Enlivened Compact Saloon

The Honda City has long enjoyed a position of leadership among Asia’s executive saloons but has faced stiff competition in this segment from Maruti-Suzuki, Toyota, Ford, Fiat and Volkswagen. Now that their great Japanese competitor Toyota has launched a feature rich Yaris saloon to compete with the City, Honda needed to do something to upstage them. It has just sprung a surprise with the launch of a new model Amaze compact saloon despite strong competitors like the stylish new Maruti-Suzuki DZire and the restyled new Hyundai Xcent. It would have been tough to upstage such competitors.

Toyota had first crossed the line of so called car market segments with their extra long new Corolla Altis that cut into the sales of bigger luxury saloons like the Honda Camry. Now Honda has returned the compliment with their 2nd generation Amaze that is much more spacious inside despite the need to keep its overall length below four meters for tax reasons. It has achieved this by extending the wheelbase with the result that the legroom is not only 40 mm longer but 10 mm wider. It does not seem much but the sum of several small increments adds up to a lot more space. And they have also managed to provide a very spacious boot. The ground clearance is also better.

The new styling is however something you will immediately notice. Unlike the outgoing model this car, built on a totally new platform, has an authentic Honda look with a wide chrome band between its slinky headlights and a clean profile with sweeping creases to make it look longer and slimmer. The shark fin antenna and faux spoiler on the boot add to the sporty look. The big alloy wheels on the top models add a further touch of class and style. For most people it looks very much like its bigger sibling

the City.

The new Amaze is powered by the well proven 1200 cc petrol and 1500 cc diesel engines that has also been tweaked up a bit to improve performance, fuel efficiency and a reduction of noise and vibrations. According to test reports the mileage will be 19.5 kmpl on the petrol and 27.4 kmpl in the diesel models. These are however tests under ideal conditions and a roughly 25 per cent reduction can be expected in normal road conditions. These quiet engines are mated to either a 5-speed manual or a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) that is offered even on the top diesel variant. CVT is today the most advanced automatic gearless transmission and there are no jerks as the car gathers speed.

Honda has also lavished great attention to the interiors where the matt black dashboard and door sills contrast harmoniously with the soft beige two-tone fabrics of the interiors. The big centre mounted touch screen contains all that a driver would require for entertainment, communications, navigation and a reverse parking camera image. Above it are the central A/C vents positioned to ensure good air throw to the rear seats.

The Instrument panel is greatly simplified with a big speedometer and RPM counter on either side of a multifunction display showing fuel, fuel consumption, driving range, temperature et cetera. These can all be managed with buttons on the steering wheel and even with voice commands. Needless to say it has the full array of safety

features and anti skid ABS brakes and front bags are in all the models.

 The author is the region’s most celebrated automobile columnist