March 29, 2016 @ 05:45 PM

Preview: Honda BR-V – This might be the MPV that ruins the market

A compact seven-seater SUV that’s tipped to be priced cheaper than the HR-V? Interesting, yes?


My test begins at the back seat, the most important place in this seven-seater in my opinion. The reason is this, how I sit at the back will tell me whether or not the third-row is designed as part of this SUV or it that it started out life very differently. The ceiling-mounted air-conditioning and integrated seatbelt anchors tell that this is a proper seven-seater.
 
Another telling fact is that I am seated comfortably. There’s actually space between my legs and the gap under the second-row seats is enough for me to slide my feet under it and then stretch out my legs further in front, releasing me from the usual foetal position. But, let’s not get carried away about this. The third row still does not offer as much room as the second row and only has room for another to join me. And despite the snug fit, the larger-than-normal rear three-quarter window does a respectable job in making the back airy.
 
The back bench is also comfortable on the move. The rear suspension soaks up pretty much all the road gives, albeit the tarmac is very close to pristine. Pitch and yaw are also kept at bay, even when the SUV is being driven with higher than normal spirits. So far so good.
 
Getting in and out isn't a problem. The second row folds and tumbles away to give easy access to the rear seats with just a pull of the lever. The third row also functions the same when you want to free up space for more things, although there is adequate room for overnight bags when the rear seats are down.

For my next stint, I get behind the wheel of the BR-V and the unsophisticated dashboard where it is mounted on. The basics are here, multimedia with touchscreen and an air-conditioning unit. There is but one power outlet here, which is a far cry from the current offering in the market. With not much else to see, I step on the accelerator.
 
The SUV pushes off quicker than expected. The specification board placed in the waiting area says that the BR-V is powered by a 1.5-litre engine that produces 118bhp at 6600 and 145Nm at 4800rpm, and paired with a CVT transmission; you can find the same configuration with the City and Jazz. That short initial burst of speed quickly settles at about 80kph, so it isn’t fast by any measure.
 
Not that I can reach top speed anyway, nor do I want to. This isn’t a sports car and must be driven like the vehicle that it is created to be — a people-mover that happened to be in a rather good-looking SUV body. However, don’t let that take anything away from its handling. For a vehicle that appears to be heavy, the BR-V actually takes corners, at speed, without fuss. As experienced earlier in the rear, the entire chassis does a remarkable job of resisting the physics tacked to a large and tall vehicle.
 
While initial impressions are good, there is a need to temper expectations. Firstly, this BR-V is a prototype so the configurations might change when it goes into production; although it wouldn’t be far off from the information handed out. You see, the BR-V will exist in the same price bracket as the City and Jazz. The BR-V should open up a new market of buyers, as well as become the upgrade vehicle from an Alza. And possibly, the Exora.
 
There’s no confirmed date as to when the BR-V will be launched but it is tipped to arrive somewhere in 2016. If recent products launches are anything to go by, expect a long waiting list even before the official launch. Honda might have another winner coming soon.

CHRIS NG
 
Spec: Honda BR-V

Engine
1496cc, inline-4, DOHC, 118bhp @ 6600rpm, 145Nm @ 4800rpm

Transmission
CVT, front-wheel drive

Dimensions (l/w/h)
4456mm / 1735mm / 1666mm
 

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