SOME manufacturers pride themselves on good handling and performance. Others focus on exclusivity and brand premium.
At the end of the day though, the sign of a really good car manufacturer is the number they sell. As the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding.
One sure way to achieve this is to make your car appealing to the person that matters the most — the buyer.
Among the major brands in Malaysia, Honda has great insight into the wants and needs of the average Malaysian motorist.
Their Southeast Asian offerings, like the City, resonate with people in the region. Which is perhaps why they are now the second top seller in Malaysia behind Perodua.
In fact, Honda has always been good at combing the world, catering to every demographic with their products, which are fine-tuned to meet the demand of their target markets.
One of their latest offering — the BRV — is no exception.
First off, you get a lot of car for your money. The BRV is 4,456mm long, 1,735mm wide and has a 2,662mm wheelbase. It’s a seven seater, nonetheless.
Under the hood is the ubiquitous 1.5 litre i-VTEC powerplant found in the Jazz and the City, no doubt a familiar sight to any Southeast Asian mechanic worth his salt.
Churning out 118hp and 145Nm of torque at 4,600rpm, the BRV’s engine is attached to a CVT transmission that features Honda’s Earth Dreams technology.
There is much debate as to what the BRV actually is. Some say it’s a MPV, while the common opinion is that it is an SUV. However, the maker calls it a crossover.
In terms of size, the BRV sits between the HRV (the smallest of the lot at 4,294 mm long, 1,772 mm wide and 1,605 mm tall) and the CR-V (largest at 4,590 mm long, 1,820 mm wide and 1,685 mm tall).
We had a go in one recently, on a media test drive organised by HMSB to Penang.
The BRV appears smaller than it looks in pictures. While its proportions belie its size on celluloid, in the metal, the illusion is dispelled from the moment you stand next to it.
Interior fittings are of good quality, with an instrument panel that looks more upmarket than most offerings in this segment.
Curiously though, the door cards have handrests that protrude quite a distance, and eats up a little into the otherwise generous space of the interior.
While of good quality, the price point means the interior is still relatively basic.
There aren’t much soft-touch plastics to speak of. The door card for example, is a wide swathe of plastic that resonates hollowly if you knock on it.
As before though, the theme of quantity over quality persists, and with 223 litres — which is the largest in the segment with the third row upright and 539 litres when folded down — the BRV offers a huge amount of carrying capacity for the buck.
First-row seats are, of course, the most comfortable with adequate leg and shoulder room.
Second-row seats are still comfortable. However, for tall people (above 180cm), a little compromise is needed from the front row passenger to give a comfortable legroom.
The third row is more suitable for children, although it can still accommodate Malaysian adults, albeit with a little compromise on long distance comfort.
The BRV is most at home in the city. Despite its rugged looks, this is a vehicle more adept at urban road challenges than long jaunts in the countryside.
The BRV is a treat to drive, being quiet, responsive and with nimble handling.
Potholes and road undulations are dismissed without a hint of drama. The electric power steering feels light and it takes little effort to make the BRV change direction quickly.
The 5.589m turning radius makes manoeuvring the urban sprawl easy. U-turns are easily executed.
On the highways though, the vehicle feels less at home. The engine is eager, but works hard to carry the 1.2 tonnes of weight.
Floor the throttle, and the BRV goes into a high-pitched whine as the CVT transmission works hard to bring the vehicle up to speed. But pressing the throttle progressively ensures that the BRV remains relatively quiet.
At high speed, the steering also feels a bit vague and imprecise. But then again, this is no Autobahn mile muncher. It’s a Southeast Asian workhorse that will likely spend most of its time in the city, with only the occasional interstate run.
As we approached Penang, we made a detour at Stadium Batu Kawan for a controlled moose test.
The BRV handled it quite well.
Equipped with the standard Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA), Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) and anti-lock brakes (ABS), the BRV is well equipped when it comes to safety, despite its budget price point.
The BRV also has all the bells and whistles, and creature comforts you would want in a modern car.
From convenient start/stop button to rear air-conditioners, and a total of 11 cup holders, the BRV ticks all the boxes, and then some.
Two variants are being offered by Honda, the E and V. The latter comes with leather seats, a rear view camera, steering audio control and an electrical tailgate lock, among others.
The base E variant is priced at RM85,800 OTR with insurance, while the V spec is RM92,800.
With class-leading space and a long list of features, it’s no wonder Honda collected 4,000 bookings in the first three weeks of launching the model.
The manufacturer is targeting to sell 800 units each month.