FEATURE STORIES

Up the mountains, down the coast: The Honda BR-V drive

Up the mountains, down the coast: The Honda BR-V drive image

Anton Andres / Mike Sabarre, Anton Andres | January 24, 2017 14:39

Exploring the capabilities of the Honda BR-V

Late last year, we previewed Honda's newest baby in the crossover range and, while short, was just enough to have a feel for the BR-V. This drive however brings us to the wonderful province of Quezon and ahead of us lay well over 200 kilometers of mixed conditions, and then some. Needless to say, this trip with the BR-V was a lot more comprehensive than the drive in Tagaytay.

We arrived in Quezon via an airplane ride and we were greeted by the smallest crossover in the Honda lineup. With each car assigned a driver and two passengers plus their luggage, the BR-V was bound to be packed. Despite the diminutive dimensions, the BR-V ate up everyone's luggage with no problem with no sacrifice in space for all the passengers. This comes as no surprise as the BR-V is based on the Mobilio but has been given its own look plus the benefits of added ride height. This drive would be split into three parts to take on both good, and bad, roads throughout the province.

The drive was made extra special with the Large Project Leader on board with us. His name is Atsushi Arisaka and boy did he have a lot to say about the BR-V. More on that later.

Up the mountains, down the coast: The Honda BR-V test drive

First things first, what are the key differences between this and the Mobilio? For starters, there's the styling. Honda made a good effort in giving the BR-V its own personality with chunkier, more aggressive looks when compared to its low riding siblings. There's the angular headlights, clamshell-look hood, lower body trim, C-shaped tail lights. Things are different inside too with its dashboard based on the Jazz. I have to add that the seats are better than those in the Mobilio but I bemoan the loss of the height adjusters.

For the first half of the trip, I first spent time as a passenger in front. I have to commend the BR-V's space, along with its handy cubby holes, vital in what will essentially be a family car. The car I was in was the entry-level S model and I have to say that it is far from bare. It has automatic climate control, as well as a touchscreen system that comes standard with everything you expect from an infotainment system. Plus, it benefits from the Mobilio's second row air-conditioning to keep rear passengers cool.

From a passenger's standpoint (seat point?), the BR-V's ride is firm. That's not to say it's harsh and crashy. Think if it as 'informative', letting you know that the road you are on is far from perfect. Even so, the seats are comfortable and hours of sitting in the front was reasonably relaxing. One source of amusement was the 'MAX COOL' button which automatically puts the air-conditioning on full blast. It was very effective as I got a really bad cold later that day.

Up the mountains, down the coast: The Honda BR-V test drive

With the first part over, I moved to the back seats to test how the BR-V fares from the second row. Before we set off, Georges Ramirez mentioned that we will be taking these cars to a river crossing. With our curiosity sparked, we pressed on. We were told that this would be the more challenging part of the drive and one look at the roads saw why. Gravel roads, undulations, steeps ascends, slick red mud and blind crests were the order of the day. I was beginning to regret sitting at the back.

Speaking of the back seats, the cushions were good, providing a decent amount of padding. I did wish there was an arm rest though. Apart from that, the rough roads proved no problem for the BR-V despite pavement (or the lack thereof) more suited for pickups and 4x4s. The raised ride height certainly helped. To my surprise, the ride wasn't jarring and traction on the mud, aided by Vehicle Stability Assist, was good. I can attest to the comfort of the BR-V rear accommodations as I eventually fell asleep on the rough trail.

Up the mountains, down the coast: The Honda BR-V test drive

And now, for the final drive of the day and, this time, it was my turn to drive. It was all paved roads from that point but that didn't mean it was a boring drive. We soaked in a scenic view of the coastline as we drove along through more water crossings that day. Owing to more ground clearance, we ran through the water hazards like Moses parting the sea.

As for the BR-V's power and handling, it took on steep hairpins adequately despite the fill load of luggage and passengers on board. Overtaking confidence can be gained by knocking the transmission to sport mode and the car is hushed at cruising speeds. Steering was typical of electronic power steering systems: light with little feel. Still, that didn't detract confidence when taking on corners in a spirited manner. The brakes were strong too, only needing a light press to scrub off speed.

We arrived at Baler later that night and I got down from the car with more respect for it. We practically torture tested these cars with situations one will rarely, even never, encounter but the BR-V took in the abuse well. With no clunks, rattles and loose trim after the drive, it was a testament to how well screwed together the BR-V is despite its humble MPV roots.

Up the mountains, down the coast: The Honda BR-V test drive

After all the abuse the BR-V just went through, Atsushi Arisaka explained that the BR-V was more than just a raised Mobilio. He told us that the BR-V had four core concepts which builds the foundations for the mini seven seat crossover, namely Active, Family, Outstanding and Utility. Asikara added that the BR-V underwent extensive re-engineering from the Mobilio base.

For starters, suspension geometry was reworked for both load and capability. The front subframe was also strengthened, so too were the side sills and the C-Pillar. To handle the loads and demands expected from a small crossover, the continuously variable transmission was also retuned. With family in mind, Arisaka mentioned safety was of top priority and the extensive retooling meant that the BR-V posted high marks in the latest ASEAN NCAP crash tests. On top of that, stability control is standard even on the entry-level models. Kudos to Honda for not scrimping on safety features. Needless to say, this isn't simply a raised Mobilio.

Up the mountains, down the coast: The Honda BR-V test drive

While the the day was over, the drive was not. The second day of the drive would bring us back to Manila. While not as torturous as the first day, part two continued to highlight the strengths of the BR-V. We also tested the BR-V on the highway for the first time and remained composed all throughout.

Now it was time to bring the BR-V to where many will spend most of their lives; the city. Back in Manila, the BR-V built on the strengths of the Mobilio, and then some. Comfort was good and the maneuverable characteristic of the MPV was carried over the BR-V. It was economical too, maintaining over 10 kilometers per liter even with long idle times. With its worth well proven in harsh conditions, city driving was a piece of cake for the BR-V.

Up the mountains, down the coast: The Honda BR-V test drive

Before the trip, you could call me a skeptic when it comes to B-segment crossovers. It's easy to dismiss them as high-riding hatchbacks with raised ground clearance being the only benefit. Honda did good with their smallest crossover by basing it on an MPV, allowing it more utility. It may only be two wheel drive but the two days spent with Honda's baby quells any doubt with its capabilities. With seven seats, versatile packaging and a base price under one million pesos, Honda continues its crossover expansion with yet another solid package.