On paper, the Honda BR-V looks like a Frankenstein product: part Mobilio, part CR-V, part Jazz. It’s not supposed to make sense, but in reality it does. Honda perfectly knows that the small crossover segment is fast growing and they figured that the best way to capitalize on that popularity is to merge it with yet another strong segment in the industry: the 7-seater MPV. The end result is a 7-seater crossover that doesn’t really push the limits of imagination, but still manages to live up to expectations.
At a glance, you can tell that the BR-V owes its appearance to the Mobilio with the tall greenhouse and “lightning kink” on the rear door, both being design cues of Honda’s 7-seater MPV. And though designers have done quite a bit, visually raising the BR-V’s appearance (the new nose certainly helps), the overall proportions (such as the rear overhang) are more MPV than SUV. That criticism aside, the BR-V does manage to tick all the requisite SUV design cues: black wheel cladding, flared arches, front and rear skid plates, and functional roof rails. Even the re-designed front and rear clips have done their job to toughen up the appearance compared to the Mobilio.
Poking around the BR-V reveals even more interesting cues worth mentioning. First, despite running on the same platform, the BR-V is slightly longer in all dimensions than the Mobilio. In fact, even the wheelbase has been extended by 8 millimeters. Second, the 16-inch two-tone alloy wheels have a 5-lug pattern compared to the Mobilio’ 4-lug one. It’s probably a minor thing, but aftermarket peeps will love the fact that the BR-V will fit a wider selection of rims. Finally, the BR-V has the most ground clearance among all Honda products offered in the Philippines with 201 millimeters.
While the BR-V’s exterior looks remain questionable, there’s no doubt that Honda has weaved their magic once more when it comes to interior packaging. Opening the door requires just the push of a button and the step-in height is perfect, not necessitating much effort to slide into the driver’s seat. Inside, it has three rows of seats that everyone, including those in the last row, will find comfortable. It’s also mighty flexible as well with the second row having a 60/40-split folding, tumbling, sliding, and reclining mechanism while the third row having a 50/50-split folding and tumbling one. Honda is also proud of the low loading height which makes putting in of heavy and bulky items easier.
The all-black cabin looks pretty austere at first, but is modern and functional throughout. The plastics are generally hard, but are of good quality and all the fittings do feel solid. It doesn’t look like there’s a cohesive flow to the BR-V’s dashboard, but at least it’s easy to understand and operate, and that’s what counts. Front and center to the driver is a familiar control layout consisting of an instrument cluster nicked from the current City and a steering wheel nicked from the 8th-generation Civic. Rummaging through the Honda parts bin may not sound appealing, but why reinvent the (steering) wheel? The three-spoke tiller itself is nice to grasp while the gauge cluster is a lesson in simplicity. Interestingly, it doesn’t have the ambient coaching light found in the City or Jazz—it has an “Eco” indicator that lights up whenever it’s driven economically.
The front seats look slim, but they do offer ample support to all but the largest framed drivers. Also unlike the Mobilio, the headrests are now adjustable, though the seat height remains fixed. In addition, the steering wheel is only adjustable for height and not for reach. That said, the resulting driving position still comfortable and one that you would pretty much expect in a crossover or SUV: tall, with a commanding view of the road ahead.
The short handling course during this preview drive didn’t exceed more than five kilometers, so it’s hard to judge the BR-V’s merits purely on that. That said, it’s clear that a diesel motor’s more suited to ferrying six adults up and down the zigzag roads of Tagaytay Highlands. Still, the sole engine, a 1.5-liter gasoline engine is more than up to the task, though it needs to be wrung to get good pace going. Shared with the Mobilio, the 1.5-liter i-VTEC engine generates 120 horsepower and 145 Nm of torque: pretty good numbers, only you have to bring it up past 3,000 rpm to get some good oomph. Once it hits the sweet spot though, it’s got good punch and feels refined. And compared to the Mobilio’s CVT, the BR-V seems to shuffle its ratios quicker making the whole exercise feel snappier. Though not tested during this drive, the range-topping variant also has the added benefit of paddle shifters.
In terms of ride, the BR-V’s pretty good. Though firmer than the Mobilio, it does soak up the bumps well and won’t make a fuss about potholes and broken asphalt. It has a tendency to shake when going through ribbed roads, but it’s not a deal breaker. The big trade off with the taller ride height is that it loses some precision when cornering. Granted this is an entry-level crossover and not a sports car, it’s something noticeable even to novice journalists. Enter a bend slightly faster than you should and you’ll be greeted with understeer. It does feel planted and secure at all times, but it necessitates numerous amounts of steering correction just to get it dialed in. What’s more, there’s no feedback from the wheel itself.
The all-new Honda BR-V may not light up the imagination of enthusiasts when it comes to its design or driving dynamics, but these shouldn’t deter would-be buyers. Cynics aside, the BR-V heeds the call for a well-packaged, well-equipped (leather seats, navigation, push-button start/stop on the range-topping variant), and safe (dual airbags, ABS, and vehicle stability assist with hill start assist are standard across both variants) family SUV. For some, it may not offer the same allure as a large, mid-sized SUV, but considering its smart packaging (it doesn’t occupy the same amount of space as a house) and its indicative pricing (ranging from less than P 1,000,000 and topping out at P 1,150,000), it’s an interesting entry point to Honda’s philosophy of providing an experience that’s man-maximum, machine-minimum.