In recent years the global trend of owning an MPVs has been on a rise, as they offer practicality and can carry 6-8 people with ease. The recent lot of these vehicles are stylish with sportier appearance and resemble more like a crossover SUV, thus making people opt for the MPVs in good numbers.
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In our market, people vastly stick to market cars due to resale but lately the trend of owning an MPV is slowly increasing. Among the local assemblers, Pak Suzuki was the first to introduce an MPV, called the APV in late 2005. Always sold in our market as a CBU import, the APV did relatively well in its initial years but later on became a showpiece at Suzuki display centers. The Toyota Avanza launched in 2011 has always been a rare sight on road. Avanza is also the priciest 7-seater MPV in the market, and it’s there just for the sake of being there.
In 2013, Al-Haj FAW introduced the Sirius S80 7-seater MPV in our market. Although on papers it was a very practical & budget-friendly option, but still was never able to make a huge impact and was eventually discontinued.
The Honda BR-V on the other hand, despite being a relatively new comer, has been enjoying tremendous success compared to all the above 7-seater MPVs in Pakistan. So what has made the Honda BR-V a success in our market while in particular, the FAW Sirius, despite being available for a much lower price tag was never able to win hearts? Let’s try to find out.
FAW has been operating in Pakistan since 2006 and has been doing well in commercial and heavy vehicle sector. However in 2012/13 it was just their beginning into the passenger vehicle foray. Back then people never really accepted FAW as a passenger vehicle manufacturer, and perhaps because of which the vehicle saw it hard to leave the showroom floors.
The Price Factor
When launched, FAW Sirius S80 with a 1.3 liter engine was priced at PKR 1.7 million, which at that time was higher than the resale benchmark, the Toyota Corolla XLi. When spending an amount this high, the first thing people think of, is to getting their ‘investment’ back. Well.. believe it or not, cars are largely treated as an investment in our market. People never really considered spending 1.7m on a new Chinese car, the fate of which was unknown.
The Sirius S80 was powered by a 1.3 liter engine, with 89hp and 120Nm of torque. It was said to be underpowered considering the fact that the car itself weighed around 1,200kg and was meant to carry 6-8 people around.
To counter this, Al-Haj FAW introduced another version called as the ‘Sirius Grand’ in 2014 with a more powerful 1.5 liter engine under the hood, producing 103hp and 140Nm of torque.
The built quality of the Sirius S80 was quite okay for a Chinese car. However the interior, more appropriately the seats were a big turn off. I personally know a couple of potential buyers who ditched the car due to the very reason. The seats were quite hard, uncomfortable and left a lot to be desired. However the issue was rectified in the Sirius Grand 1.5 liter versions as it was equipped with improved seat materials.
Manual Transmission Only
One of the major drawbacks was the lack of available transmission options. Like most FAW vehicles that were developed during the previous decade, the Sirius came equipped with a 5-speed manual transmission only. An automatic/ CVT transmission would have helped boost the sales of the Sirius S80 in Pakistan but unfortunately it wasn’t available.
Sticky Gear Shift
Owners found the gear shifting a bit fussy, it wasn’t as smooth as you would expect and considering the fact that it was the only available transmission, it needed to be flawless.
The Resale Factor
We tried gathering a lot of opinions from the owners who were selling their Sirius S80 via online portals and social media. Although apart from a few glitches, the satisfaction level was quite okay. Also we found people having the Sirius Grand 1.5 to be more satisfied than the 1.3 version owners.
However even those who currently own one, fear a lot about its resale and future in Pakistan. It’s more like a ticking time bomb, and people who were selling their Sirius, just wanted to get rid of it even when the vehicle was trouble free.
Availability of Spares
Obviously you cannot expect the spares to be as abundant as any Suzuki or Toyota. Although in big cities the spares are available at dealerships but for those living in smaller towns & suburbs, it was never a practical option.
Better Versions Never Made it to Pakistan
FAW did introduced a couple of revisions to the Sirius S80 in its homeland in China. Which includes a redesigned interior, different interior color coding as well as the facelift with exterior revisions. However these remained specific for the Chinese market.
The FAW Sirius is doing reasonably well in South Africa with two engine and four trims on offer, backed with 3 years/ 100,000km warranty. There is also a panel van version with only two seats and body painted side glasses to be used specifically as cargo van or ambulance.
FAW wasn’t too Serious about the Sirius
It looked as if the company itself wasn’t too serious in continuing with the Sirius. As much as you see them promoting the V2, which obviously offers a lot in a relatively small amount of money compared to its rivals. The Sirius too, offered much in a very reasonable price and considering the fact that Honda BR-V is minting money at PKR 2.2 million & above, the Sirius in current circumstances with little improvements off course, would have been a great option in sub 2.0 million price bracket.
The FAW Sirius S80 was well equipped with dual airbags, ABS with EBD, engine immobilizer, DVD player with reverse cam (1.5 Grand), back wiper (1.5 Grand), front & rear 3-point seatbelts, power steering, power windows, power outside mirrors, dual AC (1.5 Grand) and alloy wheels etc. When discontinued, the Sirius S80 1.3 was priced at PKR 17.55 lac while the Sirius 1.5 Grand was priced at PKR 18.85 lac.
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Makes People Stay Away from Newcomers
Unfortunately moves like this makes people generally stay away from the new brands. You’ll never really know when they pull the plug and the party is over. Off course companies are here to do business and they will simply put an end to something which isn’t making profits. However from the buyers’ perspective, an experience like this will make them stick to the ‘market cars’ like glue.
Why the Honda BR-V is Successful?
To summarize, here are some reasons which has made Honda BR-V more successful than the FAW Sirius S80.
Right from the beginning, Honda BR-V was available in two versions, base grade and S grade, both of which were equipped with CVT gearbox. This is a huge bonus when you have to drive in congested traffic or frequent start/ stop situations. Recently Honda has also introduced a 6-speed manual variant with an introductory price set at PKR 20.99 lac. The other two versions are priced at PKR 22.61 lac for the base iVTEC CVT and PKR 23.61 lac for the iVTEC-S CVT.
The BR-V offers a much better interior & seats, both in terms of color combinations and quality. Though as per Honda standards it’s still a below par interior, but compared to FAW Sirius S80, its hell better.
Honda BR-V has an overall better appearance, obviously apart from the front-end, it’s not as pretty as it should be, but nevertheless it looks sportier and modern. Nothing to take away from FAW Sirius here as it’s a refined version of Daihatsu Xenia/ Toyota Avanza and indeed look a lot better than its cousins. However when put against the BR-V the car clearly states that it belong to the previous decade.
The Honda Brand Advantage:
The name ‘Honda’ itself is a huge advantage, Honda was over-booked without having the need to show the BR-V prior to its launch in 2017. People went crazy just by looking at the pictures and booked the car in large numbers.
The Only Local Assembled MPV
Honda BR-V is currently the only MPV in the market that’s being assembled locally. This is also considered a huge advantage over the imported options both in terms of after sales support and resale.
Better After Sales Support:
Compared to FAW, Honda has a much larger and sophisticated dealership and after-sales network in the country. This had made people opt for the MPV in great numbers without having to worry about parts & maintenance.
And with everything okay, the BR-V does enjoy a decent resale value compared to any other 7-seater MPV in the market.
As more and more companies are entering in the automobile scene, we are expecting to see more 7-seat MPV options in our market too. Although Toyota Avanza and Suzuki APV are still available as an import, but the companies are least serious to sell these cars in volume. Honda BR-V currently has no true rival in its class, perhaps if another automaker launch a similar vehicle with competitive prices and specs, it might be able to dethrone the BR-V. FAW is in process of launching the R7 crossover SUV in Pakistan, but that being a 5-seater will rival Suzuki Vitara & Honda HR-V instead of the BR-V.
Do you think FAW should re-launch the Sirius S80 with an updated interior/ exterior? Let us know with the comments.
A computer animation professional with over 23 years of industry experience having served in leading organizations, TV channels & production facilities in Pakistan. An avid car enthusiast and petrolhead with an affection to deliver quality content to help shape opinions. Formerly written for PakWheels as well as major publications including Dawn. Founder of CarSpiritPK.com