Test driving the Honda Brio VX-MT on Mumbai's streets

Sadly I do not own a helicopter. If I did, I would lift off from the garden next to my house and plonk down on the roof of my office everyday. Actually, I don’t think they would allow me to landon the office roof.

Pic/Nimesh Dave 

So as the days to the 10-day Ganpati festival approached this year, I cringed at the thought of driving past a sea of humans and honking cars every day. Then I got my hands on a brand new Honda Brio VX-MT.

My first reaction: it’s not as small as it seems from a distance! It is actually quite spacious at the back and three adults can fit in without fighting each other all the way. The boot is small, but a large suitcase and a backpack can easily go in. But my worries were elsewhere. Would this baby really manage to squeeze past other cars on narrow lanes, do a neat ‘U’ turn in the tiniest of spaces and get me home faster compared to a longer sedan? So I tried three different routes on three days -- at the risk of reaching office very late or returning home well past ‘promised time’ to face an upset six-year-old. I survived.

Day 1
My journey started from Linking Road in Khar. The morning rush hour was below par and in fact we fairly zoomed through past the Mahim Causeway and on to Tulsi Pipe Road. A smooth ride so far, allowing me to check out the seamless shifting of gears and the almost silent purr of the 1200cc IVTECH Petrol engine. The Brio has a fabulous AC as well and the in-dash music system is powerful. No worries so far. On the Dadar Flyover, the Brio gave me a first glimpse of what it’s capable of. Faced with bumper-to-bumper traffic, I wondered whether this hefty car could pull off an ‘auto-rickshaw’ stunt.

I swerved slightly to the right, saw an opening of a 100 metres, quickly passed over a dozen cars and with my indicator blinking furiously, squeezed back into the left-hand lane. In doing so, I had passed a small truck, with a punctured tyre, that was causing the traffic snarl. At least 10 minutes saved! I patted the steering on the back. The potholes on Elphinstone flyover didn’t hurt my back as badly and I reached my workplace in Parel in under an hour.

On the way back home in the evening, there was mayhem. Thousands of Ganpati idols were on their way to Dadar and Juhu Chowpatty (this was the second day when most households take their Ganpati for immersion) with numerous happy souls accompanying them. We were stuck. This is when I understood how genuinely good the AC is. In less than a minute after I switched it on, the car was comfortably cool. I turned up the music at the signal. At least my mood improved. The journey home (10 km) took a little over 90 minutes, and honestly, no vehicle (unless it’s the Batmobile) can do much when nothing moves. But the super-comfy leather seats, the fact that shifting gears was so smooth, coupled with the features mentioned earlier, made it a happier drive.

Day 2
A drive to the domestic airport today meant we had to maneuver a thousand potholes. Apart from one gaping hole near the Khar subway, we hardly felt the rest -- which, is saying a lot about the suspension system of a small car. The other great thing about this vehicle -- its wheelbase is relatively small and therefore, we did pretty neat U turns and a quick right within seconds on the way, even as bigger cars struggled to follow. I thanked my stars once again as I navigated the tricky lanes of Santacruz on the way back. Strike Two for the Brio. A sea of humanity had descended on the streets by now, hopping from pandal to pandal, but no sweat. I managed the 9km journey in less than 30 minutes -- an achievement given Mumbai’s state of traffic. All through my car kept reminding me that I was maintaining an impressive mileage of just over 13 km per litre.

Day 3
I finally had a good look at the car from all sides today. The Brio VX-MT comes equipped with dual airbags and automated controls of the music system on the steering wheel. On the outside it is every inch a Honda with its sleek lines and edgy design. The relatively small boot is the only negative I saw, but considering a small car is usually used mostly for city driving, it’s not a critical factor. A superb, almost noiseless engine, classy interiors, power windows, ABS, dual airbags, seamless gearshifts, adequate legroom both at the front and the back, and of course the ability to find free space on the road when there’s seemingly no way ahead --the Brio served me well during the madness of the festivities. It isn’t a helicopter. But if you are looking for a small car at under R6 lakh -- it’s a pretty crowded market in this category -- the Brio VX-MT will give you real value formoney.

Engine -- 1,198 cc, petrol
Fuel capacity -- 35 litres
Power -- 86.8bhp@6000rpm
Width -- 1680mm
Ground clearance -- 165mm
Price -- Rs 5.7 lakh (ex-showroom Mumbai) 

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