The squared-off nose is unusual, and certainly makes the Amaze stand out. Picture: SUPPLIED
The squared-off nose is unusual, and certainly makes the Amaze stand out. Picture: SUPPLIED

The second-generation Honda Amaze has landed in SA to take on rivals such as the Ford Figo, Suzuki Dzire and Toyota Etios in the budget small-sedan market, in which all are trying to capitalise after the recent exit of the segment-leading VW Polo Vivo sedan.

Aimed at first-time buyers as well as empty-nesters, the India-built Amaze is based on the Brio five-door hatchback and is offered in three derivatives priced from R179,900 to R208,900.

The car has grown in length and wheelbase to offer expanded passenger room. The little sedan is surprisingly spacious, offering comfortable space for four adults. It also has a handy 420l  boot (which includes a full-size spare wheel), which Honda says is class-leading in size, although it’s unfortunately not expandable as the rear seats don’t flip down.

Stretching the wheelbase by 65mm has given this compact Honda a relaxed ride quality that avoids the choppy feeling of some small cars, as I discovered when driving the Amaze at its media launch in Cape Town last week.

C-shaped tail lamps are inspired by the larger Honda Civic. Picture: SUPPLIED
C-shaped tail lamps are inspired by the larger Honda Civic. Picture: SUPPLIED

Ground clearance has been raised to a higher-than-average 170mm to deal better with rough gravel roads and steeply angled driveways. The taller stance doesn’t seem to have a negative effect on handling and the Honda nips quite neatly through tight turns.

The work done to improve the car’s refinement also came to the fore, and the Amaze hummed along the Cape’s roads without sounding rowdy. Overall refinement and noise, vibration and harshness have been improved substantially, thanks to enhanced soundproofing as well as optimised engine mounts. It’s a quiet-running car except for when the engine’s revved higher in search of more performance.

Power, as with the previous car, is supplied by a 1.2l normally aspirated petrol with Honda’s i-VTEC intelligent valve timing management system. It’s paired with either a five-speed manual or a continuously variable transmission (CVT), and drive is to the front wheels.

Outputs are modest at 66kW and 110Nm, but with a kerb mass of just more than 900kg the lightweight car has a decent power-to-weight ratio. At sea level it has nippy commuting performance, and the ability to cruise freeways without feeling underpowered or buzzy.

The three-pedalled version has a light clutch and a pleasantly slick feel to the manual gearshifter, and it would be my personal choice. The two-pedalled version isn’t as bad as some CVTs I’ve driven. In urban commuting it delivers a smooth and step-free power flow without the excessive “slipping-clutch” effect of some of its ilk, and it has programmed “virtual” gears that the driver controls with steering wheel paddle shifters.

Honda quotes 0-100km/h acceleration figures of 12.3 seconds for the manual and 13.5 seconds for the CVT, with a 160km/h top speed for both derivatives. Fuel economy is rated as 5.6l/100km for the manual and 5.7l/100km for the auto. The cars I drove at the launch were sipping around 6.3l according to their trip computers.

The Amaze is offered in two trim lines: the basic Trend and the better-equipped Comfort. Trend is fairly well stocked with items such as air-conditioning, tilt-adjustable multi-function steering wheel, a four-speaker audio system with Bluetooth connectivity, remote central locking, electric windows, and 15-inch alloy wheels. Safety is taken care of by dual front airbags, ABS brakes and IsoFix child seat anchors.

Rear legroom is surprisingly spacious. The factory-fitted leather-look seat covers are no-cost options. Picture: SUPPLIED
Rear legroom is surprisingly spacious. The factory-fitted leather-look seat covers are no-cost options. Picture: SUPPLIED

The Comfort adds automatic air-conditioning and electric adjustment of the exterior mirrors as well as automatic door locking once the vehicle starts moving.

The previous car was criticised for its rather cheap-looking interior but the new cabin has been upgraded in look and feel, partly with the addition of some glossy piano-black trim strips. At this price range it’s still hard plastic, not the classier-feeling soft type, cladding the dashboard and doors though.

Upholstery is beige cloth, but at no extra cost Honda can fit synthetic leather dual-tone seat covers on request. Some of the launch cars had these covers fitted and they looked very neat and factory-fitted — not like add-on accessories at all.

Through an external redesign the Amaze has acquired Honda’s latest design language, which includes the signature “solid wing” face with a broad bar extending across the width of the contrasting black honeycomb grille. With its claw-shaped tail lights and unusually blunt nose, the car hasn’t opted for a safe and generic design and certainly won’t get lost in the crowd.

Pricing:

Honda Amaze 1.2 Trend manual — R179,900

Honda Amaze 1.2 Comfort manual — R193,900

Honda Amaze 1.2 Comfort CVT — R208,900

Prices include a five-year/200,000km warranty, two-year/30,000km service plan, and three-year AA Roadside Assistance package. Scheduled services are at 15,000km intervals.

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