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Honda set to join the compact SUV battle

| Updated on: Oct 29, 2015
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The BR-V will hit Indian roads by mid-2016. Can’t wait to see it? Head to the Delhi Auto Expo in February

The compact SUV segment has seen a lot of action in India during the last 2-3 years. It is ideal for those who wanted to own and drive a vehicle that felt like a proper sports utility vehicle without becoming intimidating by the sheer size that SUVs are usually associated with. Car buyers are now spoilt for choice with the Renault Duster, Ford EcoSport, Hyundai Creta and Mahindra TUV3OO to choose from.

Honda Cars India will be joining the race for customers in this segment early next financial year when it launches the BR-V (short for Bold Runabout Vehicle), built on the same platform as the Brio hatchback, Amaze compact sedan and Mobilio compact multi-purpose vehicle. Honda, true to its style, has chosen to describe the BR-V, which will first be launched in Indonesia sometime in December, as a “crossover utility vehicle” because the vehicle does not fit into the classical definition of an SUV. This is despite the fact that it is longer than all of the other compact SUVs currently available in the Indian market.

Seven-seater What makes the BR-V unique is that it features a third row of seats. This feature comes from the fact that Indonesia is the lead market for the BR-V as far as Honda is concerned and in Indonesia, even SUVs come with seven seats.

A contingent of Indian journalists got to drive the Indonesian market prototypes of the BR-V at Honda’s famous Twin Ring Motegi track outside Tokyo, Japan. Fitted with the proven 1.5-litre i-VTEC engine, the BR-V with CVT (continuous variable transmission) handled the smooth track quite well. Of course, it was not as if one could go full throttle on the track even on the straights. With a ground clearance of 201 mm, our test prototype BR-V rode on 195/60R16 tyres. The petrol engine had a rated output of 120PS of peak power and torque of 145Nm at 4,800 rpm.

Honda Cars India officials, however, said the company has not started homologating the vehicle for Indian conditions and product clinics were now on, after which they will finalise the specifications, features and finally decide on a price point. What is for sure is that Honda will launch the vehicle with both the 1.5-litre i-VTEC petrol and the 1.5-litre i-DTEC diesel engines, mated to a six-speed manual transmission. It is also likely that the company will bring in the CVT for the 1.5-litre petrol engine too for India, given that there is a growing preference for automatic transmission cars.

Spacious cabin Inside the BR-V, the seats were comfortable with adequate thigh support. Even though the driver’s seat does not have a high position, the visibility is good. It is expected that Honda India will launch the BR-V with a touch screen infotainment system, while the prototype that we test drove had the conventional climate control knobs. The middle rows are comfortable, though we felt that they could have offered a little more thigh support. We also felt that it will be a little bit cramped for three adults to sit comfortably in the middle row. And, that is probably where the third row will be useful. It is easy to get in and out of the third row. The prototype that we test drove had a rear AC vent and one assumes that Honda will have it in the India-spec model too.

Dashboard plastics looked and felt good, but we still think that it is not in the same league as the Hyundai Creta. Now that Bluetooth connectivity and steering wheel mounted audio controls are the in-thing, it will only be natural that Honda has those too in the BR-V when it hits the road next year.

Honda lineage The front of the vehicle has the distinct Honda look with chrome. The plastic cladding, roof rails and wheel arches gives the impression that the vehicle is actually bigger than what it its. From a distance it also looks like a longer and bigger version of the Mobilio, but the BR-V definitely sits taller than the compact MPV. With the third row of seats folded back, the boot space becomes enormous, maybe the best in class too.

For those looking to change to a bigger car in the near future, they can add the BR-V to their list of choices. Given that India is an extremely price-sensitive market and given Honda’s own brand standing, one expects the company to price it aggressively.

Published on January 23, 2018

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