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A day out with the Honda BRV

Saturday, May 28, 2016

/ by Srikanth Eswaran
The Honda BRV reviews are all over the place by now. Many channels like the CarDekho, AutoPortal, CarWale, AutoCar also went to Japan to check out the BRV first hand when it was launched. As a potential buyer more than a reviewer I had to wait my turn until the car reached the showrooms. And it did sooner than later. Took my kid along after having a chat whether the BRV was indeed available for a test drive. It was only the manual petrol though which I had to make do with, but atleast something was available.
Sure enough as I entered the showroom, the BRV was parked under decorative arches since it was the newest entrant into the Honda family in India. After having bitter memories about the Mobilio last time where I even said why I may not end up buying it, I did not have much of expectation on the BRV. After having seen many reviews which went on screaming the fact that it resembled the mobilio my spirits were further dampened. When you go with zero expectation nothing can potentially disappoint you. In fact its more likely the other way around where something can actually impress you.
Coming to my need, with about a budget of under or equal to 15 L, I had specific needs if I were to buy a new vehicle this time. My top priorities were not including the price and mileage for once. I definitely needed over 100Bhp of power, minimum of 200mm of ground clearance, 6-7 seater and a reliable and trustworthy company that can address problems in my car if any cropped up.
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Among all contenders were the usual suspects ranging from the Brezza, all the way until the XUV (including the EcoSport, TUV300, Scorpio, Creta & Duster and Terrano among others). I did have a consideration for the Innova and the versatile Lodgy which I will come to perhaps in a later post but for now lets stick to what was discussed earlier.
I had three vehicles from the Mahindra stable to consider, one from everyone else.
The Duster exit the race as its interiors were below par for the price. It is no doubt the best for tough roads but that’s about it. It’s not going to lighten your mood when you are inside it.
And for perking up the same thing, the Terrano does no better for more money. The Creta is the best seller among all of this and without a single doubt the most luxurious feeling car of the lot while you are inside it. But paying over 16L for just features and no real other meat does not cut ice with me, so after a rather long while the Creta was out of the list. It was hard to let it go, but I had no other option.
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Coming back to the topic, the BRV does not feel like the Mobilio. In all honesty Honda have done much better for this vehicle and they have put their heart and soul into making this vehicle. The front facia with the rather bold chrome strip shows its presence, and the headlamps have a charm of their own when you see the car in flesh.
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The tail lamps though seem like its older sibling, have been beautifully though about and are chunky enough for the look and feel part. The dash is not bland anymore and though it does not offer everything everyone else offers, it does not have any bits and pieces of gadgetry peeping out of the dash unnecessarily.
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Its uniform, has the City and Jazz look and feel and Honda have learnt it the hard way that the customers cannot be sold crap like the older Mobilio. I did take a test drive of the BRV and I must say that Honda undoubtedly have one fo the best steering wheels in the market.

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If you want to know what is Butter Smooth, drive any other car and drive a Honda. You will understand it yourself. The steering just slices through the road in such precision that I was left astounded how well rounded the product is.

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I was a bit disappointed with the rather idiotic stereo system in place. But that is something one can replace easily so it should not be an issue as such. That said, Honda has boldly made the dash fully black and it lends a certain business aura to the car.
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Another point to mention is the seats. This car comes with two captain seats, which are well rounded and cushion you with ample thigh and back support, a middle bench that is 40-60 splittable, and slidable as well and a rear bench which is much much more spacious than the older mobilio. If you really want to know, I did not even venture out for a test drive of the Mobilio earlier just due to this one fact that an adult could not even get himself to get into the rear bench.
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We all know and understand that there are challenges to these kinds of seats since it sits above the wheel arches, and I was quite happy that in the BRV the seats are more accessible compared to older siblings. However that said, I can certify that me being 5’11”, I can comfortably sit in the rear bench alongside another adult without much issue. But that’s about it. You could seat three kids or two adults at best. The rear airconditioning must keep these people in good comfort hopefully.
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The seats themselves are full leather with high quality professional stitching which speaks volumes about the effort Honda has taken to make this a well rounded product. I must point out that the middle passenger in the middle row is likely to get inconvenienced a bit due to somewhat of a raised bottom portion of the seat and perhaps I feel Honda could have worked on this aspect a bit more.
Switch the car on and you can hardly believe that it is on. With or without AC. No I mean it really. Step on the pedal and with AC on the car is slow but steady to react. After all its got a 100 horses and it must show up somewhere and somehow. Step on the gas a bit more and it takes that tiny moment for the car to react and lunge forward somewhat unpredictably a bit, but nothing major to worry about.
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The sweet spots of this car lie in the way the soft clutch has been designed and the rather slick gear shift with a six speed gearbox and that buttery smooth steering only means you have an awesome combination to enjoy the car with.
The one anohter aspect of this is the torque. You need to really drive the car slowly to believe it. I mean really slowly. Like 10kmph at 5th gear and bring it up to a full 100kph in the same gear.
Absolute beatuy of an engine. You know sometimes its not exactly about brute force power to fly about exactly but things like no gear shifts needed at super low speeds that make this vehicle an enjoyable one.
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Then there is thing about ground clearance. After all Honda calls it an SUV while in true spirit its a much much better designed Mobilio in my opinion. Anyways one of the traits of an SUV is ground clearance and the BRV has 210mm of it, beating all other rivals almost. What this translates to is something I have not exactly been able to measure with the short test drive that I took up. However I did go obliquely across two deep potholes with a rather uneven mound in between and the car did not scrape anywhere below. However if you live in Bangalore like I do, you would very well know there are some roads with manhole lids the size of road humps and the road itself is much below them. Another case in point is severe water logging during heavy rains in underpasses. I am really not sure how the BRV will perform in these two scenarios. A third simpler scenario is to keep a water bottle on the road and go over it to see if it topples. I could not verify either of these cases and unless I get a real chance to, I cannot really say this would perform like perhaps a Scorpio would. I can confidently say that I have tried these on a scorpio and it has had absolutely no issues in handling them.
Being pioneers in seat configurability the BRV offers varieties of ways to generate space both in the boot as well as in the middle rows using the 40-60 split modes. Whichever situation, space should never be a problem with BRV as this is what the car is all about for its money. That said, with all seats upright with passengers, the rear boot space is going to be somewhat optimal if not minimal and it can handle only a defined amount of luggage. Nothing to piss you off though really.
So what about diesel and automatic then? Frankly everyone knows Honda’s automatic CVT transmissions are among the best. Having paddle shifters means handling the car like using a video game console to shift gears with your thumbs. However until now the CVTs were sluggish and was intended for more of mundane driving without the thrill of driver defined gear shifts. With the introduction of the revamped CVT in the newly launched amaze, Honda claims it has addressed some issues with the familar rubber banding effect of its original CVT. At the time of writing this article, the CVT was not available for a test drive and hence I cannot comment on how it feels until I drive one. So I will reserve my comments for later except however to say here that this will be one of the most effortless cruiser both within and outside the city for tired souls after a hard day’s work.
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I have been chafferured around in a diesel Amaze and found it to be quite noisy on the inside. This is very unlike Honda and it clearly shows they did not research with it properly and just went in for a hurried launch party. However in the revised Amaze they claim to have taken care of this issue now. The earlier one felt like the first Hyundai Accent CRDi which had that distinct clatter all the time. One hopes that the diesel BRV will muffle these sounds even more with all the corrective feedback taken. At the time of this writing, the diesel BRV was unavailable as well due to which I could not test drive the same. It is bound to be a pocket friendly car for sure with mileages of over 20kmpl for sure. And a light clutch on the diesel as well means amazing driveability on daily basis.
But would you buy a diesel for close to 16L that has a 1.5 litre engine, or would you rather buy a Scorpio for 15.5L giving a mileage of 15kmpl, for a 2.2 litre engine generating 120bhp, or a XUV 500 for 16L giving a mileage of 11kmpl but with a 2.2 L 140bhp engine?
The choice is all yours frankly as each have its positives and negatives. Ultimately its about value for money and driveability that are the only two factors that makes a person decide what he or she would like.
Only time will tell whether the BRV will sell in huge numbers and be a hit for Honda. For sure this is not a Brezza or an Ecosport or even a Duster to sell 100,000 units in six months. But it sure will have steady sales once people understand how Honda has managed to engineer this car. And its long term reliability, acceptance for its strong virtues will decide whether or not Honda’s long term fortunes will be impacted positively or not. Honda has begun to take customer feedback and work on it which is a good sign and like Toyota the engines are legendary beyond measure which still is helping the company maintain its strong growth phase.
As CarDekho put it, if you a family man with old parents and young kids and you want a fuss free car that has SUV/MUV traits, is comfortable to be in, and keeps your senses calm on long drives, then the BRV is for you.

On a side note I did drive the Scorpio automatic which I will talk about a little later. The more I drive other automatics, the more and more I feel the Honda’s CVT just like the Nissan CVT are vehicles that other manufacturers’ products cannot beat in the long run.
So if you have 15-16L, need a great ground clearance, want to seat more people, want to have fun with a slick shifting manual or an absolutely smooth to cruise CVT, dont mind a lesser engine capacity, and prefer great mileage, reliability, and peace of mind buy the BRV.
This car is not about looks. Its about attention to detail, and character. The BRV won’t disappoint you.
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