Bud­get beaters

Honda takes on Suzuki Dzire with big­ger, bet­ter Amaze

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING - AL­WYN VILJOEN

IN a world which sees high­rid­ing sport util­ity ve­hi­cles (SUVs) out­selling tra­di­tional, low-slung sedans, Honda still sees a mar­ket for its Amaze, a 900-kg car with a boot that the Ja­pa­nese au­tomaker said was de­signed from the ground up to de­fine a new stan­dard.

As with all facelifts, the new Amaze is larger in ev­ery di­men­sion, but the com­pany’s bul­let-proof i-VTEC en­gine de­liv­ers un­changed fuel ef­fi­ciency when driven with a light right foot.

It is ex­actly the Honda’s rep­u­ta­tion for re­li­a­bil­ity and fru­gal fuel use that at­tract two of the most de­mand­ing car buy­ers — re­tirees and rental car agen­cies.

Those who rent the Amaze or bor­row it from the grand­par­ents are, well, amazed when they dis­cover that un­like all top-heavy SUVs that have “al­most car-like han­dling” the Amaze is a car, and there­fore comes with a car’s han­dling built into its DNA.

Jekyll and Hyde-the-fines

Honda’s proven 1 199 cc iVTEC en­gine drives all three Amaze mod­els, but we will not be get­ting the diesel that also pow­ers the Amaze in In­dia.

Think of it as Jekyll and Hyde unit. At low rev­o­lu­tions, you will be all like “ja well, no fine”. But push the go-faster pedal to 6 000 revs to reach the max­i­mum power out­put of 66 kW, and you will have to Hyde the en­sur­ing speed­ing fines from your grandma.

Note, with a rel­a­tively slow 0-100 km/h time of 12,3 sec­onds in the man­ual and a pos­i­tively gla­cial 13,5 sec­onds with the CVT, the Amaze will not win any quar­ter mile races.

Driv­ers who can do cor­ners will find Honda’s sus­pen­sion en­gi­neers know a thing or two about han­dling.

In keep­ing with all bud­get cars, the Amaze is set up to de­liver a soft ride on struts up front and tor­sion bar at the rear.

This means it will un­der­steer into cor­ners, but keep the revs up go­ing in and it will also re­ward braver driv­ers with a smidgeon of lift-off over­steer.

But only try this on smooth tracks. For our pot­holed pub­lic roads, both mod­els ride on 15-inch tyres with side­walls that are a sen­si­ble 113 mm high.

Thanks to that kerb mass of just over 900 kg and short gear ra­tios, the Amaze also feels swift be­tween the lights, and it just sips fuel at cruis­ing speeds — Honda said one can ex­pect over 17 km from each litre on av­er­age. When sit­ting in traf­fic, a de­cent torque of 110 Nm at 4 800 rpm al­lows mov­ing about in third gear.

Two spec lev­els

The new Amaze comes in two equip­ment lev­els — Trend and Com­fort, with a choice of ei­ther a five-speed man­ual or con­stantly vari­able trans­mis­sion (CVT). Both mod­els have all the usual ac­tive and stan­dard safety fea­tures.

Toshi­aki Kusakari, head of Au­to­mo­biles at Honda Mo­tor South­ern Africa, said he ex­pects the car to ap­peal to a broad and var­ied mo­tor­ing au­di­ence, rang­ing from young sin­gles and start-up fam­i­lies to ma­ture mo­torists.

“All will be at­tracted by the Amaze’s value-added pur­chase price, ex­cel­lent fuel ef­fi­ciency and low oper­at­ing cost.

“In ad­di­tion, the new Amaze is ex­cep­tion­ally roomy and of­fers a gen­er­ous lug­gage com­part­ment, while Honda’s revered rep­u­ta­tion for re­li­a­bil­ity and good re­sale value will also add to the Amaze’s at­trac­tion,” Kusakari-san said.

In­te­rior ex­e­cu­tion

In keep­ing with the de­mands of more con­ser­va­tive buy­ers, the Amaze has cloth up­hol­stery. It also still has piano black de­tail­ing. Car mak­ers say this adds a so­phis­ti­cated am­bi­ence, but in real­ity, shiny sur­faces show dust motes.

The boot ca­pac­ity is an im­pres­sive 420 litres for all those rent­ing the Amaze on hol­i­day.

For grand­par­ents who drive sticky grand­kids around, gen­uine Honda syn­thetic leather seat cov­ers can be had as a no­cost op­tion. We rec­om­mend this, as the fold-down rear seat arm­rest also in­cor­po­rates cup hold­ers for rear oc­cu­pants, who are sure to spill the con­tents at some point.

The sound sys­tem plays MP3 files via Blue­tooth, which also al­lows hands-free calls once the phone is linked. The four-speaker sys­tem also pro­vides USB con­nec­tiv­ity and an AUX socket.

The range is sup­ported by a full five-year/200 000 km war­ranty, as well as a two-year/30 000 km ser­vice plan, and three-years road­side as­sis­tance.

The Amaze com­petes head on with the Suzuki Dzire, which starts at R161 900.

Pric­ing

Trend: R179 900 Com­fort: R193 900 Com­fort CVT: R208 900

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