REVIEW | The 2020 Honda Amaze is one sensible little sedan
Many of us have been forced to reshuffle our financial priorities in a world struck by Covid-19. No need to elaborate about the devastation the pandemic has wreaked on businesses, livelihoods and the greater economy.
In austere times, where households will inevitably downsize, it is the set of thriftier, more sensible offerings that will stand out on the radars of those in a position to purchase a vehicle. Premium marques are set to take a backseat for the time being.
So it was appropriate that the Honda Amaze would mark the end of our lockdown-imposed hiatus of test vehicles.
A clean, white example of the Japanese three-box saloon arrived for an evaluation period recently. The fleet manager assured me it had been subjected to a most stringent process of sanitisation.
This was not my first exposure to the model. We sampled and reported on one in February 2019, where the unit in question was the range-topping Comfort version with a continuously-variable transmission (CVT). It sits above the entry-level Trend version.
On the occasion of this reacquaintance, we have the Comfort grade yet again, albeit with a good old, row-your-own five-speed manual gearbox - which made quite a difference to the overall driving experience, of course, removing the characteristic drone and perceived laziness that beset the counterpart with two pedals.
A light clutch pedal and short shifts, with a lever that snicks into place positively and without vagueness, makes stirring the Amaze enjoyable for those with a fidgety left hand.
The 1199cc, normally-aspirated, four-cylinder petrol power source proved its fizziness about town. Then again, the Honda has a featherweight mass of just 924kg – so the quoted 66kW and 110Nm are responsible for a fairly easy job.
A claimed combined consumption figure of 5.6l/100km is not out of grasp in the real world, while the 0-100km/h sprint time of 12.3 seconds seemed something of an underestimation. Seriously, accelerating between stops to 60km/h, the Honda appeared far sprightlier than you would have given it credit for.
On the freeway, however, shifting down into fourth was necessitated for overtaking on slight inclines. Expect a din from the engine as the tachometer needle swings up. Better to just take a breath, relax in the middle and left lanes, with the speedometer hovering around the 110km/h mark.
At such a velocity, the Amaze is stable enough - although there is a propensity for crosswinds and camber changes to nudge the car along in unintended directions, requiring frequent adjustment to the steering wheel. Disc brakes feature at the front, with drums at the rear axle.
Urban commutes are its forte. You may have noticed by now that the model is popular among operators of e-hailing mobility services. With the passenger seat slid as far forward as possible, my neighbour took the rear left seat for a short lift to the supermarket. These are the kind of errands the Amaze will serve: errands that will end in a star-rating on an app.
On the subject of stars, it earned a solid four out of five when Global NCAP crash-tested it last year. Standard safety fare includes anti-lock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution and dual front airbags. This applies to the lower Trend version as well.
What was there to dislike? The Bluetooth never seemed to pair quite correctly with my smartphone - although that issue could have been related to my device, admittedly. And the black leatherette upholstery with which our car was outfitted was clearly executed by an aftermarket supplier. It looked far from factory. Rather stick with the standard beige fabric, which in my humble opinion has a certain retro charm with its corduroy-like pattern.
Aesthetics? Well, a moot point really, as the Honda makes no pretence about its status as an honest, functional appliance. There are many puns and quips to be farmed from a car with such an ambitious title on its tailgate. But looking beyond amusing wordplay, the Amaze remains worth a look if simple, safe and reliable compact motoring is what you seek.
Ringing in at R214,000, the 1.2 Comfort manual is probably the sweet spot as well: not as barren in kit as the 1.2 Trend (R190,700) and representing a saving over the Comfort CVT (R230,500).