Skid Marks

BRV is Honda’s SUV invasion vanguard


The BRV offers versatility, comfort, efficiency and excellent driving dynamics

Last week’s Inquirer Motoring provided a lot of details about Honda’s latest model, the recently unveiled CR-V. The big news? Honda now offers a 9-speed automatic and a diesel engine dubbed i-Dtec, displacing 1.6 liters and delivering 160 ps and 350 Newton meters of torque. You also get a 1.5 liter petrol-powered variant, same as what’s found under the current Civic RS. Obviously, financial constraints limit everyone to buying a CR-V.

Not to worry though, as Honda’s entry-level SUV cum MPV, the BR-V, delivers almost all of the goods that its more upscale brethren (which include the HR-V, CR-V and even the Pilot) provides for the Honda fanatic all at a price we can much more easily accept.

Looking back a few years, Honda’s position had faltered, losing its place to the likes of Ford and Hyundai after enjoying a stellar performance. But the market has changed drastically, and Honda, lacking a diesel-powered light commercial vehicle (LCV) such as a 7-seat SUV or pick-up, lost previous market share in the process. This was a trend throughout Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa, Australia and South America where demand for such types of vehicles remain strong due to poor road and weather conditions. It took Honda two generations of cars to finally come up with a vehicle close to matching these needs, but that doesn’t mean Honda hasn’t been working quietly in the interim.

First came the HR-V, followed by the Mobilio and BR-V. These vehicles whetted the automotive palettes of Honda fans looking at buying an H-badged car but previously, none were relevant to the local automotive market. The HR-V gave the market a Honda-badged entry-level compact crossover. The Mobilio was the MPV, and the BR-V, essentially, a bridge between the Mobilio and the HR-V with the ride height and ground clearance of a compact crossover SUV and the 7-seat practicality and versatility of an MPV.

Touchscreen infotainment system

Looks-wise, the BR-V won’t be winning any beauty pageant. The looks are a mix of Mobilio, HR-V, Jazz/City. The 201 mm ground clearance is surprising as it doesn’t look very tall, which is good as it makes entry and exit easy, especially if you need to do a variety of short trips and need to be popping in and out of the car. This added ground clearance (about 1.5 to 2 inches more than a typical sedan) makes for greater confidence in flash floods.

The short overhangs give it a mildly sporty demeanor, and the Modulo bodykit, consisting of front and rear claddings as well as matching side-skirts (finished in silver), with front LED DRL’s, plus a spoiler add to the athletic look. But the seemingly long wheelbase (dynamically it’s good, but aesthetically, makes it look like a dachshund. No matter though, as inside, you will appreciate the lengthy wheelbase as it affords more legroom for both 2nd and 3rd row passengers.

Honda’s 1.5 liter L15Z1-iVtec engine

Inside, the interior is basic black: It looks cheap and shiny, but thankfully resist scratching well. The driver’s seat doesn’t adjust for reach but at least tilts, and the driver’s seat is fixed. But thankfully, in my case, driving position is still very close to ideal, with excellent angles relative to my arms and steering column, and my ankles to the pedals. Steering effort is on the light side, proof at today’s motorists value the path of least resistance versus sheer driving pleasure. At least it’s accurate and very responsive. The touchscreen infotainment system is excellent and the built-in navigation system is quite good. But seriously, all manufacturers better start offering mirror-imaging on their multimedia infotainmet system and a typical Apple or Android OS media device. General consensus is that cars should just be as connected to their owners along with the rest of the driver’s personal effects. Ergonomics and comfort are spot-on overall, with controls and instrumentation within easy reach and viewing. Drop the third row seats and you get 691 liters of cargo space. Keep the seats up and you still have a decent 223 liters of cargo space.

Under the hood lies Honda’s 1.5 liter L15Z1-iVtec engine that delivers 120 ps and 145 Newton meters of torque. This Euro IV compliant powerplant also powers the Honda Jazz/City twins as well as the Mobliio MPV. Mated is Honda’s Earth Dreams Technology CVT.

Despite the modest output, the CVT never ever feels underpowered or burdened; power comes on strong as the CVT’s algorithm is flawlessly matched to the L15Z1’s output. Acceleration is always strong, even when going uphill. On the highway, the BR-V delivered a very decent 15.5-16 km/liter cruising between 90-100 km/h with a heavy load of people and cargo. In-city consumption is a very good 8.9-9.2 km/liter considering half was slogging through bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Interior is basic black

Overall, my experience with the BR-V was impressive. I was happy to have had the car, and was glad that Honda has finally started to release more and more models that, though appear to be highly specialized niche models, are actually very relevant, very practical and surprisingly very good value. It’s just that a lot of car buyers nowadays look for something with a tad more sex appeal. But look beyond and glitz and drama of the competitors, and you’ll see that few cars offer as much versatility, comfort, efficiency and excellent driving dynamics as the BR-V. If you’re coming from a Jazz/City but require more space because you’re currently adulating but still limited with budget, the BR-V is an excellent evolutionary upgrade.

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