Honda BR-V review: A practical roundabout competitor


The BR-V is Honda’s new small SUV that is built on the same platform as the Brio, Amaze and Mobilio. In case you are wondering, BR-V expands to ‘bold runabout vehicle’ and Honda admits that this car is meant for an urban clientele and not for those looking for mud-plugging abilities. That said, it fits right into a segment where off-road prowess is rarely sought after. The BR-V rivals the Hyundai Creta, Renault Duster and Nissan Terrano, and here’s a look at how it hopes to differentiate itself.

 With a length of 4,456mm, the BR-V is the longest of the small SUVs. For perspective, a Hyundai Creta measures 4,270mm. The BR-V’s extended rear section has been used to hold a third row. This makes the Honda the only seven-seater in its segment. Honda has tried to give the BR-V proper SUV credentials with a beefy face and a stylish rear but it bears a striking resemblance to the Mobilio MPV, especially in side profile.

Because of BR-V’s medium height, it is very easy to get in and out. Its cabin, akin to that of the updated Honda Amaze, looks quite smart. Plastic quality is decent though not quite at Creta levels.

On the top-spec versions, you get Bluetooth, USB and aux-in, automatic climate control, steering-mounted audio buttons, push-button start and rear air-con vents. However, touchscreen infotainment and a reverse parking camera are missing. Dual front airbags and ABS are standard across the range with only the base-petrol variant missing out on the latter.

From behind the steering wheel, the BR-V feels like a jacked-up Jazz. The seating position isn’t high but visibility is still good, as is comfort. The middle-row seats with adjustable backrests are quite nice and leg- and head-room are aplenty. However, the SUV’s cabin isn’t wide enough to seat three adults in comfort. That’s when the last row comes handy. Access to the back is decent but due to the knees-up seating though, this space is best suited for short journeys.

What’s nice is that luggage space is decent even with all seven seats up. Also, the rearmost seat can be folded away to release up to 691 litres of boot space.

The mainstay of the BR-V range will be the diesel. It is powered by Honda’s 1.5-litre, i-DTEC engine that produces 100hp and 200Nm; same as on the Honda City, Jazz and Mobilio. But it runs a lot quieter than on the others. However, the diesel BR-V doesn’t feel as refined as the Creta or even the Renault Duster.

The diesel engine offers plenty of pulling power from very low engine speeds and revs freely. It comes with a smooth-shifting six-speed gearbox that’s allied to a light clutch, which makes the BR-V diesel easy to drive in town. Also, its ARAI-tested fuel efficiency of 21.9kmpl makes it the most economical small SUV.

The other engine is Honda’s 119hp, 1.5-litre, i-VTEC petrol engine. This engine is available with either a six-speed manual or Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) automatic gearbox. The manual version’s ARAI-tested mileage is 15.4kmpl while the automatic’s figure is slightly higher at 16kmpl.

The CVT-equipped BR-V feels responsive for city use. But press down hard on the accelerator and the CVT gearbox’s ‘rubber-band’ effect comes into play, where the gearbox holds the engine at high revs until speeds build bringing out the engine’s noisiest side.

Enthusiasts will however appreciate the inclusion of paddle shifters, a first-in-class feature, that lets you shuffle between the CVT gearbox’s seven ‘steps’.

On the handling front, the BR-V feels planted at all times and its well-weighted steering gives you a sense of confidence at higher speeds. Straight-line stability, though not quite at Duster levels, is good nonetheless. The BR-V also does well for ride comfort. Importantly, its generous 210mm of ground clearance makes easy work of driving over our potholes.

Summing up, the Honda BR-V is the only model in its class to come with seven seats, something that buyers with large families will be drawn to. While it comes with a versatile petrol engine, the diesel engine will appeal to those looking for a frugal runabout.

Yes, it doesn’t have the rugged appeal of an SUV and it’s also slightly down on equipment to rivals too. However, Honda has priced the BR-V range well at Rs 8.75-12.90 lakh, which should help the Japanese carmaker take the fight to the established competition.

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