Honda's popular crossover, the BR-V, got a bit of a refresh earlier this year. With its two deadly rivals, the Mitsubishi Xpander and Toyota Rush, being much fresher designs than the Honda, you might think that the BR-V is on the backfoot. But that's not the case here.
So, what did we like with this updated model? And what didn't we like? How about we stir things up and start with the latter first.
Dislike: Torque delivery
Honda's 1.5-liter i-VTEC engine sees a lot of service in other models. The City, Jazz, and Mobilio use the same mill as the BR-V. It feels great in the Jazz and City, but it does tend to be a little vocal in the BR-V.
That's not to say the BR-V is underpowered; In fact, it's the most powerful in its class by packing 120 PS. Torque is also the class highest at 145 Nm. It picks up well from the get-go but seems to run out of breath in the middle of the rev band. It's most noticeable when trying to overtake with your foot pinned to the floor.
Our suggestion? The BR-V needs more mid-range torque just to have the feeling of going faster. In the city, however, the BR-V's impressive initial pick up is great for getting off the traffic lights. Also, it's much happier with a gradual increase in speed, rather than asking giving all it's got in a short burst.
Dislike: USB ports
The old BR-V had a single USB port while the new one has two. That's a good thing. The drawback to that is that it has two wires sticking out from the glovebox which makes it look rather fussy. Now, you either have to leave your phone in the glovebox or leave the glovebox open most of the time.
Granted, it's illegal to use your phone while driving but having the ports in the glovebox makes the whole thing a little cumbersome, for me at least. Still, it's more of a nitpick than an actual disadvantage. Speaking of nitpicking...
Dislike: No seat height adjuster...still
When the updated BR-V was first shown in Indonesia, I was thrilled to see that it now comes with a seat height adjuster. Shorter drivers would, for the first time, have a greater range of adjustability when they're behind the wheel of the BR-V.
So imagine my reaction when I saw that the Philippine-spec models didn't come with it. Mind you, the BR-V does have a good default driving position but having a height adjuster would have been even better. At least the BR-V makes up for it by having good all-round visibility.
Like: The new look
Updating an exterior can make or break a model. One small misstep and it could mean the difference of a thousand sales a month to a thousand stuck in the inventory. I'm glad to report that the styling tweaks made to the BR-V make it look even better than before.
In my eyes at least, the BR-V looks more grown-up and mature. The new grill makes it look a little bit more upmarket, and so does the redesigned bumper. I also like the new wheels, somewhat reminding me of the top of the line City but with a little more zing to make it look more suited to the crossover. Also, there's the rear bumper which has been tweaked to make it look wider and has a pair of neat reflectors where faux vents would usually be found. If making it appear more premium was Honda's aim, then they hit the nail on the head.
Like: Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
I can whine about the USB plugs all day but all is forgiven with the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Yes, the 2020 BR-V now has tech usually reserved for more expensive cars, which is always a welcome addition to anything, really.
There's a lot of benefits with this sort of system. You get your phone's interface right on the touchscreen, meaning you don't have to pull over to read a text, or fumble around with your phone if you need to set up Waze or Spotify. Apps such as those are displayed on the screen too so you no longer have to guess what playlist or album that's about to play or glance at your phone when looking at the map. Sure, some don't really like it but, personally, I say it's great as it minimizes driver distraction.
Like: Fuel Consumption
We drove the BR-V through different kinds of conditions, from heavy city traffic, long highway stretches, winding roads and crests, and everything that came in between. We weren't exactly efficient during the whole drive as we even left it idling for minutes during the photoshoots and driver changes, plus we were caning it when we were doing overtaking maneuvers.
But despite everything we threw at it (full cargo and all), the BR-V still managed to return a little over 12 kilometers per liter. Sure, we can bump that figure even higher but after what the car had been through that day, 12 kilometers per liter is commendable in my book. We might even see 15 to 16 kilometers per liter if we were just a little more gentle with it.
It's easy to dismiss these vehicles as wagons on tall tires, but the BR-V defies that. Sure, it's no Type R in any way, shape, or form, but it can take corners competently. It never feels nervous taking bends and it doesn't have the feeling of tipping over. On the highway, it feels planted and it doesn't get pushed around by crosswinds either. Brakes are a particular strong point, as well as steering turn in. Then again, the BR-V does share some bits from the previous-generation Brio, another fun to drive Honda.
Like: Standard safety kit
Having good handling means having high levels of active safety. That means you can avoid accidents without putting yourself in a lot of risks. The good road-holding is then complemented by Honda's Vehicle Stability Assist or VSA. This incorporates both traction control and stability control under one system.
To my surprise, the system even works on slick and gooey red clay, with traction control pulling us out of the mud with ease. So while the BR-V wasn't exactly designed to take on tougher off-road conditions, it's nice to know that the BR-V can pull through situations like that. Plus, reverse cameras are now standard on the BR-V, meaning less risk of bumping into things in reverse.
Like: Better value
Minor model changes sometimes bring with it a dramatic increase in price. That's totally not the case here in the 2020 BR-V. In fact, prices only went up by Php 5,000 when you compare the 2018 entry-level model to the 2020 version at Php 1,035,000. Even the prices of the top-spec variant didn't bump up so much either. Last year's model was priced at Php 1,149,000 while the new one starts at Php 1,155,000, an increase of just Php 6,000. For that, you get an enhanced display audio system, more USB ports, redesigned bumpers and panels, and a new set of alloy wheels. If that's not impressive value, we don't know what is.
Yes, the BR-V isn't the newest kid on the block. But there's a lot to like in the 2020 Honda BR-V. Sure, it's not perfect, but no car is. But as you've read, the pros definitely outweigh the cons in the BR-V. What we liked most about the 2020 edition is the fact that has much better value than before, and the standard safety kit is top-notch, a must for family cars.
So it may not be all-new, its age does little to take off the polish from Honda's top-selling crossover. If anything, the enhancements have made it an even better proposition.