Test drives pt4 – The amaze you need and not the one you desire

When I was testing cars and weighing options and the Jazz drive turned out to be a no-go due to its super-low ground clearance, I said I would hate to go for the Amaze. Famous last words, huh!

Years back, when Honda got into the compact sedan segment, I was excited. My father was looking to change his company car then and move on from the Fusion that had given us no end of trouble. I thought it would be great to have a smaller Honda that would fit in our parking (unlike the City). But early reviews weren’t great and we went for the I20. A year later, we happened to book a cab that turned out to be an Amaze and the noise and vibration levels convinced us that we had made the right decision.

That was what I had been thinking of when I said I would never choose an Amaze.

But things changed pretty fast over two days. After the Jazz no-go and after finding out that neither i20 nor Altroz (nor Swift/Dzire/Baleno) would fit in my parking, my options had changed a lot and for the worse. I was now looking at the lower Bs or the few compact sedans that would fit. Tiago, Tigor, Grand i10, Aura, Amaze, these were options that would fit…as per the specs anyway. None of these options were particularly edifying…and they were all I had.

It so happened that the Honda sales executive who had fixed up my Jazz test drive called up and asked if I would explore the Amaze. I reluctantly said yes, fully expecting that I would not be impressed and would say no. A voice within said, however, that the model of the new Amaze I had seen at the Honda showroom did look a lot better than the old one (first generation; 2018 and 2021 models look very similar).

The car arrived and the interiors looked decent enough. The engine came across as smooth in the test drive though the drive itself was uncomfortable because the dealer staff who brought it over to my home had set up the seat height in a way that was terribly awkward for me. And the car fit in the parking. And no, its fender didn’t brush the road while climbing down the ramp.

That’s it, I said. This would be the one.

It was a gut decision, made speedily, and could potentially have been terribly wrong (might still be, in terms of long term ownership). But the clincher was this was the only one of the viable options with CVT. Colour me biased but I really wasn’t enthused about AMT. I wanted a real automatic. No torque converters in this segment but a CVT would do splendidly, at least compared to an AMT. And…it was a Honda, after all.

Well, it’s been a month since I bought it and the car in regular use has impressed me more than it did in the test drive. The CVT lag isn’t quite as bad as I had thought it would be from the test drives (of both this and Jazz). It’s more how the engine sounds than the speed itself. I find that in fact, it isn’t really that different from driving a manual in that sense (while, undoubtedly, not having to use the gearshift makes it so much easier to drive). I do have to add torque at times to overtake and I did used to find it easier to manage those with the manual. But the car is well capable of accelerating quickly up to good speeds.

It’s also super easy to maintain a speed with this car than it was with my old manual. Say I am cruising at 40 in drive mode – I could simply take the foot off the accelerator and rest it on the brake without actually applying it and the car would keep going at 40. It doesn’t start decelerating the way a manual would. And of course, in stop go, it is so wonderful to drive the car by merely releasing and re-applying the brake and an occasional use of the accelerator if it is running out of power or if the traffic slightly picks up speed.

It has thus far also returned a better mileage than the old i20 and that’s without sedate driving to get the best mileage out of the CVT. And it’s yet to undergo its first service after which mileage usually improves.

Other pluses include ample legroom in the back as well as boot space.

The suspension being so soft is both a plus and a minus. On the plus side, the ride is magnificent as long as we are on smooth roads. On rough or uneven patches, this is a shaky customer. It’s by no means unsafe, but the handling will not inspire confidence on bumpy roads.

The one other slight drawback is the bonnet is higher and therefore its entire length pretty much is visible from the driver seat. Some people mention this as a plus and I have no idea why because not being able to see road below me hampers my judgment in parking.

As such, how well will the car age will be the true test from hereon. But that’s good news because it has at least passed the test already as brand new.

And there it is. The car that I never thought I would buy is the one I did. And…I am happy!

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