In as much as sedans being the vehicles of choice for many, crossover and MPVs have gained a lot of traction in the past few years. Basic properties of a car, an increased ride height, plus the practicality of having more seats have been their selling point, and in this particular category, one such vehicle has done well: the Honda BR-V.
Many might wonder why the BR-V was brought in in the first place, given that the Honda Mobilio already existed at the time. Really, what set it apart is that it’s “bigger”, albeit ever so slightly than the Mobilio, and what some would argue to be better looks. Years after its initial launch, it's the BR-V that's become the second best-selling Honda model in the Philippines, just behind the City.
Now, they've given it a refresh. So, let’s have a look at what the BR-V does offer for those who want a 7-seater MPV, then, shall we?
On the subject of looks, the pre-facelift versions of the Mobilio and BR-V have always been distinguished them from one another. Sure, the former updated to a more angular front end, but that’s what the BR-V already had in the first place, and that’s something most people would cite as why it sold better.
The wing-face grill is a wide piece that dominates up to three quarters of the front. Compared to its predecessor, the solid upper bar remains, but now it has two horizontal chrome slats below it, giving it a more “aggressive” look.
Likewise, the bumper was updated with more angular creases alongside, and frames now border the foglights. If anything, the BR-V now looks like a mini CR-V as far as the front end is concerned. It’s not as bulbous as its bigger cousin, but it really helps in giving the BR-V a more commanding look about it. Oh, and those projector headlights solved what many thought to be a point for improvement as far as lighting goes, so kudos for this specific upgrade, Honda.
Much of the side, taillights, and tailgate all remain the same, but the rear bumper did get an update, now sporting vertical reflector strips on each side. Given the black wrap-around cladding of this S variant, the rear looks wider now, too.
On the inside, the BR-V remains as it has always been: simple, straightforward, nothing out of the ordinary, but nothing unsightly either. That’s because everything except the upholstery pattern (cloth comes standard in the S, not leather) remains the same in the interior. Not that this is a bad thing, but seeing as this is simply a refreshed release, we didn’t expect Honda to put in anything new anyway.
Still, let us not discount the fact that the interior still looks more than decent. Sure it’s basically almost all plastic, but that never made the BR-V look cheap. No unsightly gaps, the addition of silver trim pieces, and the glossy black accents really help in that respect.
Despite being the entry-level variant, the S already has all the bits and bobs you’ll need. Granted that the head unit is also the same as the previous version, this does not have navigation built-in. It does have Bluetooth and phone connectivity, though, plus a USB port for those who prefer to lug their audio old school.
In the comfort department, something that remains a point for improvement will be the seat cushions. Though the seats themselves are wide enough, with the seatbacks providing enough support, the foam that was used wasn’t as soft as we’d like them to be. Note that it is not going to require a Salonpas patch after a long drive or after being stuck in traffic, but your bum will really feel it over an extended period of time. Luckily, you can scoot left and right so as to ease the weight off of your, umm, behind. It’s a good thing the suspension, though taut, can still absorb road imperfections quite well.
Space-wise, you aren’t left wanting, after all, we've always held Honda in high regard when it comes to space efficiency. The front and middle rows provide enough for your average-sized adult. The middle row may be a bit of a snug fit on the seats and shoulders, but it’s bearable. The third row, on the other hand, will have an adult’s knees hiked high, so they’re best left to children. Normally we would say that smaller adults can do in the third row, but for the BR-V, kids will be the best fit.
Cargo area on the other hand, is rather impressive. The third row seats do not fold flat, so that may take up significant space; regardless, a good amount of cargo can still be stowed at back. You get about 470 liters of space with the third row folded, but that can go up to around 520 liters if you tumble them forward. Balikbayan boxes, golf bags, luggage, and even longer cargo can fit with ease, given that the middle row can also tumble forward.
Powering the BR-V across the entire range is a 1.5L SOHC i-VTEC engine. The mill churns out about 120 horses and 145 Nm of torque. Small numbers they may seem, and really they are. But see, even with five adults inside, the BR-V still returns about 8.5-8.9 km/L. It’s not stellar consumption, but given the load and weight, you have to admit that that’s pretty good.
The lack of power and torque are evident when you seriously load up the BR-V with lots of cargo and/or the full seven-seat capacity. In the city, it won’t be much of a drawback, but you should still expect that your consumption may go down to about 6.2 km/L as it did in our case. Really, though, how often do you load up your MPV with that much people and cargo anyway, right?
On the highway is where the engine works a little bit better, and you can expect your economy to reach around 10.3 km/L (again, fully loaded). The CVT, though, does need some getting used to. If you mash it to overtake, it is a bit sluggish finding the right “gear”, so you’ll have to really work it gently, so to speak. Do note that it will also need more input to get you moving when the BR-V is packed to the brim. It’s something that you’ll learn and get used to, and it’s also something we wish Honda might remedy in the future.
So how does the BR-V grown and changed, two years since it entered the market? If you’re reading up to this part, you can probably tell that really, it hasn’t. Aside from having the same interior and engine, and the same for most of the exterior bits, the BR-V is still what it has always been. It is a simple, reliable, no muss, no fuss MPV that can seat seven people, carry cargo, afford you good fuel economy, and by way of this facelift, make you look good while you’re at it.
With a price tag of PhP 1,035,000, the entry level S variant already has what you need for a comfortable, economical drive without having to break the bank for something bigger and pricier (read: an actual crossover/SUV). If you want an MPV that packs good value for money, decent performance, plus a bit more than what a regular and bare entry level variant does, then the BR-V S 1.5 is well worth more than a second look.