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2016 Honda BR-V Quick Review

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2016 Honda BR-V Quick Review

Following its global debut at the 2015 Gaikindo Indonesia International Auto Show in Jakarta earlier in August, Honda has given us yet another sneak preview of the upcoming seven-seater Honda BR-V. This time, we were allowed to step inside in the budget SUV and drove it for a short distance on the grounds of Honda's Twin Ring Motegi driving course in Japan.

What Is It?

To recap, the Honda BR-V is a seven-seater SUV that sits below the Honda HR-V. Despite the similar sounding name, the BR-V is not related to the HR-V, or even the CR-V.

While the HR-V is based on the City/Jazz platform, the BR-V is an extension of the Brio (1.2-litre hatchback), Brio Amaze (1.2-litre sedan) and Mobilio (1.5-litre seven-seater MPV) family. None of these models are available in Malaysia as they are aimed at first-time car buyers in Thailand, Indonesia.

Power comes from a 1.5-litre naturally aspirated i-VTEC engine that produces 120 PS at 6,600 rpm and 145 Nm at 4,600 rpm. Drive is transferred to the front wheels via a choice of a 6-speed manual (unlikely to be offered here) or an Earth Dreams series CVT automatic, the latter is shared with the Jazz and City.

There are no plans for a 4WD model.

The BR-V is jointly developed by Honda R&D Asia Pacific Co., Ltd., in Thailand, and P.T. Honda R&D Indonesia.

Its main competitor is the Toyota Rush, but since the Mobilio isn’t sold here, it will also take on the responsibility of seizing more sales from the Toyota Avanza and Nissan Grand Livina.

More about the BR-V’s tentative specifications here:

GIIAS 2015: Honda BR-V Previewed Live, Possible Launch In Malaysia Come 2016

GIIAS 2015: Previewing The 2016 Honda BR-V’s Interior, And More

Is it coming to Malaysia?

To date, Honda Malaysia has neither confirmed nor denied any plans to introduce the BR-V here, but said that “it is seriously looking into a new product strategy that aims to attract buyers who are upgrading from a Perodua Alza, or even a Proton Exora.” Unofficially, we've learned that the BR-V is almost certain to be coming to Malaysia in the later half of 2016.

Apart from finalising the suitable price point, grade line-up, and market potential, Honda explained that it is important to ensure that the BR-V will attract a new group of buyers who would otherwise not consider a Honda, and that it will not cannibalise sales of the City, Jazz and HR-V.

We have seen the exterior, how about the interior?

At the BR-V’s global debut in Jakarta, we were not allowed to get inside the car so we can’t tell much about its practicality as an SUV/MPV.

We can now tell you that our first impressions of the BR-V is reasonably positive. The key word here is ‘reasonably.’

As mentioned earlier, the BR-V has its origins in lower cost cars so it is not realistic to expect its interior to wow like the HR-V’s. This is perfectly acceptable as long as its final price is significantly lower than the HR-V’s starting price of RM99,690.

Open the grip-type door handle and you will be greeted by an instrument panel and dashboard that’s very similar to the one used in the City and the Jazz (despite its Brio, Brio Amaze and Mobilio origins).

The layout is much better than anything offered by the Toyota Rush, Avanza or Nissan Grand Livina. We were also pleasantly surprised that Honda has decided to maintain the piano black-finished panel on the center cluster, the area surrounding the 7-inch touch-screen infotainment system.

The door panels however, which are hard but not coarse, and devoid of any leather, thick-fold fabric or soft touch materials, is a constant reminder that this is still a car aimed at the lower-end of the price bracket. It’s not a scaled down HR-V for sure.

This is a pre-production example, so the actual series production car’s cabin might see a bit more improvements in finishing but it will not differ significantly from what you see here.

Other cost-cutting measures seen are the single nozzle windshield wiper spray, sun visors with no lights for the vanity mirrors. There is also no dome light on the roof, and the map light in front is the sole source of cabin illumination at night. Open the tailgate, and there’s no light in the boot area either.

There is however a roof-mounted blower on the second row section, which draws cool air from the front and directs them to the second and third row – a major plus point over the Nissan Grand Livina.

The two halves of the second row seats can slide forwards and backwards individually, freeing more legroom for occupants in the third row. That’s a major plus point over the Rush, Avanza and Grand Livina.

They are also very user friendly, as both sides of the seats can be folded and tumbled over with just a one-touch action on the lever under the seat.  

Three point seat belts are provided for all occupants, with the one for the middle passenger on the second row mounted on the roof.

Headroom and leg room in the third row is also very reasonable, and is spacious enough to carry a 175 cm adult in the rear in reasonable levels of comfort – as shown in the picture below.

You will still have to bring your knees up and close to you, but it’s definitely much more comfortable than any of the BR-V’s competitors. We don’t have any numbers to show on the cabin’s dimensions but Honda claims that the BR-V’s legroom in the third row is class-leading.

The third row’s seatbacks can also be adjusted to either of two angles for better comfort.

The third row seats can be folded flat by simply pushing down a lever at the lower side, and tumbled over by tugging a strap.

It’s no Ultra Seats, but it’s good enough.

The spare wheel is located under the car.

How does it drive?

Our allotted driving distance was only less than 5 km so we can’t go too much into the details of the driving experience.

Considering its humble origins, our brief first driving impression of the BR-V wasn’t as dreary as expected.

Slot the CVT transmission into D, the BR-V accelerates with good level of urgency. Prod the throttle harder, engine noise remains muffled, suggesting that despite its low-cost origins, Honda has given the BR-V a lot of upgrades over its lower-cost siblings.

The dreaded ‘boomy’ noise from tyre and road roar, amplified by an SUV/MPV’s one-box body design – a typical problem of budget one-box styling cars - are none to be found.

The steering rack is electrically-assisted, but feels much better weighted than even the City’s or Jazz’s, another pleasant surprise. Tuck it into a corner, it maintains sufficient feedback, and feels precise enough for you to correct your lines mid-corner.

It definitely doesn’t steer like a cheap car.

Body roll is typical of an SUV/MPV, but is well-controlled and at no point during the course of the short drive did the car felt dangerously unbalanced.

Turn-in, there isn’t much delay before the weight shifts from sides or front-rear, so body roll is very controlled and instinctive. Push the throttle a bit hard at the corner exit, the rear wheels will chirp and skip but grip at the front remains good despite running on low rolling resistance Bridgestone Ecopia EP150 195/60 R16 tyres.   

While it doesn’t drive like a cheap car, the seats however, feels a tad lacking in support but that’s to be expected for this category of cars.

How safe is it?

Depending on the local market’s decision, the BR-V can be had with up to six airbags (the ones planned for Indonesia and Thailand only have two airbags), as well Vehicle Stability Assist. Honda expects the BR-V to achieve no less than the maximum five stars in ASEAN NCAP. The test will only be conducted in 2016, after the model goes on sale in Indonesia.

Will It Come With A 1.5-litre VTEC Turbo Engine?

According to Large Project Leader Mr. Atsushi Arisaka, the engine bay can accommodate the 1.5-litre VTEC Turbo without requiring any significant modifications but there are no plans for a second engine beyond the current 1.5-litre SOHC i-VTEC unit.

He added that the 1.5-litre engine is the optimum solution for the BR-V, which places priority on comfort, affordability, ease of handling, and good fuel economy over spirited driving performance.

While not ruling out any possibilities of adding more engine options in the future, Arisaka-san said until further market feedback show that a more powerful engine is necessary, the 1.5-litre unit will remain the sole power source for the BR-V.  

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Gallery: 2016 Honda BR-V @ GIIAS 2015 Live Gallery

Gallery: 2016 Honda BR-V - Interview With Chief Engineer

Gallery: 2016 Honda BR-V Quick Review In Japan

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