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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Review: Honda BR-V 1.5 S Modulo

Seven-seater vehicle SUVs and MPVs are normally seen as a necessity purchase. Once the family grows in number and can’t be accommodated by regular sedans (or crossovers for that matter), Daddy has to immediately consider getting something that seats seven. Once or twice though, a carmaker comes out with an offering that manages to address all the requirements of a typical family car without sacrificing the bits that made Daddy love driving in the first place. The Honda BR-V is one such example.

All thing considered, there shouldn’t be any reason to get too excited over the BR-V; after all, it’s just a jacked up Mobilio. That said, Honda has come up with a winner by combining two surefire ingredients for success in the local automotive market: high ground clearance and seven seats. Add to that a clever pricing strategy and the reason becomes clear why this has become such a sought after vehicle.

Perfect as the BR-V’s market positioning is, the more important question is: how does it perform? Well, that’s actually the bigger surprise because it actually is a capable performer price notwithstanding. Sharing its running gear with the Mobilio, the BR-V’s 1.5-liter SOHC i-VTEC engine is up to the task of pushing this 7-seater around town and perhaps even the occasional road trip or two. It’s 70 kilograms heavier than the Mobilio on paper, but in reality, it doesn’t feel that much different. Tested with up to 3 people onboard, it never feels out of breath, especially in the urban setting. It’s still no sports car, but a tap on the throttle still returns some convincing sense of urgency. And as the speeds go up, there’s no noticeable wane in performance. It remains amicable all the way to legal speeds.

The BR-V is also high on refinement with good levels of NVH isolation. Perhaps the only exception is the obtrusive tire noise from the Bridgestone Ecopias which can actually drown out a hands-free phone call. And despite the weight (and perhaps aerodynamic) handicap, 8.5 km/L at an average speed of 12 km/h is pretty darn close to the Mobilio’s 8.7 km/L.

Having said that, the BR-V’s combination of a small displacement engine and CVT does mean that its performance can be hampered when fully loaded with people. Though it can climb up a steep incline (Kennon Road, Tagaytay Highlands, or Bitukang Manok all included), it needs to wring every single of its 120 horses to get there. The tachometer will remain stuck at 3,800 rpm while the engine buzzes for its dear life. Every passenger will worry and think if they’ll need to go down and push the BR-V up. Thankfully, they don’t. Trust the BR-V, not the passengers.

While it’ll take some time to believe in the BR-V’s uphill climbing prowess, in terms of suspension and chassis tuning, it largely sticks true to Honda’s reputation for delivering a driver-centric experience. The steering is nicely weighted and surprisingly responsive. And though the 5.6-meter turning radius is larger compared to the Mobilio (5.2) and even the City and Civic (5.3), it never once felt unwieldy because of its short overhangs and excellent visibility. When cornering, it feels stable and responsive, though left-right-left transitions lets out lots of understeer. Specifically tuned for the BR-V, the suspension gives a well-mannered ride. It’s slightly on the firm side, but it can soak up any pothole or road crack with poise and composure. An added bonus is that it remains composed even when going over ribbed surfaces—a common weakness of cars with non-independent rear suspension.

As great as the BR-V is with its on-road manners, how does it do aesthetically? Owing a lot to the Mobilio, the BR-V does have the same large greenhouse and “lightning kink” on the rear doors. Still, Honda has managed to visually differentiate the BR-V by grafting new ends. Undoubtedly, the front clip works well the most. The squared off face, horizontal elements, and large maw all do well to butch up the otherwise cutesy styling of its Mobilio base. The black body trims and chunky two-tone alloy wheels also fit the character to a tee. Honestly, it’s actually the rear portion that’s out of sync. Not only doesn’t it look like any other current Honda vehicle, but the bod-length reflector doesn’t seem to visually widen the backend as effectively. Still, a small price to pay for what’s otherwise a practical and no-nonsense design.

That practicality makes itself known time and time again when using the BR-V. It starts when the doors are opened and the driver slips inside. The ingress is easy thanks to the perfect step-in height and seat hip points. The dashboard itself may look busy with the geometric theme going on, but get to the controls and they all fall right into hand. The buttons and switches are all well-marked and chunky, great for operating them based on feel alone. And though the driver’s seat can only move 4 ways and the steering adjusts only for reach, the driving position is ergonomically sound and comfy enough even for spending the whole day in. Perhaps the only problem is the touchscreen audio system. Though its graphics are clear and crisp, the lack of large or physical buttons means having to fumble around to simply switch function or turn it on and off. The standard steering wheel controls do help though.

And then, there’s the packaging where the BR-V really shines. Riding on a footprint no bigger than a compact sedan reveals comfortable seating across three rows. Squeezing in 7 is still a tough challenge unless they’re all runway models, but fitting in 6 adults is more than possible. While it’s a given that those in front will enjoy good amounts of space, those in the second and third rows do too. When the third row isn’t used, occupants in the second row are treated with enough room to cross their legs comfortably. When more people need to squeeze in, the second row bench actually slides and reclines in a 60/40 split. This eliminates any attempts to cross legs, but it equally divides the available knee room between the second and third rows. Speaking of the third row, though it’s slightly knees up back there, there’s more knee room here than an economy seat in a budget airline.

The Honda BR-V may not be love at first sight, but it manages to blend and merge different vehicle genres into one convincing package. Though there are parts of it which are clearly designed on a budget (the hard, scratchy plastics on the dashboard and the old-fashioned hook latch on the third row to name two), it does well to cater to the needs and wants of buyers in this part of the world. It takes the buyer’s penchant for preferring tall riding vehicles and combines it with a suitably practical package that still adheres to Honda’s principles of making a well-balanced machine. Of course, one may argue that it’s better value to go for a Mobilio given the similarly equipped 1.5 V is actually P 106,000 cheaper than the 1.5 S tested (and frankly that’s quite true). Still, there will be those who’ll be willing to pay a premium for a more macho looking, higher riding vehicle.

2017 Honda BR-V 1.5 S
Ownership 2017 Honda BR-V 1.5 S Modulo
Year Introduced 2016
Vehicle Classification Sub-compact Crossover
The Basics
Body Type 5-door Crossover
Seating 7
Engine / Drive F/F
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 1.5
Aspiration Normally Aspirated
Fuel Delivery EFI
Layout / # of Cylinders I4
BHP @ rpm 120 @ 6,600
Nm @ rpm 145 @ 4,600
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / 91~
Transmission CVT
Cruise Control No
Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed 8.50 km/L @ 12 km/h
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,453
Width (mm) 1,735
Height (mm) 1,665
Wheelbase (mm) 2,662
Curb Weight (kg) 1,240
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Torsion Beam
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Drum
Tires Bridgestone Ecopia EP150
195/60 R 16 H (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 2
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors Rear
Other Safety Features Hill Hold Assist
Exterior Features
Headlights Halogen
Fog Lamps Yes, Front
Auto Lights No
Rain-sensing Wipers No
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt
Steering Wheel Material Urethane
Seating Adjustment Manual
Seating Surface Fabric
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 60/40, sliding, tumbling (2nd row);
50/50, tumbling, folding (3rd row)
On-Board Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes
Climate Control Manual
Audio System Stereo
# of Speakers 4
Steering Controls Yes


  1. Buy a proper compact sedan instead of this cheap vehicle. Or save more for a proper SUV.

    1. Not everyone is as rich as you, RK.

    2. For the price of this BRV, you are so near the well equipped compacts and the true SUV's.

    3. True SUVs start at 1.3M though, or 1.4 if you want an automatic.

      This vehicle is just slightly expensive for a tiny SUV. Ideally should be around 900-950K. At least it makes attempts not to feel cheap, unlike the the Mobilio, which should actually be cheaper than the City. I guess pinoys pay a premium for 7 seats.

    4. Those 2 seats are worth 200k. LOL

  2. Do those blings affect the ground clearance?

    1. Honda counts the lowest metal point as their basis for ground clearance so technically, it's still at 201 mm. That being said, it will lower side skirts and also lower the approach and departure angles slightly.

  3. "The BR-V is also high on refinement with good levels of NVH isolation. Perhaps the only exception is the obtrusive tire noise from the Bridgestone Ecopias which can actually drown out a hands-free phone call."

    If you cant hear your calls the sound deadening is not good, so its below average NVH, just like the mobilio.

  4. Boring, hybrid design from the body of the ugly Mobilio with the front fascia of an old CRV model. How can this car look good? It can only be described as ugly.

    1. It suits you, then, since you have that in common.

  5. If you need 7 seats get the mix or Innova instead. Otherwise get the Tucson. All are within the price range of this monstrosity

    1. What's a mix? Btw the current Innova has a hideous face.

  6. Avanza or BR-V...Thiss would make a good comparison

  7. i own one and i like it. you have to drive one before commenting so that you have better grip of the vehicle's capability.

  8. This is not SUV, MPV instead. lol

  9. Hi Uly,

    I am debating between the BRV and City for a family of 5. It will mostly serve as a second car for urban driving. Is the second row space of the BRV as spacious as the City? Does the City still drive and handle better than the BRV? Thanks!


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