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Breaking out of the original’s mould

S Muralidhar | Updated on May 03, 2018 Published on May 03, 2018

To pull up the sagging appeal of the Amaze, Honda gives the second-gen a radical new face and more equipment

On average, the evolution of a car model is marked by incremental improvements in design, technology and performance from one generation to the next. Every once in a while, however, comes along a new generation model that completely alters the path, almost always influenced by rising competition and changing market forces.

The new Honda Amaze fits into that mould by breaking out of its original mould! The only aspect that is predictable about this evolution is its growth in size — historically a standard feature amongst Japanese sedans. So, what is the low down about the new Amaze? The second generation of this model was showcased at the Auto Expo earlier this year. So, all of us have a fair idea about the complete departure in design compared to the previous generation. To get a more up-close, first impression about the new Amaze, I travelled to Bangalore last week to get behind the wheel of the car.

Design

The second-gen Amaze’s design has seen the most radical change. The competitors in the compact sedan category have all transformed from gawky sedans, which were literally reshaped hatches, to sedans that are much more comfortable in their skin though they are still primarily two-boxers. The previous-gen Amaze’s design was largely that of a cab-forward ultra-compact hatch that got a boot slapped on at the rear. With its steeply sloping bonnet and rising shoulder line, there was no escaping the hatch flavour from any angle.

But the new Amaze breaks out of that and features a design that is boxy, yet modern and much more sedan-like. At a glance, it seems a bit like the simple straight line designs of ‘70s cars. The side profile could have come straight out of a kid’s sketch book. But behind the simplicity of its design lies a lot of focus on practicality and market expectations. The new design also gives the Amaze a retro-modern look — a wide rectangular front and a coupe-like rear. The front design includes an attempted shark nose with the near-vertical grille featuring Honda’s trademark ‘Solid Wing Face’ — a thick chrome grille element whose lines merge with the headlamp character lines. The front design enhances the new Amaze’s low, wide stance. The chiseled front fender gives it some more character and geometric appeal. At the side, a deeply creased waistline highlights its straight-lined, boxy character.

Based on a completely new platform developed by Honda R&D Asia Pacific, the new Amaze is being launched first in India before going to the other Southeast Asian markets. The 2018 model gets a new, more rigid ACE body structure with a larger percentage of high-tensile steel. The Amaze has also grown in size, with a 65 mm increase in wheelbase, the ground clearance has gone up to 170 mm, a small 15 mm increase in width and larger 15-inch wheels (compared to the 14-inchers in the previous one). Boot volume is also up 5 per cent at 420 litres.

Cabin

Honda has been under pressure to push up the premiumness of the Amaze’s cabin after the competition refreshed their cars. The second generation of the model delivers on this front. The cabin design and layout feels more clean and well-made. The plastic quality seems to be better, including the shiny black cladding on the centre stack, which felt quite tacky in the Mobilio, but is better finished in the new Amaze. The seats are thicker and with larger side bolsters. Aircon vents are set at the top of the centre stack with the intended purpose being to improve airflow to the rear seat. There are no vents at the rear.

The top-end VX variant that I was test driving in Bangalore had a lot of equipment, including a touchscreen infotainment and audio visual navigation system, rear camera, cruise control, and a multi-warning push start button. VX variants get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, while lower variants get a simple audio player with Blueooth connectivity. The new Amaze’s cabin feels more spacious with more shoulder room and a bit more legroom. Honda claims that headroom is also more, though I didn’t think that it could have been by much, especially at the rear seat where six-footers would brush the roof lining.

Performance

Honda has carried forward the petrol and diesel engines from the previous generation. The 1.2-litre i-VTEC petrol engine and the 1.5-litre i-DTEC diesel engine were both quite capable mills already, though the latter needed more refinement. It was the first Diesel engine from Honda in India. For the new Amaze, company engineers have worked extensively on improving the NVH characteristics of the i-DTEC engine by reducing friction and vibration. Design of the block, pistons, oil pump and chain system were changed to improve rigidity. Engine mounts have also been changed to cut vibration at source. Other vibration reduction measures, including better insulation, cuts in-cabin noise levels compared to the predecessor, but just about.

Honda has also decided to bring the new Amaze with continuously variable transmission (CVT) options for both the petrol and diesel engines (a first for a car in this segment). By bringing in the CVT instead of an AMT, Honda must be hoping to interest compact sedan buyers with better technology, but since CVTs are more expensive, how aggressive the Amaze’s pricing can be remains to be seen. These are typical Honda CVTs in the new Amaze, offering clean shifts and a default frugal cycle. The petrol engine gets a drive and a sports mode, while the diesel engine gets a drive, sports and a low mode (for high torque/high incline conditions). There is a triptronic shift mode where manual gear selection is possible (with paddle shifters in Amaze petrol). The two engines are also offered with a five-speed manual transmission.

The 1,199 cc petrol engine delivers 90 PS of peak power and 110 Nm of peak torque. Honda’s i-VTEC tech idles one intake valve during low demand, low rpm conditions enabling better fuel efficiency. The claimed mileage numbers are 19.5 kmpl and 19 kmpl respectively for the petrol’s manual and CVT variants.

Uniquely, the diesel engine gets a different state of tune for the CVT compared to the manual. The 1,498 cc engine generates 100 PS of peak power and 200 Nm of peak torque for the manual transmission version. But the CVT variant’s powerplant delivers only 80 PS and 160 Nm, with a focus on more efficient performance in city driving cycles. That focus is probably another reason why even in sport mode, the transmission shifts up much before the engine rpm redline. The mileage numbers for the manual and CVT variants of the new Amaze diesel are 27.4 kmpl and 23.8 kmpl respectively. The CVTs don’t suffer from the head-nodding shift quality that AMTs tend to have, and in both petrol and diesel powertrains the underlying algorithms for the sports mode help make the new Amaze quite quick off the block. The suspension quality is another highlight. It helps the new Amaze keep its composure over bad roads and increases its planted feel, though at about 1,000 kg it is still a fairly light car.

Bottomline

The second-gen Amaze is a much better compact sedan than the predecessor. It doesn’t have the over-light feel of the previous model affecting the dynamics of the car. Yes, the new one’s design may not be liked by everybody, but there is a more distinct character to the Amaze now. Honda is also emphasising the design bits in the Amaze that have been borrowed from the Civic for the rub-off effect.

The new Amaze’s official launch is just days away. It will be offered in four trim levels, with the CVTs on offer with the top trim. Expect prices to be higher than the predecessor, but hopefully not by much.

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Published on May 03, 2018
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