Honda finally showed the smaller-than-small city car it has been developing for Asian markets - the Honda BRIO - today at the 27th Thailand International Motor Expo in Bangkok. It will be the smallest, lightest and cheapest car in the Honda range when it goes on sale in India and Thailand next year - around THB 400,000 (US$13,300).

The sub-light Brio hatch shown today in Bangkok is a strong indication of what the car will look like when production begins in March 2011, but very little detail of the engine or specifications were shared – an extraordinary move given that it is only four months from production.

One likely reason for this is that Honda has not competed in this increasingly important segment previously and is a very late starter, entering a market pioneered by the Suzuki Swift, well behind established players such as Volkswagen’s Polo, Ford’s Figo, Kia's Picanto, Hyundai’s i10 and Nissan’s Micra. Toyota will also launch a competitor in the form of the Etios before Honda makes it to market.

One of the features of the Brio will be its ultra light weight – though no figures were specified, the announcement hinted that the car will be highly efficient due to its lightweight construction. In Thailand it is targeting 5liters/100km, indicating that it will most likely use a cut-down three-cylinder version of the Jazz 1200cc four-cylinder engine. Further indications that several engines are still being considered came when Honda announced there would be several major differences between the Indian and Thai versions of the vehicle.

For the Thai model that is scheduled to be introduced in March 2011, the fuel economy of more than 5liters/100km*2 will be targeted so that the vehicle will qualify as an eco-car by the Thai government, and a starting price of approximately 400,000 baht will be targeted as well. For the Indian model that is scheduled to be introduced within 2011, local customer needs for a small car will be reflected and local content will be increased to create a model that achieves a good balance between vehicle performance and price.

"Honda would like to expand the joy of mobility to more customers in Thailand, India and other Asian countries through the introduction of a new small vehicle with compact and highly efficient packaging by utilizing our own experiences cultivated by motorcycle business here in Asia," said Takanobu Ito, President and CEO of Honda Motor.