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Honda BR-V Hatchback Test Drive

OVERVIEW ;

India is currently the fifth largest automobile market in the world and is estimated to be the third largest in the next four years. Despite the economic downturn, the automobile industry is showing growth. In order to keep costs in check, manufacturers have developed platforms which can accommodate numerous models. Now, with the SUV craze at its peak, Honda decided to bring in the BR-V, a crossover based on the Brio Platform (Mobilio) and will compete in the compact SUV segment. Check On Road Price of Honda BR-V in Carzprice

EXTERIORS AND STYLE ;

This will likely be the most contentious and polarising part of the BR-V road test, and it’s easy to see why. For a start, there are the underpinnings – it’s based on the same GSP platform as the Mobilio, Amaze and Brio, not the Jazz or City, let alone the CR-V. And though it’s been significantly modified for its role as an SUV – raised ride height, wider tracks and a wheelbase longer than even the Mobilio’s – this is still inherently a compact car platform. Being built on this platform, the suspension setup is as conventional as you’d expect – MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam at the rear, and before you ask, no, Honda has no plans for an all-wheel-drive version, the BR-V will be front-drive only.

Then there’s the look. Honda has done an excellent job with the nose, simultaneously bringing it up to speed with the more modern design template of the City and Jazz, and also making it suitably tough and rugged looking. Beneath the flat, clamshell bonnet, the thick chrome grille leads into purposeful-looking projector headlamps, the grey plastic-clad bumper is sharp and rugged, and the whole thing is capped by the roof rails that give it that final SUV touch. Viewed head on, then, it’s got all the right stuff, but the moment you look at the profile, it starts to fall apart. Yes, the new 16-inch wheels and 60-profile tyres, added ground clearance and wheel-arch cladding try to impart that off-roader feel, but the car is simply too long in relation to its height and width. It looks too much like the Mobilio, and what really gives it away is the very recognisable kink in the second window that debuted on the Honda MPV, as well as an abnormally long rear overhang that extends far beyond the back axle.

The rear is suitably new, with smart tail-lamps that meet each other in a band across the tailgate and a nice chrome strip, but it too doesn’t do enough to erase that MPV image from your mind.

INTERIOR AND SPACE ;

Inside the Honda BR-V, the interiors again remind you of the one in Mobilio and Jazz with a similar layout and feel. Agreeably, Honda’s knack of maintaining its appeal by giving a stronger built quality and well trimmed interiors has always worked in all its cars and the same will be seen in this new crossover.

Firstly, getting inside is not difficult even for taller passengers as the larger front and rear doors guarantee good ingress and egress. The seats came in two versions, the first being rich quality leather and the second with premium fabrics. We expect the BR-V to sport the former as standard in their top end variant. The front row seats are comfortable and can be easily adjusted according to any size of passengers but then they aren’t wide enough which makes it a tight squeeze. Similarly, in the second row everything is acceptable and the larger window area also offers proper visibility but then passengers might have to fight it out in terms of space. There is a third as well but with a flatter profile, its best for kids and luggage.

Even though, conventionally, India has a liking for beige interiors but personally all-black finish has always been my favourite as they tend to make the cabin look a lot classier. On the BR-V, it is very straight cut and simple with the familiar layout of things. The steering wheel has controls to alter volume and change mode of entertainment while the instrumental cluster is simple triple-ring binnacle with a chrome surround. There is a gear shift indicator too located inside the tacho ring. One can access all information about the vehicle regarding trip readings, mileage and instantaneous consumption on the third screen.

The central console sports a touchscreen unit with navigation and Bluetooth compatibility. One can also stream music using a phone as well as connect via USB and Aux-In options. It also gets a piano black finish around the central area. Just below that is the air-conditioning system with automatic climate control but this one is not a touchscreen type like that in the Honda City and instead has conventionally styles buttons to operate with a digital temperature display.

In terms of practicality, there are multiple storage options like the twin cup holder on the central zone, pockets on door trims, glove box, one common pocket for the rear occupants and a large boot space. We do not have the exact quantity of bootspace as this was a prototype and not an actual production variant. Even then the boot space looked sufficiently large to accommodate multiple bags. There is also an option of folding down the third row of seats to increase the boot space.

ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION ;

Powering the BR-V are the same engines which sit under the hood of the Mobilio. The diesel oilburner delivers similar power output of 100 PS at 3600 RPM and torque of 200 Nm at 1750 RPM. This engine is mated to a 6-speed manual transmission (derived from the City). However, the gear ratios have been reworked to suit the BR-V. While the first five gears have the same ratio, the sixth gear is shorter by 7.7% for better SUV performance.

There is negligible turbo lag after which performance is quite linear. Even with four people in the car and some heavy camera equipment, the Honda BR-V never felt underpowered. Low-end performance is much better now and Honda has added some insulation to the engine compartment thereby making the NVH levels mildly better in the cabin but this engine is far from being the quietest in the segment, getting quite vocal in the higher end of the rev band. The ARAI certified fuel economy is 21.9 km/l, we reckon it should return around 14 km/l in the routine driving cycle.

The petrol too is the same 1.5-litre i-VTEC unit and this engine churns out 119 PS at 6600 RPM and a maximum torque of 145 Nm at 4600 RPM. This powerplant comes with an all new 6-speed manual gearbox and a segment first petrol CVT. This manual transmission has been optimised for the BR-V by lowering the first gear ratio by 12% while the top gear ratio has been increased by 7%. The manual variant has an ARAI certified fuel economy of 15.4 km/l, it should return around 11 km/l in the regular driving cycle.

We had a small run in the petrol CVT version at the drive. Honda has reduced the weight as well as the friction for the CVT in order to get better performance and fuel efficiency. The CVT feels quite good for city driving offering the comfort and convenience of an automatic. However, it is only when you give it the beans that it gets quite noisy with a pronounced rubber band effect. In theory, this CVT is more fuel efficient than the manual at 16 km/l.

DRIVING DYNAMICS ;

The Honda BR-V will mainly be used as a family runabout and it is imperative that the crossover SUV have a good level of ride comfort. And it does for most parts. 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. This is even more accentuated when you encounter a set of continuous bumps. Although the BR-V will not make you feel uncomfortable and will prove to be a great grand tourer especially when weighed down with a bunch of passengers and their luggage.

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. The 195/60 R16 Michelin tyres that our test car came with did have an average level of grip, but we think that a better set of tyres would really improve the way the BR-V would handle and stop even more. And talking about stopping, the BR-V comes with disc brakes up front and drum brakes at the rear with ABS as a standard feature on all models. And 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. Talking a bit more about safety features, the BR-V does come standard with airbags across all variants.

SAFETY FEATURES ;

Honda is offering dual front airbags and ABS as standard across all the variants except the base E petrol version of the BR-V. It is a good move but considering the marginal price increase with ABS, they should have offered it on the base petrol trim. None of the cars from the Brio family have been crash tested by Global NCAP so we can’t judge the structural strength of the BR-V yet. However, the after sales of Honda is quite trustworthy and low on maintenance, which is a boon for Indian buyers. The Japanese automaker currently has 298 outlets across 190 cities in India and they plan to ramp it up to 340 outlets by March 2017.

VERDICT ;

The first comment that would come in your mind is about the pricing of the Honda BR-V and rightly that shall be a crucial decision making point for Indian audiences. From our first impression, we are sure that Honda looks all geared up to enter the segment with a great bang and will make other crossovers worry of their existence. The exterior design will find many takers as it has an enthusiastic yet premium approach. Inside, the interiors will be even more premium and Honda will fill the cabin with multiple and highly relevant features.

Since this one is a prototype, the final production variant will feature higher levels of finishing. Till then, we need to be patient and keep an eye on this new breed of crossover. Yes, that also means you should hold on to your buying decisions for the next few months

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