When seven is heaven: Honda BR-V drive

7-seater Honda BR-V introduces a whole new dynamic to the small SUV segment

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The Honda BR-V’s entry-level 1.5 S CVT looks are enhanced with Modulo accessories.

The Honda BR-V’s entry-level 1.5 S CVT looks are enhanced with Modulo accessories.

Is Honda Motor Company running out of alphabet letters for its new offerings?

Honda seems to be fond of combining the letters “R” and “V,” maybe because these have brought them success in the light commercial vehicles market.

It all started in 1997, when Honda launched the CR-V (Comfortable Runabout Vehicle) in the Philippines.

In 2015, after 18 years during which the CR-V became a top seller in the compact crossover segment and gradually grew bigger in size, Honda Cars Philippines, Inc. (HCPI) introduced the smaller HR-V (High Riding Vehicle) SUV and the 7-seater Mobilio multipurpose vehicle (MPV).

Last September, at the 2016 Philippine International Motor Show, HCPI came up with the front wheel drive BR-V (Bold Runabout Vehicle) which became an instant success due to its affordable price (P989,000 to P1.18 million), 7-seater interior, and 201-mm ground clearance, the highest among Honda’s crossover/SUVs and one millimeter more than the Ford EcoSport’s.

In this country, where flash floods and rough roads are a fact of life, a motor vehicle with high ground clearance is generally preferred.

HCPI markets the BR-V as the Honda 7-seater SUV to distinguish it from the Mobilio, also a 7-seater but categorized as a MPV, which is less of a status symbol than the SUV.

Being slightly longer and heavier than the Mobilio, whose platform it shares, but narrower than the HR-V, the BR-V may be considered either a compact or a subcompact SUV.

Masculine stance

Up front, the wide chrome front grille with the Honda badge at the center, projector-type headlights, and fog lamps housed below the bumper give the entry-level 1.5 S BR-V a masculine, slightly aggressive stance.

When fitted with the Modulo body kit, LED daytime running lights (DRLs), and front lower garnish, the 1.5 S variant exudes a sporty fascia.

Creases and bulges sculpted on the sides enhance the stylish flow of the body. Silver-finish roof rails are standard equipment.

The Modulo side under spoiler makes the P989,000-BR-V S variant look more premium, but decreases the vaunted ground clearance.

At the back, the fashionably bulging taillights are connected by a reflectorized red strip. Modulo accessories include a rear lower garnish and a tailgate spoiler.

Drivetrain

Both variants (1.5 S and 1.5 V Navi) are powered by the same single overhead cam, i-VTEC, 1.5-liter, 4-cylinder, 16-valve petrol engine that propels the Honda City.

The powerplant, mated to a 7-step CVT (continuously variable transmission) also found in the Honda Jazz, produces 118 hp/6,600 rpm and 146 Newton meters max torque/4,600 rpm.

Eco is the default driving mode, indicated by an Eco lamp on the instrument panel, but you can easily switch to Sport by pushing down the gear shifter to “S” to quicken throttle response.

The BR-V has the same 1.5-liter, SOHC i-VTEC 4-cylinder, 16-valve engine as the Honda City and Mobilio.

The BR-V has the same 1.5-liter, SOHC i-VTEC 4-cylinder, 16-valve engine as the Honda City and Mobilio.

The dashboard of the BR-V somewhat resembles that of the Jazz with a multifunction steering wheel, silver finish trim, tach and speedometer facing the driver.

Electric power steering makes driving the BR-V light for a car this size and build, although with not much feedback from the road.

While the 5.6-meter turning radius facilitates making tight turns, you can feel the length of the BR-V when maneuvering, especially when reversing, since neither variant is equipped with a rear parking camera or rear parking sensors.

The solidly built BR-V is pleasant enough to drive and has adequate power to carry a full load of seven occupants up and down mountain roads.

In fact, its rather stiff ride quality gets smoother with four or more passengers and some light luggage on board.

The BR-V has the same rear torsion beam suspension as the Mobilio’s, but the spring rate of the front suspension (MacPherson strut) was revised and the damping was altered to enhance dynamics and compensate for the added bulk.

Brakes in both variants are ventilated discs in front and drums at the rear, and the wheels are 16-inch alloys.

Optimum use

It is inside the cabin that Honda Motor once again shows its genius for neat versatility, making optimum use of available space, a trait that was first reflected in the 1st generation Jazz.

Both the front row seats with adjustable headrests and the 60/40 split type second row seats have sliding and reclining functions, while the 50/50 split third row seats can be reclined.

With the third row seats folded, trunk volume increases from  223 liters to 470 liters, up to 521 liters with the second row tumbled.

With the third row seats folded, trunk volume increases from 223 liters to 470 liters, up to 521 liters with the second row tumbled.

The second row is one touch fold-to-tumble, easing access to the third row, which is also fold-to-tumble.

You can slide the second row forward to increase legroom for the third row occupants.

During a long journey, both the second and third row occupants can recline their backrests to relax.

The second row seats offer ample headroom and legroom. However, since the BR-V’s cabin is narrow, three passengers cannot sit abreast in complete comfort on the second row.

That only small children can comfortably occupy the third row seats during long trips is a given.

A rear aircon system with independent controls ensures climate comfort for all occupants.

Expandable trunk volume

As for luggage space, trunk volume starts at 223 liters with all the seats up. The low tailgate makes loading cargo easy.

For wider cargo space, fold and tumble the third row seats to expand to 470 liters, then fold and tumble the second row to max space to 521 liters.

Long cargo can be accommodated by folding and tumbling one of the split type second row seats and one of the 50/50 split third row seats.

This configuration leaves space for two passengers in the second row and one passenger in the third row.

Connectivity

Along with numerous cupholders and door pockets and flexible seating arrangements, the BR-V offers state-of-the-art infotainment and connectivity via a 7-inch touchscreen display audio system (with Garmin navigation in the 1.5 V Navi) including Bluetooth functions, hands-free telephone and audio streaming, USB input, and in the 1.5 V Navi, the HDMI (high definition multimedia interface).

Longer than Honda’s other compact 7-seater, the Mobilio, the BR-V also has a higher ground clearance of 201 mm.

In terms of safety, the BR-V is up to date, too, having scored a five-star Asean NCAP rating due to its driver and front passenger SRS airbags, vehicle stability assist, seatbelt reminder, ABS with EBD, hill start assist, Isofix child safety seat anchors, and G-force control body construction.

Aside from all of the above, the top-of-the-line P1.12-million V Navi BR-V has LED guide type position lights, DRLs, smart keyless entry with push start system, front and rear bumper skid garnish, chrome door handles and side sill protector, black leather seats, leather interior trim, and paddle shifters.

Summing up, the Honda BR-V brings a whole new dynamic to the lucrative compact/subcompact SUV segment with its 7-seater spaciousness, below-one-million-peso price tag, high ground clearance, outstanding array of safety equipment and attractive exterior and interior features.

The only thing that would be able to beat the BR-V at its game is a diesel BR-V which, by the way, is available in other markets.



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