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Honda Australia considers Brio

Light fantastic: Honda Australia is looking to launch its Brio light car locally in the next 18 months.

Brio could join next Jazz and its baby SUV spin-off to swell Honda’s Oz B-car armada

23 Oct 2012

HONDA is seriously considering bringing its low-cost sub-Jazz baby car, the Thai-built Brio, to Australia in the next 12 to 18 months.

A decision is due within the next few weeks, according to Honda Australia director and general manager of sales and marketing Stephen Collins.

Brio would triple the Japanese company’s light-car offerings, since a Jazz-based sub-compact SUV is also a likely starter in this country in 2014.

Honda Australia was reported to have been considering only the next-generation Brio due in about 2016, but Mr Collins said it is now keen to offer the existing model here.

“It is pretty well known that we are considering Brio,” he told GoAuto at the Sydney motor show last week.

“We think the sub-light segment is growing, and we think as an entry point for our line-up that could be good value to us.”

Mr Collins added that the Jazz-based SUV that would sit below the CR-V – confirmed by Honda CEO Takanobu Ito last month – is also an extremely important vehicle for the company.

15 center imageFrom top: Honda Australia's Stephen Collins Honda Brio.

“That is a priority for us because clearly it is a fast-growing segment, and for us it is a further opportunity,” he said.

“It is still a couple of years, and we’re still trying to nail down exactly the when and where and how. But clearly that market is growing pretty rapidly and is a big opportunity for us.”

Unlike the conceptually similar but slow-selling Honda HR-V of 1999 to 2002, the Jazz-based SUV would not be alone on the Australian market, instead battling out against the Suzuki SX-4, Ford EcoSport, Holden Trax, Nissan Juke, Peugeot 2008, Opel Mokka and others due for release in the meantime.

If given the green light, the Brio would need to be priced significantly below the Jazz, which currently starts at $14,990 plus on-road costs.

Key sub-B segment competitors include the Suzuki Alto from $11,790, Holden Barina Spark from $12,490 and Volkswagen’s new Up, which kicks off from $13,990 for the three-door against rival five-door configurations, but introduces new levels of standard safety technology such as low-speed emergency braking for a class-leading five-star ANCAP crash-test rating.

Mr Collins would not be drawn on potential Brio pricing.

“At this stage we can’t confirm anything, but we are still looking at the business case for Brio,” he told us.

“Brio is clearly a smaller sub-light vehicle, and it could fit in nicely under Jazz.

“The key for us is the business case. The pricing would be critical, and making sure that the spec is right for the market.

“We are very interested in it, and we’re just working through getting all the numbers to add up.”

Unlike the Spark and Up, which were launched as manual-only models, the Brio could be offered with an automatic gearbox from the outset.

“It’s pretty much a struggle with only a manual transmission,” said Mr Collins. “Automatic transmission is pretty mandatory in that market.”

Launched in early 2011, the Brio is 3610mm long, 1680mm wide and 1485mm tall, sits on a 2345mm wheelbase, and is built in India and Thailand, with Indonesia joining in from next year.

If the Brio does come to Australia, it will likely arrive from Thailand, where most local Hondas are sourced, or Indonesia.

It would be powered by a 65kW/109Nm 1.2-litre or 73kW/127Nm 1.3-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, driving the front wheels via a five-speed manual, five-speed automatic (1.2) or CVT continuously variable transmission (1.3).

As GoAuto reported in April, a minivan based on the Brio platform is also said to be under scrutiny for Australia.

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