Loaded but pricey
If there is one Honda vehicle that I wish lasted several more years before being axed from the local lineup, it’s the Mobilio. I like the power, its style, and its size. In fact, it was the biggest and most powerful in the mini MPV segment that's also populated (at the time) by just the Toyota Avanza and Suzuki Ertiga.
Unfortunately, once the BR-V arrived in the country, sales and demand for the Mobilio quickly dried up with buyers looking towards the more SUV-like aesthetic of the BR-V. This also marked the start of car buyers preferring crossover SUVs over traditional passenger cars like sedans and hatchbacks. Ultimately, Honda Car Philippines Inc. gave up on the Mobilio in 2021 - citing a change in market demand which spelled its demise.
But while the Mobilio had to go away, that doesn’t mean it’s truly gone. That’s because the BR-V is essentially its successor.
We already got behind the wheel of the mid-range BR-V V and we were impressed with what Honda came up with. Despite not being fully decked out, the automaker made sure it still had plenty of features that buyers wouldn’t feel short-changed. But what if you’re the type of buyer who wants everything in a three-row vehicle? Well, it’s time we got our hands on the range-topping BR-V VX with Honda Sensing. Will it be able to offer value for money with its generous equipment list?
Let’s discuss the most obvious thing first with the all-new BR-V: the looks. While the previous generation already had a distinct exterior, it was still quite obvious that its design is shared with the now-discontinued Mobilio (and the Brio hatchback). But since the MPV is no more, designers were able to give the all-new BR-V its own unique style.
The boxier and more upright design of the second-generation BR-V gives it a more purposeful and stylish look than its predecessor. What’s better is that whether you choose the S or the top-of-the-line VX, all come with LED headlights and a stylish grille that extends toward the headlights - further highlighting the BR-V’s sleeker appearance. Heck, all versions even come with 17-inch alloy wheels for that extra flair.
I wasn’t fond of BR-V's rear end in pictures, but after getting to see it in the metal, I’m actually growing to like it. The L-shaped elements and the LED lighting signatures of the taillights make the BR-V stand out more, especially at night. The more rounded curves on the D-pillars give the BR-V a smoother and more cohesive design that is a far cry from its predecessor's more angular approach.
If there was one chief complaint about the previous generation BR-V, it was its cabin. Sure, it was ergonomic but it lacked character and style. Luckily, Honda saw this and made several improvements to make the BR-V’s interior look and feel good. From the moment you open the doors and see the dashboard, center console, and switchgear, you know Honda has been busy leveling up the BR-V’s cabin despite sharing parts with its stablemates. The parts bin is still from the previous generation but it looks okay.
Some might say that there is still too much hard (i.e. cheap) plastic inside the BR-V. But at its price point, it is to be expected. The overall design is neat and the buttons and switches are exactly where you expect them to be.
The VX variant comes with leather seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel which feels smooth to the touch. It might not be as supple as the type of leather you’ll find on more high-end vehicles, but it suffices at its price point. Heck, I actually like the feel of the leather as it's still smooth to the touch despite being leatherette in nature.
Like most cars nowadays, the BR-V gets touchscreen infotainment complete with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. While the system itself works well, it is quite picky when it comes to the cables you’re using. While I didn’t have an issue with mine, the one used by Vince, our Editor-In-Chief, had trouble connecting to the system. Hopefully, this is just a software issue that can be fixed after an update.
Another neat feature I really liked about the all-new BR-V is how Honda redesigned its third-row seats. The previous generation did not have fold-flat seats which means there’s a noticeable “hump” that gets in the way of long cargo. The only way to maximize luggage space was to fold up the rear bench and hook them onto the second-row headrests. For the new generation, Honda simplified it by making the third-row fold-flat, negating the need to fold them up.
Note: Our test unit came with original Honda accessories like this cargo liner/protector
As much as the interior is a nice place to be in with its nice appointments, more spacious cabin, and generous equipment list, I was disappointed to find out that the BR-V still doesn’t come with telescopic steering adjust; tilt only. Its closest competitors like the Stargazer, Livina, Xpander, and Veloz all come with tilt/telescopic steering which allows drivers to find their preferred driving position more easily.
Powering the BR-V VX is [you guessed it] a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine with i-VTEC. But unlike the previous generation, this one now has double overhead cams (DOHC) instead of just a single overhead cam (SOHC). It now makes 121 PS which is an extra 1 PS more [hooray] than the SOHC version while torque remains the same at 145 Nm. The 1.5-liter engine is then paired to a CVT that drives the front wheels.
So the engine performs slightly better compared to the SOHC version from before. But was its fuel efficiency affected? We’re happy to report that the BR-V is still one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles in its segment. In light city driving, the BR-V is capable of easily averaging up to 10 km/L. On even lighter road conditions, it can easily sip fuel at around 13 km/L so as long as you keep a light foot on the accelerator pedal.
Out on the highway, the BR-V can return an impressive 19.5 km/L at an average speed of about 85 km/h. If you’re the type that likes to hyper-mile while on the expressways, the BR-V’s average fuel consumption can reach upwards of 21 km/L. This is the result of Honda doing the work in making the CVT and 1.5-liter i-VTEC engine work in unison.
While some might still prefer a traditional torque converter, the CVT’s ability to adapt and change its “gearing” allows it to make use of every drop of fuel. I also like the fact that Honda’s CVTs feel like a traditional automatic but without the damping feel of the torque converter. However, I do wish the CVT was not as noisy when you’re overtaking, but maybe that’s just me being nitpicky.
As far as ride quality is concerned, the BR-V delivered average ride comfort. That means it’s neither too soft nor too stiff when going over rutted streets, potholes, expansion joints, and speed bumps. Granted, the suspension is still tuned for load-carrying so there’s still some degree of stiffness, especially when it’s just you behind the wheel or when you’re seated in the back. Load up the BR-V with more passengers or cargo and the ride becomes better.
I’m a firm believer that no matter how intelligent and smart vehicles are today, the driver behind the wheel should always focus their full attention on the road in order to avoid (or mitigate) potential accidents from happening. With Honda Sensing, however, you get an extra "sense" should there be moments where even the driver can make mistakes.
With features like adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, auto emergency braking, road departure mitigation, auto high beam, and lane departure warning, it has plenty. But do they work as advertised? Yes, yes they do. While I started out apprehensive about using them, I actually learned to trust the technology with more seat time.
A particular favorite of mine is adaptive cruise control as it can immediately adjust the vehicle’s speed (and preferred distance) with just a few presses on the steering wheel. The automatic emergency braking also works well after a particularly “brave” motorcycle rider decided to cut into my lane without using the turn signals.
With a price tag of PHP 1.39 million [which doesn’t include all the extra exterior and interior trimmings on this demo unit] this top-of-the-line BR-V VX with Honda Sensing is on the expensive side of things. Some might even say that this version is pushing above its price category. But if you’re the kind who wants a fully-loaded 7-seater but doesn’t like frame-based SUVs, the BR-V may fulfill your need for a three-row SUV-styled MPV for the family.