter engine, the Brio really tends to give a sportier feel.

A major revision to its this time was the addition of  Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It proved useful when the convoy was mixed up in traffic and our car ended up being left behind. It was my first time going to BRC so I have no idea what roads to take. Having Waze on the touchscreen itself and not having to hold my phone with one hand while driving is a great improvement for the Brio.

The Brio was also the car where I was more fuel efficient for the EcoSpeed Challenge. I ran the course at an average of 60 km/h and tried maximizing the momentum in lieu of braking. I only accelerated hard when the start of the corner is a downslope, so that the car will have more momentum getting out of it which is an uphill. Otherwise, my acceleration was slow and linear to not stress the engine, since I also have my aircon on at the first fan setting. I wasn’t the slowest nor the fastest with my 3m:33s time, but I got a considerably good 23.5km/l reading.

The most nerve-wracking part for me and the Brio was the Gymkhana Challenge where we went through a made-up short course filled with technical turns—a weakness for me as I’m slow turning the wheel. There’s no problem with the Brio accelerating up to 4,000 rpm, nor making sudden brakes and tight turns. It was really all up to me to make the movements quickly and I’ll admit I wasn’t up to the task. The first few corners were easy as it involved one turn then a short straight, before making another tight turn. Where it really went downhill for me was the series of cones that needed me to make left and right turns quickly in succession. The car was nimble, no doubt about that, but me being slow in recovering the steering wheel led to the Brio running too wide and therefore taking more time in reaching the next cone. My first run was 59 seconds, a bit slower than my other colleagues. It improved to 54 seconds on my second run but because I hit two cones, that equates to +2 seconds each. My technical driving skills aside, the Brio really lives up to expectations of being a Honda. It can get aggressive, gnarly, but at the same time is fuel-efficient when needed.

Honda City—A great balance of safety and aggression

The City was already a top notch sedan in the market and Honda found out how to make it even more enticing by having Honda Sensing features for all variants. What I learned to love with this system is how they stay in the background and comes forward just at the right moment.

On the highway, the Lane Keeping System doesn’t overreact when you veer out of the center of your lane. It won’t act until you’re on the line itself. Sometimes, it will sense if you prefer being off-center and will subtly correct the steering wheel via gentle nudges, not distracting in any way.

It’s the same for the Collision Mitigation Braking System. Where others are over-sensitive or very abrupt, the City’s emergency braking tends to be more human-like in its application and reads the situation well. It knows that certain obstacles are just other road users, like motorcycles and tricycles cutting in front. Once it activates, it won’t simply go full braking. Instead, it reads how much brake pressure you’re already applying and if that’s not enough, you’ll feel the brake pedal go deeper just a little more.

Driving to and out of BRC was already the test of the Honda Sensing in the City and it passed with flying colors. What we experienced with it at the track are its more fundamental features—Traction Control and Stability Control.

We had a wet linoleum test where the right wheels of the car went through a wet linoleum and only the left side had traction. Our driver applied the brakes fully, as if there’s a sudden obstacle in front and the City was very composed when it stopped. The wheels on the wet side did not slide since the car was able to put most of the braking on the wheels where there is traction, and it did so in a split second. The steering wheel also didn’t lock during the activity; meaning if this happened to you in real life, you won’t panic.

The most fun activity of the day though has to be the Moose Test. This involves a quick evasion while running straight at a cruising speed, simulating driving on an open road and an obstacle—a pedestrian, animal, or anything else—suddenly enters your lane. There’s no braking this time around too. Our driver just went to his left and regained his straight line. In a situation where the rear would slide out, the City didn’t seem fazed at what happened.

The series of activities proved that the Honda City and Brio might be known as mainly city dwellers but if in emergency situations and in faster applications, they will not let the Honda name down. You won’t even feel the cars struggling in any way. They will just go ahead and surpass whatever challenge is in your way.

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