The Honda BRV is the latest seven-seater MUV to compete in the people mover space. It is a new vehicle which is based on the Mobilio. Compact seven seaters are preferred by a lot of customers as they take up equivalent space of a sedan, yet offer a lot of utility. The BRV tries to fill in this space. What is the BRV all about? How good is the engine, performance, drivability, design, features, space, comfort, practicality and the price? We drive it in Udaipur as Honda had invited us to try out the new BRV.
DESIGN AND STYLE
The Honda BR-V belongs to the Brio family as the compact SUV is based on the same platform. However, the BR-V is the first car from the Brio lineup to break the mundane styling cues. It has got a heavily revised front, spruced up side profile and a new look for the rear. The projector headlamps are sleek and chunky, merging with the signature Honda chrome grille seamlessly. The front bumper is brawny getting some nice styling details along with a faux silver skid plate and an upright hood for that SUV stance. The front three-quarters of the BR-V manages to exhibit the SUV look but as you go towards the side profile, things are quite different.
The Honda BR-V resembles the Mobilio MPV to a large extent when viewed from the side angle. It has got the same kink on the B-pillar, roofline is identical and the lengthy MPV silhouette is quite visible. Honda has given it some rugged details for making it look a bit SUVish and these include tall roof rails, 210 mm of high ground clearance and black cladding on the lower half of the body. The rear has got some eye catching elements such as the new LED tail lamps with a long reflector panel connecting the cluster which gives it a wide look. There is chrome garnishing on the tailgate and a skid plat for the rear bumper. The overall design looks more MPV oriented rather than being an upright SUV.
SPACE AND CABIN
When we first saw the Honda BR-V in Japan, we were relieved that Honda was dumping the low rent interior from the Brio family for a more premium design. Since then, Honda has upgraded the Amaze in India offering the very same new dashboard and it is only a a matter of time before both the Mobilio and Brio get a similar update.
The layout follows a similar design to the Honda City and Jazz but unlike their touch controls for the sensitive automatic aircon, the Honda BR-V uses conventional buttons. Quality is good and the plastics feel durable. More importantly, the dash is no longer a deal breaker. The Honda BR-V also gets a new instrument cluster that uses white ringed dials with a separate multi-information display that has dual trips, average and instant efficiency, driving range and ambient temperature.
The audio system is a simple unit with a small black and white screen. It has USB, AUX and Bluetooth playback but sound quality is only average.
Where the Honda Amaze offers a standard key, the BR-V has a push button start system. The cabin is thoughtfully laid out, there are enough storage spaces, large bottle holders in the door pockets and an Innova-like roof mounted second AC for the rear passengers. Having roof mounted vents is logical as it sends some of the cool air to the third row. Low mounted ac vents like the ones in the Duster and Creta won’t send air so far back. That having been said, the rear aircon, while effective, is quit
The seats on the top spec model are leather wrapped and supportive. Being the longest car in its segment has its advantages and space is generous, even the third row is quite usable. Middle row knee room isn’t on the same level as a Honda City and you can tell Honda has sacrificed a little here to make the third row more practical. I’m 6″1 and I could fit in there with reasonable comfort. Being a conventional third row, passengers also get seatbelts unlike those silly jump seats in the sub-4m 7-seaters from Mahindra.
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION
Honda will offer the BR-V in two engine trims of petrol and diesel. The diesel will be the 1.5-litre motor that is also seen in the Honda Jazz and the Honda City. Similarly, it will produce 98 bhp of power and 200 Nm of torque. It will come with a six-speed manual transmission. The diesel typically will serve well for the highway mongers but then for the city commuters, it will be the petrol doing rounds.
We got a chance to test drive the Honda BR-V under a controlled environment at a specified speed on a special track. The duration was too less for us to form definite judgements about the riding dynamics and the overall performance but based on our brief experience with the car, we concluded the following.
Firstly, the 1.5-litre iVTEC engine will power the petrol variants and will come with a six-speed manual transmission. In addition, Honda will also offer the same engine with a seven-speed CVT transmission. This 1497cc motor makes 118 bhp of power at 6000 rpm and generates an impressive 145Nm of torque at 4600 rpm. The power delivery has been deliberately tuned in such a way to order more push in the lower range.
Honda also claims to have made the engine smoother than before and has been tweaked according to the body type. Even the efficiency has been increased by usage of low friction rings along with piston stroke noise reduction. Also, tackling criticism against this transmission, Honda has developed a new CVT unit for small sized engines. This has helped in reducing the lag by quicker acceleration from standstill as well as reduced overall weight of the unit increasing the mileage.
RIDE AND HANDLING
Most Hondas these days lack that incredible driver appeal that was a key part of the company’s DNA for decades. Still, they are still quite agreeable to drive, and that’s true of the BR-V too. It’s helped in a big way by that car-like driving position and good visibility. The steering is quick and accurate and this SUV will track true around corners; it really feels like a sedan from behind the wheel. What lets it down is its massive girth that can be felt at all times; you simply have to remind yourself that there’s a lot of car behind you when you try to push it hard. Body control is pretty impressive for something so big, it has to be said, and that’s due to a suspension setup that’s a little on the stiff side. Yes, the BR-V’s ride is a little firm, but like the other cars on this platform, it’s not too uncomfortable for it. Yes, you’ll get a bit of up-and-down movement over a really rough patch of road, but it’s really not bad enough to be a serious complaint. In fact, in most situations, it really handles a variety of surfaces quite well. It’ll smash out potholes quite impressively and it will stay quite flat out on the highway too; there’s even an impressive resistance to crosswinds. All things considered, the BR-V’s ride doesn’t have that excellent balance of the Renault Duster, nor does it have the soft, floaty ride of a Hyundai Creta (nor, thankfully, the associated body roll), and most owners will be quite happy with the comfort levels in here.
SAFETY AND SECURITY
BR-V gets dual frontal airbags for driver and co-passenger as standard fitment across the line-up. Other than this the SUV also gets preeminent safety features like vehicle safety assist and hill start assist.
The braking system of Honda BR-V features disc brakes at the front and drum brakes at the rear. The ABS with EBD is used as a standard in all variants except the petrol E variant. The body shell is made strong with ACE body structure and front dual airbags are introduced in all variants for complete safety of the occupants
The Honda BR-V is a crossover SUV that India has waited for with bated breath for years primarily because it is Honda’s first diesel SUV offering in the country. But, we think that Honda has tried to play it way too safe with the BR-V, which makes it an underwhelming product. Now the perfect target audience for the BR-V would have been the middle class family man with a couple of children who go out over the weekend for a holiday or two ever so regularly and want a car that has a premium Japanese badge and a sense of pride in ownership. This customer also wants something reliable which means that the Honda brand caters perfectly to him or her. But we think that even this perfect target customer might be concerned about a few things.