This much is clear: Honda Cars Philippines is flexing its muscles.
After 2011, Honda found themselves with a lot of ground to recover. The brand that, at one point, had the best selling passenger car in the country, found itself in troubled times, but through no fault of its own given the natural disasters that mucked up their production.
So they went to work, launching one model after the other to revamping their entire line-up, introducing new entry level models like the Brio and Brio Amaze. They even pushed to introduce models like the CR-Z and the Legend. Indeed, this crew have gotten their groove back, and even went on to bring the all-new Civic Type R to not only be at the motor show, but be the star of it.
Now that they've fully recovered, they need to break into new ground, into new market segments, and introduce the brand to a new clientele. They couldn't just stick to their tried and tested nameplates like Jazz, City, and Civic. While those cars have loyal followings, the times have changed.
The story really began with the Mobilio. In this class of MPV, one characterized by affordability and seven seats, there is little competition. Sure, the Avanza and Ertiga are there, but that's it. Without a doubt the market for this kind of vehicle definitely exists, and so the Mobilio became a hit.
With the BR-V, however, the competition is even less: Zero. There are no other seven seat crossovers at its price point from the established brands.
Technically-speaking, the Brio, Brio Amaze, Mobilio and BR-V are all related; they really are one sub-family under Honda's wing. They share much of their structures under the skin, but each was executed differently. The BR-V is the biggest of the bunch.
The BR-V is the SUV version of the Mobilio, and at 4453mm long, 1735mm wide, and 1665mm tall, it's bigger in every respect, but only just. What matters -and what really qualifies this as a crossover- is the higher ride height; at 201mm, it's 12mm more than the Mobilio's ground clearance. Sure, it's not exceptional by the standards of SUVs that can go off-road, but the BR-V's ride height is more than adequate for most kinds of urban debris.
The fascia itself is completely different from the family look shared by the Brio, Brio Amaze, and Mobilio. The design is a bit more square as opposed to the wedged look of the three. The side is, of course, very similar as the doors appear to be interchangeable between the BR-V and Mobilio, especially with those upswept character lines. The rear is very different; if anything, the tailgate and the “connected” taillights are quite unique. Overall, it's a good looking compact (or subcompact?) crossover.
Despite this being the base 1.5 S (no Navi) variant, I do like the interior. The design is simple but modern, and looks very functional, clever, and straightforward. I like that there was a good amount of storage in the cabin and the abundance of cupholders; something always useful for a roadtrip with the family or a group of friends.
Yes, it's an entry grade model, so to speak, but you wouldn't think it when you start looking around at what you get for the sticker price of PhP 989,000. money. The 2-DIN touchscreen audio system is standard, and it's got Bluetooth and USB connectivity; all you need really when it comes to on-the-road entertainment. The windows are all of the powered variety, and the steering is electrically assisted. The key is the standard type, but it has remote functions built in. Dual airconditioning takes care of our tropical heat for all three rows; yes, we tested that.
What's surprising is that the BR-V 1.5 S comes with some features we didn't expect. Of course it has anti-lock brakes, but it also has stability control. And if you have a toddler, there are ISOFIX anchors for the child seat as well. All in all, it's fully equipped.
The second row is good, though the third row is a bit tight for adults; you'll have to sit with your legs a bit higher than you would like for longer drives. For kids? It's fine. Space is actually decent. With all rows up, there is 223 liters of capacity available for cargo. With the third row folded down, it more than doubles to 470, but if you tumble it forward, that goes up to 523.
Providing power is a 1.5-liter SOHC i-VTEC motor; the same 120 PS, 145 Nm engine that you would find in the Jazz, Mobilio, and City. Yes, it doesn't sound like much, but this is a lightweight crossover at just 1,240 kilograms; just over 150 kilograms heavier than a Jazz. And it's just a front-wheel drive with a 7-speed continuously variable transmission, or CVT.
Personally, I like how the BR-V performs on a daily drive to and from the office. The gearbox is smooth, the ride quality is well balanced, and the seats are comfortable. Sound insulation is just OK, as you can still -quite clearly- hear loud motorcycles and PUJ's on the daily grind.
While the engine was small, the BR-V returned decent fuel economy in town; 7.6 km/l with just the driver at an average speed of 20 km/h. When there were four people inside, it goes down a bit to 6.7 km/l (21 km/h average). With a heavier 6 passenger load plus luggage, it's even less at 5.4 km/l in the city (20 km/h average) as the A/C was on max (it's summer, after all) and so was the rear A/C unit. On the highway, that almost fully-loaded BR-V was able to achieve 10.2 km/l (85 km/h average) but you'd have to be mindful about how you manipulate the accelerator and how you overtake.
When driven solo or with 1 passenger, the BR-V has no problems making it up a hill or a mountain road. The i-VTEC motor has decent propulsion to get the BR-V going, and the CVT does respond quickly when I prod the throttle for it to kick-down a “gear ratio”; take note that being a CVT, it doesn't have actual gears for each speed like a traditional automatic. But with a fully loaded cabin, you will have to rev the engine a bit higher to get going, especially if you're on a family trip to Baguio or some other mountain or hilltop retreat.
Personally I would have preferred that there be a diesel version or at least a 1.8-liter option like the engine in the HR-V. While we're at it, maybe the 1.5-liter VTEC turbo in the Civic RS, but that's really a dream. But all in all, the 2017 Honda BR-V 1.5 S really is a solid all-around package, especially for PhP 989,000, and it won't be a surprise if we start seeing a lot of these on the road in the months and years to come.