When we first drove the Honda BR-V on one of the auxiliary tracks of the company-owned Twin Ring Motegi circuit in Japan two years ago, we knew this seven seat crossover had big potential for our market.
The tall wagon body style is an attractive proposition that offers plenty of versatility when it comes to seating capacities, space, and practicality. And then there's the higher ride height, enabling you to clear more obstacles such as debris, speedbumps, and the occassional flood than your usual 4-door saloon car. A crossover SUV just makes a lot of sense to own, and that's the reason why we see so many of them of various shapes, sizes, countries of origins, price points and more on the road.
So when Honda Philippines introduced the BR-V in the Philippines, it became an instant hit, with many families snapping up the potential of a three-row, subcompact crossover. There are many versions of the BR-V, but this 1.5V Navi Modulo we're driving is one of the highest up the totem pole, and we like it.
The BR-V the crossover version of the Honda Mobilio MPV, and utilizes the same platform that's closely related to the Brio and Brio Amaze. This BR-V Modulo measures in 4456mm long, 1735mm wide, and 1665mm tall, it's bigger in every respect compared ot the Mobilio, but only just. It has 201mm of ground clearance, enabling it to get above most light debris and some light floods on our streets.
The BR-V looks quite nice, and really looks like a modern urban crossover SUV. The squared looks, the edgy details, and modern accents does make the BR-V quite a desirable little crossover. I particularly liked the fascia with its stronger look, as well as the rear taillights; they look like something lifted from a Dodge than a Honda. This being a Modulo (Honda's official accessory brand positioned just under Mugen/M-Tec) variant means that this BR-V comes with some nice accents such as wraparound skirts and extra LED running lamps up front, among others.
The interior design is very nice indeed, featuring a clean, modern, and functional look. The steering wheel is actually from the previous generation Jazz, Civic and City, and comes equipped with steering wheel audio controls. There's a 2-DIN touchscreen audio unit with Bluetooth telephony, USB input, and even HDMI input so you can mirror your phone on the screen. And yes, it comes with Garmin's very clean navigation system.
There was a lot of attention paid to versatility and maximizing space. There is 223 liters of capacity available for cargo in the back with the third row up, but that doubles to 470 if you flip them down, and even increases to 524 liters if it's tumbled forward. You can also fold down the second row and make room for much longer cargo like surfboards or bikes, if those are your active weekend hobbies. The third row is a bit tight for big adults, but for children it's alright.
Motivating the BR-V is a 1.5 liter i-VTEC engine matched with the Earth Dreams CVT, much like the Honda Mobilio. The engine is rated for 120 PS and 145 Nm of torque; not high, but plenty for a small, lightweight crossover. And no, this one isn't a 4WD or 4X4; it's purely a front-wheel drive crossover.
The powertrain proved to be smooth and quiet, though quite a bit of ambient noise does permeate into the cabin from loud motorcycles and jeepneys. The ride quality is well balanced, and the leather seats are comfortable for long periods in traffic. I liked the convenience of the automatic climate control system, and the rear airconditioning vents proved useful to aid in cooling down the cabin even in our intense summer heat.
There's good fuel economy if you're driving solo from home to the office, as this 1.5V easily does 7.9 km/l at an average speed of 18 km/h. With a cabin laden with heavy cargo, like when you take delivery of some heavy power tools, that goes down a bit to 7.0 km/l (19 km/h average). On the highway its better, as the BR-V easily did 13.6 km/l if you're being smart about your accelerator use; though I expect that figure to drop significantly if you're driving with a full cabin and/or up a mountain.
I actually liked how the BR-V took on corners. Part of that is because it just weighs 1250 kilograms, but another part is the way Honda tuned the suspension. The CVT performs well to kick down a few “gears”, despite not having actual gears like a traditional automatic gearbox. It brakes quite well despite having drum brakes in the back, and the engine is more than willing to rev if you want it to.
The Honda BR-V 1.5V Navi Modulo is quite a neat package at PhP 1,185,000. It seems a bit high, but if a more affordable version is what you want with the same features, you can opt to not get the Modulo accessory package and save PhP 150,000. Sure the BR-V won't cross challenging terrain or be exceptional in its capabilities, but it accomplishes its primary purpose very well: a great, daily drive urban crossover with two extra seats.
And it also bodes well for the BR-V and Honda that it has no direct competitor in this small seven seat crossover class yet. Given the public's positive response towards the BR-V, that could change.