Automatic transmissions have come of age in India. Those who previously sneered at the inefficient, lazy boxes are now considering buying them, thanks to a range of more dynamic automatic transmission options available in the small car segment.
The Honda Brio has the reputation of being one of the best city cars. Now, Honda has made it even better with the introduction of an automatic transmission.
Visually, you will hardly spot any difference between the automatic and manual Brios until you step inside the cabin. Apart from the automatic transmission gear stick and the gear indicators on the instrument panel, the interiors too remain pretty much the same.
The automatic Brio is powered by the same engine, as its manual sibling. The 1.2 litre i-VTEC is a gem of an engine that gets better as it revs towards the redline. Mated to a five-speed automatic transmission, the engine ever-so-smoothly makes light work of urban commuting.
The Brio gets a conventional five-speed automatic gearbox instead of the CVT. The gearbox is similar to the one in the Honda City Automatic, but has different gear ratios.
Moving around city, the auto box works really well, which means you negotiate the bumper to bumper traffic without breaking a sweat. Neither the gearbox nor the engine feels laggy at any point. Moreover, the car's compact size and tight turning circle are a real blessing. However in the automatic variant, turning radius has gone up by 0.2 metres.
The gearbox is equally good on highway as well, seeking out the optimum gear to match the torque delivery and kicking down swiftly once you put your foot down. Should you need quicker acceleration for overtaking, you can shift to D3, D2 or even D1, which holds onto each gear like in a manual, and does not upshift even at the redline.
In terms of mileage, the automatic Brio returns 16.5 kmpl, which is 2.9 kmpl less than the manual. However, the Eco lamp on the meter console works well to encourage economic driving.
Prices for the Brio AT start at Rs 5.74 (ex-showroom, Delhi) for the S variant. A higher-spec V variant is also available for Rs 5.99 lakh and comes with alloy wheels, dual airbags, fog lamps and dual-tone beige interiors with silver garnish.
It was just couple of weeks ago that I spent two days and more than 600 kilometres with the Brio as part of the 'Drive to Discover' programme and explored the many facets of the car. So I can brazenly say that the Brio is practical, economical, solidly built and is certainly one of the most fun-to-drive hatchbacks around. If you think the comfort and convenience of the automatic transmission is well worth the extra cost (Rs 75000) and reduced fuel economy (is 2.9 kmpl) the Brio Automatic will not disappoint you.