It came as no surprise when we received the news here at AF, that Honda Malaysia Sdn Bhd (HMSB) had achieved their 6-month sales target for the new BR-V in a mere three weeks after its local launch. In fact, we’d even hinted to its impending success in a previous article in late 2015. At the time of writing this though, HMSB has garnered more than 10,000 bookings for the new BR-V since its launch on January 5th 2017. That’s an absolutely phenomenal achievement on their part, and while the runaway success story for 2017 seems to be this 7-seater Crossover, some of it may have nothing to do with the BR-V at all…
I’ll get to that in about 5min (okay maybe 10min; we don’t count by paragraphs or words online anymore, it’s all about how long I manage to hold your rapidly decreasing attention span) but first I need to expand a bit more about the BR-V after my latest drive impression in Thailand in November last year, in which I did mention straight up in the headline that the BR-V was “going to knock everyone’s socks off“. Hate to say I told you so….
As everyone knows, reviewing a vehicle overseas and then again locally, usually yields a very different result. First-off, the actual vehicles may not be exactly the same, as homologation and local-content take over once it’s assembled in the country that it’s going to be sold in. Secondly, the terrain itself that the vehicle is being driven on invariably yields a different result and assessment. A perfect example would be Honda’s own Civic Type-R; borderline perfect on a racetrack, but will likely shake the fillings out of your teeth on regular roads. The same can be said for the BR-V. Having driven it for the very first time in Japan, and then subsequently in Thailand, it’s safe to say that HMSB has indeed held true to its earlier promise to us, to make the BR-V “even better” for Malaysia.
For one thing, being aware of our less-than-perfect road conditions, HMSB has reworked the ride and handling of our locally-assembled BR-V. The dampers, tyres and even wheel-settings are customised for Malaysian roads, for optimised road comfort. Better noise-insulation and sound-proofing has also been added to the BR-V, and yes there is a marked difference from the previous units tested overseas. However, though suppressed, at full pelt there’s still quite a bit of engine noise permeating the cabin, especially from the firewall.
Speaking of the cabin though, it’s probably here that the BR-V wins the most hearts and minds. I’ll make it short and simple; at a starting price of RM85k, NOTHING else out there offers this much, for this little, with so much thought and consideration. Yes, it’s a cheap 7-seater people mover, but it never comes across as ‘cheap’, if you get my drift. Quality materials and tactile feel are in abundance in the cabin of the BR-V.
And speaking of drift (don’t you just hate it when I do that?), it’s not going to happen with the BR-V, as we found out in the specially set-up obstacle course. In a big open parking lot, the organisers had set up an ’emergency S-avoidance manoeuvre’ exercise, in which at a speed of just 70kmh, without hitting the brakes, we had to suddenly ‘avoid’ a row of cones. Wrenching the steering wheel to the right, and then again immediately left, it was really amazing how composed the BR-V remained, as opposed to its competitors in the same category. Its electronic stability-control, available stock-standard in both variants, is a must-have for a vehicle in this category.
The amazing thing is that according to the LPL (large project leader) of the BR-V, when it came to the ride and handling of this crossover, everything was factored in with regards to how it would behave in all types of driving conditions. Lateral forces, centrifugal forces, acceleration and deceleration forces, etc., everything that plays a part in how the BR-V behaves on the road was taken into account during its early development stage. So despite having the highest ground-clearance in its class (201mm, enough to climb and park on a kerb safely…not that you should), it still handles twists and turns very well.
Having driven the BR-V extensively over three days, I’m not in the least bit surprised why it’s doing so well. Bang for buck, it really is the best choice for a budget 7-seater MPV/Crossover currently out there. But as I said earlier, the BR-V’s success may not be all down to just the vehicle alone. The Takata Airbag fiasco that HMSB weathered may actually have been a blessing in disguise. Truth be told, sitting and watching from the side-lines, HMSB handled the Takata debacle as it emerged brilliantly. It was evident that they placed great importance, emphasis and priority on getting the faulty airbags replaced; setting up call centres, mobile replacement centres, renting mall spaces, sending out mailers and reminders to affected customers, replenishing stocks as soon as they could, etc. The pro-activeness was clearly evident.
They proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that they cared for their customers, were very committed to getting what needed to be done, done right, and it appears a positive has come from a negative. I sense there’s a trust that has been built on the handling of this situation, a trust between the buying public and HMSB. Everyone knows that Malaysians are suckers for rumours and love to harp about the bad things that befall car companies. The Takata Airbag issue should have been the death-knell for all future models that HMSB introduced, with mind-sets along the lines of “don’t buy any of their cars, the airbag will kill you” floating around, but it hasn’t, and it definitely didn’t for the BR-V. Hell, I know many who vehemently refuse to buy a certain brand just because of a supposedly faulty gearbox that hasn’t even killed anyone, but just pissed some people off.
HMSB can’t make the BR-V fast enough. Demand is definitely exceeding supply and while some car companies may gloat about this, HMSB once again proved why Malaysians have come to love this company. At the recent launch of the facelifted Honda City, a special slide was shown during the presentation, in which HMSB sincerely apologised for keeping its customers waiting longer than expected for the delivery of their BR-V, and that definite steps were being taken to improve and shorten the delivery time, without compromising the quality of the cars being built. Win.
So there you have it. Is the BR-V perfect? No, it isn’t. Is it exclusive? No, not by a long-shot. So why is it breaking sales records across the board? Easy. One, it’s the best 7-seater out there in its class, by a big margin, period. And two, it’s coming from a car company that genuinely cares for its customers, and even its own employees. Having interacted with HMSB for quite some time now, it’s safe to say that it’s led by one of the most dynamic and passionate groups of people I’ve ever come across. The pride and dedication they have for the brand they represent is evident in the way they enthuse about each and every vehicle in their stable.
And it’s a domino-effect that starts from the top, all the way down, and eventually even to their customers. An excellent product and a very strong team backing it up. It’s a one-two knockout punch that not many competitors can get up from. The BR-V is resounding proof of that. – Chris Wee.
Honda BR-V Photo Gallery