Honda BR-V vs Honda City
The last couple of months have been bitter sweet for Honda. Its new introduction and its first ever product in the fast growing compact SUV segment, the BR-V, has seen acceptable sales. However, at the same time, its hero, the Honda City, has witnessed a dramatic fall in sales.
For us, this presented a very interesting story opportunity, especially when you consider that sales for both the BR-V and the City are now almost the same. What’s more, these two products are priced similar too. So, what we have here are the automatic versions of the two cars in petrol guise.
Automatic, because, there’s a growing demand in tier 1 cities for clutchless driving. And petrol, because Honda itself is holding the shift in demand from diesel to petrol for the City’s drop in sales. Just to fill you in – the Honda City in VX CVT trim is priced at Rs 14.4 lakh while the BR-V in V CVT trim costs Rs 14.34 lakh, both on the road in Mumbai.
The question is which one should one settle for?
The traditional outlook
For years we have been attaching a premium on three-box cars. We believed sedans brought status. These were easy and more premium to drive and live with. And because they had a separate boot away from the cabin, we could always put in a gas cylinder in there when the financial going got tough.
In this case, some of it still holds true. The Honda City does have a more premium feel to its interiors compared to the BR-V. The plastic, the design, the features, are all a step above the BR-V. Feature wise, the City gets a touchscreen multimedia system, a touch operated climate control, cruise control, leather, reversing camera and a sunroof, all of which is missing on the BR-V.
Blame it on the latter’s platform, which it shares with the Mobilio and the Amaze and the Brio, if you will, but the point is, the City and the BR-V are similarly priced. So, one would expect similar levels of plushness and equipment on the two cars. Moreover, the City has larger, more comfortable seats all round too.
The Honda BR-V meanwhile, in traditional utility mode, has three rows of seating. It’s not exactly a seven-seater given its narrow interior width, but for a family of six – grand parents, parents and a couple of kids, it is the better option. And when not needed, the last row can always be folded away to liberate luggage space the City can only dream of matching. The BR-V has other pluses too. It might be a monocoque like the City, but it sits higher off the ground, which makes getting in and out of the car a lot less tedious. And the higher seating also means better view for the driver.
But, if you are a traditionalist at heart, and would much rather choose premium over practicality; features over easy ingress; and comfier seats over a towering view, the City is the car. After all, if you aren’t smitten by the SUV aura, the City also looks sportier and more expensive on the outside.
A modern approach
Let’s not rule out the Honda BR-V just yet, though. You might not get the sportier look of the City, but you do get the same drivetrain on the SUV, the same engine and the same automatic gearbox. The engine is the tried and tested 1.5-litre, four cylinder petrol unit which with its 118bhp, 7,000rpm redline and i-Vtec tech, makes for a lovely high revving engine. It is smooth, it has the performance, and when driven smartly, it’s pretty fuel-efficient too.
Now on the City and the BR-V, the real world performance does differ. The City is lighter, it has narrower tyres and it sits closer to the ground. Plus, Honda has revised the CVT on the BR-V to give it a stronger mid range. So, in the 0-100kmph run, the Honda City is over a second quicker. It is also quicker in the 40-100kmph kickdown slog. But, the change in the BR-V’s CVT setup gives it a stronger mid range punch, well reflected in the 20-80kmph kickdown run and when negotiating traffic in the city. The BR-V is nearly a second quicker here. The City, meanwhile, is more fuel-efficient.
The big difference (or should we say similarity) between a traditional sedan and the new-age monocoque-based SUV is the driving dynamics. Compared to older body on ladder SUV, a sedan not only handled and braked with more stability and poise, it rode better too with less roll and pitch. The new-school SUVs, even with their higher ground clearance and longer travel suspension, ride better than sedans thanks to higher torsional rigidity.
So, come a poorly laid section of road, an unannounced speed breaker, or a deep pothole courtesy our monsoon ravaged roads, the BR-V simply flattens it all with a higher degree of finesse compared the Honda City. There’s also less chance of the occupants being uncomfortably hurled around in the BR-V. And thanks to the SUV’s clearance, negotiating water logging or high speed-breakers even when loaded to the brim, is a less harrowing task on the BR-V than on the City. But, yes, if you want a better handling car that’s more precise, less roly-poly and more fun to drive around a set of twisties, the Honda City is still king.
The Honda City is a no-brainer. It is an established brand, Honda still has a lot riding on it, and it still fetches good money in the used car market. Compared to the Honda BR-V, it is lighter, richer feeling, quicker and more fuel-efficient. But, it isn’t an SUV. It doesn’t have the ground clearance or the high driving position or the easy ingress of the BR-V. And, of course, it can’t seat more than five and isn’t half as practical. But, if we had to choose – given I have a nuclear family of four – I’d pick the City. For my neighbour though, who makes weekend trips from Mumbai to Gujarat and likes exploring with his extended family, the BR-V would be it.
Photos by Kapil Angane
Click here for on-road price, features and technical specifications of the Honda City
Click here to read our first drive review of the Honda BR-V