Wondering how a car brand knows what the market wants? It’s through the best-sellers. Through the number of cars it sells per model, the auto-manufacturer knows what its patrons are looking for. For Honda Cars Philippines, Inc. (HCPI), the Honda BR-V is one of the big three for 2017, along with the City and Civic sedans.
This SUV-looking MPV sold 7,212 units that year, which is proof that Filipino car-buyers love three things: the looks of SUVs and the flexibility of seven-seater MPVs, all wrapped in a relatively affordable price tag. In case you’re one of those who are looking to buy the BR-V, we got our hands on the Honda BR-V 1.5 V range-topper in its Modulo guise, and here are our thoughts.
When it comes to looks, the BR-V is the buffed up version of another Honda seven-seater, the Honda Mobilio. It’s like a Mobilio that went through rigorous gym training to achieve a beefy stance, more upright hood, and more defined character lines.
Their faces might be similar but the major difference between the two is the BR-V’s 201-mm ground clearance, underneath cladding, front and rear skid plates, roof rack, and 16-inch alloy rims. All these give the BR-V a ‘go-anywhere' demeanor, as opposed to the conservative aura of the Mobilio.
Another standout are the taillights of the BR-V. The C-shaped lamps are connected by a red strip for that continuous styling. They somehow mimic the taillamp of the Civic, albeit, smaller.
The BR-V itself looks aggressive enough on its own, but the Modulo upgrades on our media unit take this further. These upgrades include a huge spoiler, side skirts, and front and rear bumper embellishments. The spoiler looks a little detached, though, but that’s fine in our books.
The similarities with the Mobilio are likely found in the cabin. That’s not surprising as there are four Honda cars that share this simple yet effective layout: the City, Jazz, Mobilio, and BR-V. The leather trims and upholstery separate the BR-V from the rest, along with its automatic air-conditioning with tactile buttons.
Just like other Hondas, the BR-V’s seven-inch head unit is easy-to-use and connects promptly to smartphones. What I like about it is that the sound from the four speakers is great at the front cabin up to the second row. It can also be controlled via buttons on the steering wheel. Although, it could use more charging docks, as only one 12V outlet and one USB port are available.
I also like the fact that the Navi function of this variant works smoothly even in remote areas that cellular data signal can’t reach. Kudos to Honda for that.
The interior amenities of the BR-V is in favor of the passengers rather than the driver. The air-conditioning works well any time of the day, while rear passengers are kept cool with a number of air vents with an independent control. There are also five bottle-holders and four cupholders spread throughout the cabin.
The seats are well-supported and the second row can be slid forward to allow legroom adjustment for the third row. Still, as with other seven seaters of this size, it’s still better to leave the last row for the kids or small adults. Although, ingress to the rear is a breeze with the second row’s one-touch stumble function.
For its overall size, the cargo space is abundant - enough to fit seven overnight bags. That volume is maximized to 521L with the third row tumbled.
As for the driver, the BR-V’s kind of short in conveniences. The seat can only be adjusted in two ways: recline and slide. There’s no height adjuster, no lumbar support adjustment, and the steering wheel can only be titled. With that, it’s a bit hard to find your sweet spot behind the wheel.
There are also a few things you’ll miss inside the BR-V, like automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, and lit vanity mirrors. Good thing the essentials are taken care of like power-folding and power-adjustable mirrors, power windows that go up, keyless entry, push-start ignition, and speed-sensing door locks.
Honda can also improve on the BR-V’s ride comfort, as the torsion beam suspension at the rear is a bit stiff and painful in rugged roads, but bearable. Engine, wind, and road noise isolation is tad annoying at fast speeds, but you can blame the former to the econo tires that the media unit came with. There’s also considerable body roll but that’s the price you have to pay if you want a car with this ride height.
Speaking of the engine, the BR-V is powered by the same engine that the other three mentioned Hondas have — the 120-hp, 145 Nm torque SOHC i-VTEC gasoline mill that’s coupled to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Even with its size, these figures are enough to pull the car. Although, this power plant needs to work harder when the car is filled with seven passengers along with their luggage.
The BR-V’s engine is a champion of low- to mid-speed ranges. It packs a punch from stand still up to around 80 km/h. You can feel your head abruptly touching the head rest at these speeds, which is great in city and provincial maneuvers. It’s a different story when you reach 100 km/h, though, but that’s fine since that’s the speed limit. You wouldn’t really want to race while in a BR-V, would you?
Its braking power can also be improved further, as the media unit’s rear end uses drum brakes. On the up side, the BR-V’s handling is on-point and doesn’t feel artificial. This gave me confidence in going through winding roads. It can still be tightened a little for stability on the highway.
Manual gear shifting using the paddle-shifters works well with the BR-V’s Earth Dreams CVT. The seven-speed gear simulation is accurate and isn’t delayed, which is great when overtaking. Too bad, though, there’s no cruise control available even for this top-of-the-line variant.
With this engine behavior, the BR-V registered above average fuel efficiency numbers. EDSA crawls at 15 km/h average read 7.1 km/l, while faster runs at 60 km/h clocked in 15.8 km/h. Steady expressway runs at 90 km/h gave back 22.8 km/l. Take note that the fuel economy tests were done with only the driver and a passenger on board. It’s a different story when the car’s loaded.
HCPI knew its target market when it brought in the BR-V in 2016, and certainly knew them well. By keeping the driver’s convenience at a bit more than the minimum, the brand is able to satisfy its patrons, without reaching the price margin of bigger compact crossovers and midsize SUVs. Priced at P1,210,000 for this V Navi Modulo variant, it’s a good choice for Filipino families who want a good-looking seven-seater that serves its intended purpose: travel with the family without spending too much on gas.