You don’t need in-depth market research to conclude that Indians love SUVs. Big or small, four-wheel drive equipped or front-wheel driven; nobody particularly cares about the fine print as long as the ground-clearance is high, the skid-plates are shiny and plastic cladding is plentiful. Which makes ‘SUV’ an umbrella term, in local parlance, for any kind of vehicle offering more utility than a standard hatchback/sedan.
Take the new Honda BR-V for instance – it’s a slick, handsome vehicle with third row seating and plenty of room for luggage. It’s also got comparitively higher ground clearance (210mm) than most full-sized MPVs, which is perhaps why it’s competing with a multitude of mini-SUVs for market share while also being marketed as one.
Is it a premium compact SUV?
In terms of utility, the Honda BR-V is defintely on par with every other premium, compact SUV in the market. It’s got the space, the presence, the kit and the ground clearance to match and even surpass what most of its competitors have to offer. From up-front its proportions are unmistakably SUV-like, but things start to get diluted along the shoulder-line where we slowly being inching towards MPV territory. What does this mean in the real world? Not a damned thing, because nomenclature really has no effect on the basic utility and practicality offered by a car. Suffice it to say that the BR-V is a bold looking car, with the finer elements from Honda’s trademark design elements making their way into that large chrome-grille, the NSX-style connected tail lights and a sharp looking set of alloys.
On the inside the car feels adequately spacious, with a third-row capable of accommodating full-sized adults,at least for a few hours, if the middle-row seats are pulled forward.
Does it drive like a Honda?
The BR-V is available with two engine options – a 1.5 litre turbo petrol and diesel. The petrol i-VTEC option is smooth as ever, producing 117.5 bhp and 14 kgm of torque. Although it’s available with an optional CVT gearbox, it’s the next 6-speed manual that manages to utilise the engine’s rev range judiciously (though Honda claim that the CVT offers greater fuel efficiency). Slick, short throws allow the car to settle into a healthy cruising speed of over 110 kph, much like the Honda City with which it shares its engines. The diesel engine’s characteristics also remain unchanged – with NVH levels having dropped, but not to the extent that they should. On smooth roads, the torque levels seem adequate at 20 kgm, but the turbo only kicks in after 2000 rpm making hillclimbs quite ardous. The fact that power tapers after 4000 rpm doesn’t do much to make things more fun.
Where Honda gets it just right is the suspension setup. Having driven the car over several rough patches, I can safely conclude that the ride is consistently comfortable. The BR-V was surprisingly agile around corners and, despite having such a comfortable suspension setup its composure on a winding road would please any enthusiast.
Should you buy one?
Given that the top-end version does not come with a parking sensors or a reversing camera, the BR-V’s Rs 12.90 lakh (Ex-Delhi) pricetag seems a bit steep. It’s large overhangs betray its MPV underpinnings but they also give it an additional amount of space which you won’t find on other mini-SUVs. The BR-V’s driving dynamics are still very much Honda, so you’re still getting a great overall package. Everything from interior quality to the car’s overall design are decidedly premium, but the BR-V would have benefitted immensely from some additional features. If you’ve got a large family, with plenty of roadtrips on the calendar, the BR-V might not be a bad option at all.