If theres one segment that doesn't need more entrants, its this, the compact SUV segment. Almost every manufacturer in India has a product offering to make sure it gets its share of pie. Ford, Maruti and Mahindra have gone in for the sub-4m bracket. Whereas Renault, Nissan and Hyundai have come up with the Duster, Terrano and the Creta respectively with all of them being more than the 4m mark. And soon, on May 5, 2016, Honda will too make an entry into this lucrative segment, with the BR-V.
Is it a smaller CR-V? What more does it offer? What does BR-V stand for? Hold on, hold on, well answer all your queries. In a way, yes, it is a smaller CR-V, and BR-V stands for Bold Runabout Vehicle. Yeah, which genius must have thought of that, right? We arent sure of that, but one thing were sure about is that the BR-V offers everything that its rivals do, and some more... almost.
To begin with, the BR-V has established, capable and brilliant products to compete with. All of them have taken the market by storm, and have been adding great numbers to the sales sheets of their companies. Allow us to tell you more about the BR-V, will you?
This compact SUV is based on the same platform as the Brio, Amaze and the Mobilio. Yeah, its quite a versatile platform to accommodate vehicles across categories and varied dimensions. This one, the BR-V, is almost 4.5 metres in length and weighs in at about 1.2 tonnes. Honda hasnt gone in for an AWD system, even as an option, and sticks to making this Bold Runabout Vehicle a pure-bred front-wheel drive.
As youd expect, Honda hasnt experimented with the drivetrains, too. It gets the only diesel motor that Honda sells in India – the 1.5-litre i-DTEC, which churns out 99 horses and 200Nm of twist. A presentation before our drive said that the engineers have worked on making this engine quieter and smoother. The drive revealed that, yes, the NVH levels have gone down compared to the City and the Amaze, but you can very well hear the clatter in the cabin. But on the brighter side, the driveability of the engine has been improved. The power delivery is far more linear than before and theres ample go right from 1,600rpm. It doesn't like to be revved hard, and redlines at a mere 4,000rpm. But the mid-range is relatively punchy and enough to take care of quick highway overtakes and more than enough if youre going to be that average Joe whod run his compact SUV only within city limits.
Theres also has a petrol on offer, its the same 1.5-litre that you find under the hood of the City. Its good for 118bhp and 145Nm. Its a typical Honda that likes high revs and reserves most of its oomph only for the top half of the rev range. Its quite sober and boring till 3,000rpm, only after which it starts to offer some fun – all the way till 6,500rpm.
Both these engines are mated to a six-speed manual transmission. For the diesel, its the same unit that does duty in the City, but were seeing a six-speed one with the petrol for the first time. More ratios can never be a bad thing\: it allows more flexibility to the engine and boosts highway fuel efficiency. The petrol is also available with a CVT. Its for those who arent really excited about spirited driving, but want the convenience of an automatic. So dont expect great performance from it, but good fuel efficiency. Oh yeah, there are paddle shifters to give you more control of the engine speed, just if you need to...
As we said earlier, the BR-V has trouble from the word go, in the form, on the Creta and the Duster. The Duster rides brilliantly and the handling is so good that itll shame some sedans. The Creta manages those two things damn well too. Does the BR-V? Well, the ride is good, very good. It can gobble up bumps well, and won't even make a fuss about it. Youd have no problems taking it on broken roads or even some soft roads. But having said that, it isnt Duster good. And if you ask us, wed rather take the Duster or the Creta on a long drive up the mountain roads over the BR-V. Why? Because it just isnt as good a handler as the rest of them. Enter a corner slightly faster than you should, and youll be treated by understeer. Luckily, Honda hasnt bothered with low-rolling resistance tyres, and these ones offers adequate bite in normal scenarios, but when you push the BR-V to its limits, youd find them squealing away to glory and in search of crucial grip. And the steering won't tell you whats happening down on the road, not a bit of it. Theres absolutely no feedback from the steering on the drivers palms. As a package, the BR-V isnt an SUV that we can call a drivers delight.
Apart from that, theres something that works in the BR-Vs favour big time – the way the cabin has been packaged. Now, no manufacturer has been successful in packing enough space for seven passengers in a 4.5m SUV. Honda has. It has three rows of seating, and even if you, a full-grown adult, find yourself sitting in the third row, youd not have your knees sticking into your chin. Youd be pretty comfortable.
Honda has gone in for an all-black cabin. It looks nice, and we dont have issues with quality of materials as much as we had with the Mobilio and the Amaze. All black makes it look nice but the design of the dashboard is such that theres no proper flow to it. Bits seem to have been placed on the dashboard that doesnt make it look like one wholesome piece. And it isnt even feature heavy. Theres no reverse cam, no sat nav, no touchscreen, even on the top spec. But theres Bluetooth connectivity, steering controls, electric mirrors and things like that, which, todays ever-hungry buyer may not totally appreciate.
Honda has a typical way of styling their cars. We cant think of one thats sold in India today, which we absolutely love. The BR-V, too, isnt one of those. Theres a hint of the CR-V here and a hint of the Mobilio there. But as a package, it lacks the pomposity and the character of any of its rivals. Its styled to appeal to a specific audience, and doesnt look like a global model like most of its rivals do. The only angle that it looks really intimidating from is when you look at it head-on.
Theres one way in which the BR-V can sweep rivals clean from their feet\: with its pricing. The Renault Duster starts at Rs 8.46 lakh and the Creta begins at Rs 9.15 lakh (both, ex-Delhi) for the petrol variants. If Honda manages to give its buyer an Rs 60-70 thousand advantage over its chief rivals, it stands a strong chance in making a good case for itself.
Engine\: 1497cc, 4cyl, petrol / 1498cc, 4cyl, turbo diesel
Power\: 118bhp / 99bhp
Torque\: 145Nm / 200Nm
Transmission\: 6M, CVT / 6M
Ground clearance\: 210mm
Weight\: 1250kg (approx)
Estimated price\: Rs 9-13 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)
Can seat seven people comfortably, rides well but isnt a great handler.