The compact SUV segment is booming like never before. Sales numbers are rising sharply and manufacturers are focusing on this segment big time. Renault recently updated its Duster and after a long wait, Honda has finally stepped into the compact SUV segment with its BR-V. Does the Japanese offering have what it takes to beat the current king of the ring, the Hyundai Creta.
In the looks department, the BR-V looks extremely similar to the Mobilio, especially in profile, which is a bit of a letdown. Moreover, its overall stance is MPV-ish which gives the BR-V an identity crisis. Profile aside, we really loved the bold chrome grille that is flanked on either side by sleek looking headlamps. At the back, the connecting taillights give the BR-V a unique look. The BR-V also has a few cuts on the front and rear bumper that don’t really add to its aesthetic appeal.
The Hyundai Creta on the other hand, looks as a compact SUV should. It is butch, has the right proportions and definitely looks its part. On either side of its three-slat chrome grille are neatly crafted triangular headlamps. Adding to the overall appeal are those nice looking fog lamps and a silver scuff plate. At the back, the Creta looks like a grown up Elite i20, which isn’t a bad thing, as the Elite i20 is a nice looking car.
Moving on to the insides, the Honda BR-V earns a few brownie points for the way its dashboard has been designed. It is entirely black which gives it a sporty appearance, but silver accents makes it look even better. Overall quality is good and the plastics look build to last.The infotainment system housed in the centre console is a bit of a disappointment, though. It looks like an after-market one, isn’t bright enough to be easily legible during daytime and most importantly isn’t a touchscreen one. Now that isn’t something you would expect from a car that costs upwards of Rs 12 lakh, especially when cars two segments lower now offer touchscreens with Apple car play.
What really works in the BR-V’s favour is its space. It is the only genuine 7-seater SUV with a front facing third row. Knee and legroom in the middle row is good enough for comfort. To make more space, Honda has fitted the BR-V with scooped up front seats thanks to which you can slide the second row seats forward to make decent space for the third row passengers. Although there is decent space in the last row, it isn’t good enough for adults to travel distances.
The Creta on the other hand is a 5-seater and it is thanks to that layout that Hyundai has been able to offer more space in the boot than the BR-V. With a volume of over 400 litres the Creta clearly has the larger boot, but drop the third row of the BR-V and its boot space increases from 223 litres to a mammoth 691 litres.
Seating comfort at the back is a lot better in the Creta than the BR-V though. To start with, seats are wider which means three abreast at the back isn’t a squeeze, and then leg and knee room is a lot better too. The Creta also gets better under thigh support which adds further to the comfort factor.
Up front, Hyundai has tried to make things interesting by offering a dual tone dashboard, but the design of the dash still lacks character in comparison to the BR-V’s. The huge flat panel above the glove box looks weird and the placement of the air-con vent on the right side of the infotainment system is a bit odd as it channels the air a lot more onto the driver’s hand than otherwise. Talking about the infotainment system, it is a large touchscreen unit that is user-friendly and responds well to inputs. Although this one too doesn’t come with Apple car play like some of the other cars that are a lot cheaper but it at least gets navigation. Climate control switches are conventional ones, located under the infotainment system and are easy to use. Quality of plastics and overall fit and finish though is a lot better on the Creta.
The BR-V gets the same 1.5-litre diesel engine as the City, Mobilio and the Amaze. It is in the same state of tune in the BR-V, making 100PS of power and 200Nm of torque which is considerably lesser than the Creta’s 128PS and 260Nm. And when you have a full load of seven people in the BR-V the need for more power is felt even more. When in its element, the BR-V does feel robust but it’s no cover for the dearth of power and it even starts getting noisy as the revs climb. The six-speed gearbox that has been carried forward from the City feels a bit notchy in its shifts.
The Creta delivers power once past 1,800rpm which is a bit annoying in city, but on highways, you aren’t really bothered. Turbo lag is evident too but overall the Creta’s engine feels a lot more refined and NVH levels are a lot lower too. On highways, there is plenty of torque to make those swift overtaking manoeuvres but in the city the lack of bottom end torque forces you to give the gearbox a proper workout. However, it isn’t much of a task as the 6-speed transmission is slick and precise.
Ride quality on the BR-V decent despite it sporting a stiffer setup. At higher speeds thuds are felt in the cabin though, especially by passengers at the back. The stiffer setup results in better handling and better high-speed stability though, making the BR-V a better driver’s car. Its steering feels better weighted and responds to inputs a lot better too.
The Creta’s suspension setup is softer than the BR-V which results in an improved ride quality but also means more lateral movement due to which it fails to inspire confidence around fast corners. The lighter steering wheel doesn’t help matters either. The same attributes however make it easier to park in tight spots, something that’s a breeze thanks to the reverse camera, which isn’t the case with the BR-V that makes do with just parking sensors. As far as braking is concerned, both use a disc-drum setup, but it is the Honda that feels sharper and more confident.
The Honda gains an advantage in terms of pricing and efficiency. The top end BR-V has been priced at Rs 12.90 lakh as opposed to Rs 14.43 lakh for the Creta’s top variant. The Honda is also the more frugal of the two returning a claimed 21kmpl as compared to the Creta’s 19.67kmpl.
Honda has made the right move by bringing in a genuine 7-seater compact SUV in the market and that will surely work in its favour. The BR-V also has better efficiency and handling to its advantage, though it does lack in terms of features. The Creta although not as frugal or fun to drive is better specced and offers a plusher ride too. And most importantly, it looks like what a compact SUV should. Overall it comes out as a more appealing product despite its more premium pricing, which means the BR-V has its task cut out already.