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Honda BR-V is not your average SUV

May 16, 2016 15:50 IST
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If there was ever a car to define the word ‘crossover’, the BR-V would be it

The SUV is clearly king of the Indian automotive segment today and every carmaker wants to cash in on this trend. Aspiring to emulate the success of the Honda City, the Japanese manufacturer has come up with an affordable (and diesel) SUV with the new BR-V after years of dilly-dallying around with prospective products.

Design-wise, the Honda BR-V is not your average SUV in its purest sense. It is not aggressive, it is not macho and it certainly does not have the kind of street presence you see on some of the competition. That said, if there was ever a car to define the word ‘crossover’, the BR-V would be it.

The sleek front that comes with a large chrome grille and a well-styled bumper that gets a silver skid plate impart it a pleasant feel. We also like the very well detailed headlamps that get a slash daytime running light, a projector headlamp and a separate module for the halogen high beam.

And for a change, Honda has actually provided a really good looking set of large 16-inch wheels that come with a polished finished on the top of the line version that we have here. The rear is nothing too flashy but could look really good with an aftermarket lighting package.

In terms of design negatives, the side profile looks way too much like the Mobilio and that makes it still look a lot more van-like.

The only saving grace could be the plastic cladding that runs through the sides, the strip of chrome along the bottom of the doors and the roof rails that come finished in a polished metal look.

One of the biggest aspects of the BR-V that everyone keeps talking about is the fact that the BR-V is a seven seater SUV. So lets talk about seats, space and comfort levels first before we talk about design.

For starters, the BR-V is genuinely spacious when it comes to comparing it with other cars of its category. All variants get black interiors with the top of the line versions getting a full leather pack which includes seats, side rests and a leather wrapped steering wheel and gear knobs.

Front seats are comfortable and have adequate comfort levels with good padding. Headspace in the middle row is also good and the large window makes the cabin feel very airy.

However, there just is not enough room to fit three large adults in the rear seat and it feels pretty much as spacious as the likes of your average compact sedan or hatchback in terms of overall shoulder space.

The third row, which comes with a 50-50 folding option and one might assume it to be as cramped as some of the other SUVs that have seven seats. However it could fit two adults with relative (but slightly cramped) comfort if the journey is short.

Now, with a third row of seats, one cannot really expect a lot of boot space, but the BR-V does have enough space for a coupled of small bags and if you really had a lot of luggage, you could always fold down the rear row.

Coming to design and equipment, there are sections that impress and then there are sections that disappoint. The infotainment system looks and feels like it deserves to be in an entry level micro hatchback and not in a Rs 10 lakh-plus crossover.

This one thing actually ends up ruining the experience of the BR-V to an unparalleled level as it does not have touchscreen, navigation or facilities like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

As we mentioned earlier, the Honda BR-V comes with a diesel engine. And of course, like with all other compact SUVs in the market today, a petrol engine too. Both are 1.5-litre units that get a 6-speed manual gearbox (with the petrol also getting a CVT gearbox and paddle shifters).

The diesel is a turbocharged four-cylinder unit makes 100PS of peak power and 200Nm of peak torque. The petrol is also a 4-cylinder i-VTEC four-cylinder unit that makes 119PS of peak power and 145Nm of peak torque.

The 1.5-litre motor is revvy and sounds glorious when taken all the way to the red-line. Of course, power bands are quite linear but there is a bit of a lag at the lower end of the rev-range.

The new 6-speed gearbox is as good as the old 5-speed and has short and very precise shifts along with a good clutch action which makes it ideal for start-stop city traffic.

And as with the Honda City, the CVT on this car also gets a paddle shifter option. Now, in general ‘Drive’ mode, the CVT behaves like any other whiney CVT out there. But push it into ‘Sport’ and you can go through gears with the paddles giving yourself a very Jenson Button-ish feel.

Of course, everyone is going to be most concerned about the diesel engine and the tried and tested 1.5-litre engine is most certainly going to lose all games of ‘Top Trumps’ when compared to its rivals on the basis of power and torque figures.

But the Indian customer is more than these power numbers – the Indian customer is all about the fuel economy number. And in that aspect, the BR-V does score high with a figure of over 21kmpl (according to ARAI).

Slow speed ride quality is great and we were genuinely impressed by how the BR-V does not let in thuds and thumps from bumps at such speeds.

Speed up a bit and the first row passengers will be taken care of as well but the second and third row occupants do get thrown around a little bit.

When it comes to handling, the BR-V is like any other Honda – just enough neutrality to be ballistic levels of fun in the right hands. Steering feel is great and the steering feedback is good enough to make the driver know exactly what both front tyres are up to at any given time.

Talking about the braking, the BR-V comes with disc brakes up front and drum brakes at the rear with ABS as a standard feature on all models.

Unlike some of the other Honda cars in the past which were a little under-whelming in the braking section, the BR-V’s brakes have good bite and feel under normal and heavy braking. As for safety features, the BR-V does come standard with airbags across all variants.

Overall, in terms of power (on paper) the Honda BR-V isn’t up there with the best. And even though this ideal customer would have loved the seven-seater layout but the lack of features is a major let-down.

At a decent pricing of Rs 8.75 lakh for the base petrol and Rs 9.9 lakh for the base diesel version, it will be an uphill task for the BR-V to match the levels of trust that the City had garnered among the Indian customers. Only time will tell.

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