Cartrade Comparison Test
This isn’t an apple to apples comparison. But, the two fruits in question do blossom on the same tree. Meet the ever-popular, much sought after, and a near default choice among sedan buyers, the Honda City. And alongside occupying as much showroom space is the new Honda BR-V. It can’t support the same adjectives as the City, but it has its virtues. It’s the only car in its class that can seat seven; it has proven (and likeable) mechanicals; and it is an SUV (or close to it).
Now, the idea behind bringing these two to the same dessert table is to find out, if it’s still smart to go the tried and tested way (read City), or is it time to finally experiment with what is essentially different means to the same end. In simpler terms we want to find out if one should opt for the BR-V over the City given the two cost almost the same, have the same drivetrains, and are in fact two different but equally competent daily drivers.
On test then is the Honda City in VX trim with a 1.5-litre petrol engine and CVT transmission priced at Rs 14.27 lakh, and the Honda BR-V in V trim (since it best matches on price) priced at Rs 14.33 lakh and sporting exactly the same engine and gearbox combo. Both prices on road in Mumbai. Let the evaluation begin…
The Honda City is your quintessential sedan. It has a long hood, a short boot and an aerodynamically designed mid section. In its latest avatar, it has a pointy, racy, and well defined front-end that’s easy to like. Ditto for the rear with its large, big-car like tail lamps and a well-defined boot and bumper giving it an air of desirability. If we had to find flaws with the car’s styling, it would be its small wheels, puny tyres and a little too pronounced upswept shoulder line, relative of course.
Parked next to the City, the Honda BR-V does look more domineering. It is tall and along with that black body cladding and the roof rails, and a more aggressive face, it looks like a bouncer next to the suave, slickly dressed, but approachable City. A large chrome grille, big head lamps, and a chunky bumper dominate the BR-V’s front; easily the SUV's best angle. The rear-end styling meanwhile is less attractive. Unlike the front, there’s little that defines it as an SUV; in fact it looks more like a posh MPV, more than anything else.
Between the two, one should buy the BR-V for it looks more adventurous and less regular.
The choice is turned on its head when you step inside. Sure, the BR-V can seat seven, and in relative comfort, mind. So, if you have an extended family, don’t bother with anything else, just go for the SUV. Otherwise, half of the family will end up dialing an Uber or Ola.
But, if you are a family of four and get visitors once in a while, read on.
Between the Honda City and the Honda BR-V, the City has a more premium interior. The look and feel of materials inside the City, especially plastic, is way better than on the BR-V. That’s not all, the City has bigger, cushier and more supportive seats; it has way more equipment – touchscreen multimedia and climate control, cruise control, leather, reversing camera and a sunroof; and the City is better insulated as well. The City is the better car to be chauffeuring around in too. And it feels more spacious given its greater interior girth.
The BR-V on the other hand is easier to get in and out of. And it has seven seats. So, as we said – if you have a big family, go for the BR-V. But, otherwise, the City is just a nicer car to be in.
Both the City and the BR-V share the same drivetrains. These are both offered with 1.5-litre diesel and petrol engines, and both are offered with an automatic gearbox option on the petrol. However, with petrols back in the reckoning and automatics gaining flavour, we thought it best to consider petrol automatic versions for this story.
The engine is Honda’s refined, unbreakable and enjoyable 1.5-litre, four cylinder unit. It makes 118bhp and 145Nm. In typical Honda fashion, it loves to rev and sounds good when at it. In that sense, it works equally well on both. On the road though, given the different dimensions, different suspension and tyre specifications, and difference in weight and CVT calibration, there’s some difference in overall performance between the Honda City and the Honda BR-V.
According to our tests, the lighter City takes 11.5 seconds to 100kmph from a standstill compared to 12.8s taken by the BR-V. Surprisingly, the BR-V is quicker in the 20-80kmph kickdown dash by almost a second, which is clearly down to the CVT setup, altered on the BR-V to give it that torquey feel typical of SUVs. However, when it comes to quick overtakes on the highway (read the 40-100kmph kickdown test), the City proves to be quicker yet again.
But, when it comes to ride quality, the SUV outdoes the sedan. The BR-V’s ride is more accomplished over poor roads. Its suspension has higher travel, better damping and an inherent ability to take more abuse. This is especially true at slow speeds. So, while one might slow down and drive gingerly in the City come flooded roads or potholed roads, the BR-V goes about its business without the worry of scraping or breaking something.
Surprisingly, this setup doesn’t leave the BR-V wanting on highways or on a twisty road. It has good straight line stability, it fights off cross winds well, and even around bends, even though it does roll around, it isn’t plagued with excessive understeer or driver disconnect or vagueness typical of traditional SUVs. The only problem for the BR-V is the City does better still. It sits closer to the ground, it has a quicker responding front end and it feels more poised handling quick direction transitions. It also feels more planted on highways at three digit speeds.
Like we said at the start – this is no apple to apples comparison. The idea here is to deduce whether to stick to the tried and tested formula, which is the Honda City, or be a bit adventurous with the BR-V. And we’d stick with the City. Sure, we might struggle a bit on flooded Mumbai roads and the tall speed breakers might get the better of the sedan’s underbelly and we might have to hail an Uber, but the City is just better value. It has the interiors, the equipment, and the sense of luxury, which the BR-V simply can’t match. It might be different if we were to consider the diesels, though. But then, that’s a story for another day…
Pictures: Kapil Angane