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Tuesday, January 10, 2023

The 2023 Honda BR-V's Mechanical Polish Makes It Worth Every Cent


Kaya ba niyan umakyat ng Baguio? That’s the oh-so-common question thrown at vehicles such as the Honda BR-V. Well, based on the photos, it’s job done then. But getting up to the Summer Capital of the Philippines is just one aspect to this story. There’s more to know and understand about this 7-seater SUV beyond its ability to get up somewhere just about every modern vehicle can.

Without a doubt, the BR-V’s greatest strength is its mechanical performance. The ingredients aren’t any different from the rest of the segment—front MacPherson Struts and a rear Torsion Beam Axle—but the way Honda’s tuned it shows why they continue to be the best in the business.



Considering it’s an MPV on stilts, handling isn’t expected to be a strong point, and yet, it’s actually fun to toss around at pace. With a wheelbase that’s been extended by 40 mm and tracks (both front and rear) widened by 40 mm compared to its predecessor, the mechanical experience is gold. The ride itself is pliant and refined; soaking up all sorts of cracks and bumps, but doing so without juddering the cabin or bottoming out. Ditto when pushed through corners. It’s willing and able to tackle twisties, but manages to remain stable on the highway. And then, there’s the best part: the steering. It’s precise, well-weighted with a great degree of stability baked in as well.

Powered by a 1.5-liter i-VTEC 4-cylinder, it pumps out a class-leading 121 horsepower and 145 Nm of torque. As expected from a Honda engine, it’s always eager to rev and doesn’t beg to stop. The new DOHC layout is supposed to improve its tractability, and to a point, it does; if only the CVT were more cooperative. As it stands, the engine falls back to hard revving just to keep a decent pace going, and this tends to fill the cabin with an unattractive drone.

Honda claims up to 24.71 km/L for the BR-V which could be possible when hypermiling on the highway, but the more realistic figure is a combined city/highway figure of about 14.7 km/L—that’s from Pasig City during rush hour to Baguio City.



Designed under the “Jetliner Cross” concept, the BR-V now looks like proper global Honda model as opposed to the first-generation’s rather third-world appearance. Visually, the variants are more or less the same which means a large, upright grille flanked by LED headlights. The lower bumper also has a nice silver trim, echoed at the side and rear bumper, while chunky black wheel arches emphasize SUV positioning. At the back, the rear hatch opens way down giving it a low loading lip for easy access to the cargo bay.

The interior features piano black/silver trim and what feel like a combination of leather and PVC upholstery (not full leather as Honda advertises). Though there are cleverly added soft-touch areas, such as the padded dash insert, most materials are of the hard plastic kind. Still, build quality is excellent and the consistency of materials do indicate a level of engineering meticulousness.

Being a driver-centric SUV/MPV, the most important bit, the steering wheel is nicely done. The thick rim offers a nice grip and the bank of controls—infotainment on the left, multi-info display and cruise control on the right—are easily understood. Sadly, Honda has still chosen to omit any telescopic adjustment here. It’s not a big deal, but it is contrary to their nature of putting the needs of the driver ahead of anything else.



On to the seats, the front offers good support. They’re not only ergonomically sound, but thanks to a standard height adjuster, it can now accommodate a wider range of body types. It must be noted that for a 170 cm tall person, the seats felt tall even at the lowest setting. Meanwhile, the second-row seats have plenty of headroom. It’s also properly engineered with three individual headrests and three-point seatbelts for all. There’s a center arm rest too. In this occasion, the third row wasn’t used as it contained enough snacks to feed an army and luggage. But, in a clever move, the second and third row can fold together resulting in flat cargo hold that expands up to 1,032 liters.

The instrument cluster features a traditional two-analog gauge setup with a small colored 4.2-inch TFT screen primarily for the Honda Sensing system (it can also toggle through other functions as well). It trades snazziness for a clear, legible presentation. The same can be said about high-resolution 7-inch infotainment system, but in this case, the buttons are still on the wrong side of the screen. It can also get a temperamental. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connections are supposed to be straightforward, but here, it sometimes drops them. In one instance, it refused to connect at all with a colleague’s Samsung phone. Another shortcoming is the number of charging ports which doesn’t match its maximum seating capacity. As it stands, there are only five: two USB Type A ports and three 12-volt accessory outlets—one for each row.

As typical of this class, there are two zones for the air conditioning with an automatic climate control for those in front and a ceiling-mounted blower for the second row (there are no vents in the third row). Normally, Honda’s air conditioning is adept at handling Manila’s heat, but here, it can’t seem to handle the sweltering heat all too well. Even when set at 22 degrees Celsius (normally, we keep things at 24), it’s a bit on the warm side.



For the first time, Honda has opted to equip the BR-V with Honda Sensing. Unlike other setups that use a combination of a camera and radar, here, it relies solely on a wide-angle monocular camera. All in all, it provides driver assist functions such as autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and lane keep assist. And yes, they all work as advertised here. It must be pointed out that the adaptive cruise control here turns on only at speeds above 40 km/h. There’s no low speed follow or traffic jam support. Per Honda, it’s not because of the BR-V’s lack of an electronic parking brake; it’s because they thought buyers won’t need it.

Summarizing the Honda BR-V based solely on its ability to make the Baguio climb doesn’t do it justice at all. After all, just about any modern car can make it, let alone the most powerful offering in its class. So, what’s the story here then? Well, it’s all about whether or not it can justify its higher than average sticker price. At P 1.39-million for the top-of-the-line BR-V VX, it’s the most expensive offering in an increasingly competitive (and still price sensitive) segment. Though it does have some shortcomings, overall, it manages to deliver on that promise. The bottom line is that the BR-V is worth every hard-earned cent.


5 comments:

  1. How is the cabin noise at highway speeds? The previous generation was really bad even for its class that it almost felt like there was a window down even when there wasn't. Quite surprised about the AC considering my old Hondas are still ice cold even after over a decade, but I think installing good quality tint will mitigate this issue. My wife really wants this BR-V as her daily car.

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    1. Heading back from Baguio in another BR-V and the AC seems fine. It could be down to the particular unit we drove. Unfortunately for Honda, my feedback is based on what we drove yesterday.

      As for the noise, it's much improved. You still won't mistake it for a plush luxo-barge, but you can actually listen to Toto on Spotify without having to turn up the volume (yeah, that's our colleague's playlist).

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  2. BR-V S CVT is selling very well due to its affordable price.
    Powerful engine with 4 airbags!

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  3. my pamily's previous gen BRV made it up to Baguio last month :P No sweat naman basta wag puno I guess lol (3 passengers kasama driver, one kid, and a bunch of bags)

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  4. It should not be a question if it can go up Kennon Road, Halsema Highway or even the Kiangan-Tinoc-Buguias Road in Tinoc, Ifugao, since even a fully loaded Kia Pride or Daewoo Racer can do that. The better question would be, how is the in-gear acceleration when attempting an 80-100 km/h overtake in the expressways with 5 passengers and a loaded cargo area? All these 1.5L 7-seater subcompact AUVs can barely get past 110 km/h when there's more than 2 passengers in the cabin.

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