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April 25, 2023

Review: 2023 Honda BR-V 1.5 VX Honda SENSING

From a purely enthusiast’s standpoint, it’s hard to get excited about these small 7-seater MPVs/SUVs. With their compact proportions and fuel-efficient powertrains, they serve the purpose of ferrying the Filipino family. Excitement isn’t its middle name; heck, excitement can’t even be mentioned in the same sentence. Once in a while, there’s one that’ll manage to stand out in a good way. And the Honda BR-V is sort-of one of those times.

Frankly, the BR-V won’t be re-writing the rules on sub-compact SUV handling. However, its tried-and-tested suspension combo—front MacPherson Struts and a rear Torsion Beam—is tuned well enough. A switch over to a new platform with a lengthened wheelbase and widened tracks makes a tidy handler even tidier. The tuning is more towards understeer, but body lean is well-controlled. This alone is a reminder that other brands, particularly the Chinese, have a long way to go when it comes to mechanical refinement. The steering too is precise, making most of the chassis’ built-in stability.

On the other hand, the ride itself is firm. Nothing backbreaking or fat jiggling, mind you, but small undulations and cracks do make their presence felt. Over bigger holes, the BR-V does better, soaking as much as its modestly-engineered long-travel suspension can handle. Thankfully, the body structure is sturdy enough that there are no rattles or squeaks present. However, if there’s some room for improvement, it’s NVH insulation. Simply put, there’s copious amounts of road noise. The thin glass also means you can hear what adjacent motorcyclists chat about at stoplights.

The BR-V’s thin insulation also happens to exacerbate the engine noise. Normally, you’d love to hear what the engine’s doing, right? That’s why some carmakers go to lengths to pump engine noises into the cabin using microphones or special tubing. Here, Honda should have kept it isolated. As rev happy and powerful (for its class) as this 1.5-liter is, it also produces this unattractive drone. Multiplied by the CVT’s propensity to hold revs, and every overtake is torture to the ears. Thankfully, you don’t need to keep that right foot planted all the time since the engine does have respectable punch. As for fuel economy, during our Pasig to Baguio City climb, it returned 14.7 km/L. For this one, with an average speed of just 15 km/h, or typical day-to-day traffic, that figure is still a commendable 9.70 km/L.

As far as cabins go, the BR-V is above average. The interior has this almost default combination of piano black and silver trim, and what seem like a combination of leather and PVC upholstery. Solid, but nothing to write home about. There are cleverly-added soft-touch areas like the padded dash insert and the door cards, but most materials are still of the hard variety. Still, build quality is excellent and the consistency of materials do indicate a level of engineering meticulousness.

The most important bit, the steering wheel is nicely done. The thick rim offers 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 comfortable, 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, such as myself, 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. For those who’ll need to use the third row, access is good because of the wide doors and a second row that flips and tumbles. However, back there, get ready to get intimate as there’s not much couple distance to go by. You will also sit a tad upright (the seatback is not adjustable) but at least there’s ample headroom.

When it comes to its cargo hold, Honda has removed the third-row bench’s ability to tumble up. It may feel like a step back, but in doing so, it gives it the ability to fold flat with the second-row seats creating a long, continuous luggage area perfect for hauling luggage, grocery, or even balikbayan boxes. The range-topping VX also has an adjustable shelf behind the third row. For a longer hold, you can sacrifice a bit of vertical space. Reminder: the shelf’s only rated to take 60 kilograms. So, if you do some heavy-duty grocery shopping or intend to use it for tailgate parties, you must remember to bring the shelf down to its lowest position.

The instrument cluster features Honda’s traditional two-gauge analog setup. It trades snazziness for a clear, legible presentation. The LCD cluster can toggle through various functions, but its main focus surrounds the Honda Sensing system. The same can be said about high-resolution 7-inch infotainment system in the middle. Like the City and HR-V, the hard buttons are located on the wrong side of the screen. This is bad enough ergonomically, but the system’s also temperamental. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connections are supposed to be straightforward, but here, the BR-V drops them unexpectedly and refuses to re-connect unless you switch the entire car, not just the audio system, off.

Also, like Honda’s execution on the HR-V, the BR-V’s infotainment system brightness is linked to the headlight control and not to the ambient light sensor. And with no override switch, the overly sensitive light sensor can render the infotainment screen close to unusable at times. For example, when passing under a MRT station, the headlights might turn on automatically while still keeping the instrument cluster on its “Day” brightness setting. Unfortunately, whenever the headlights turn on, the infotainment screen switches to its “Night” setting. This can make the LaneWatch camera useless as the screen turns pitch black. Thankfully, unlike the HR-V’s, there’s a workaround here: you can set the brightness of the LaneWatch camera and reverse camera separately from the infotainment system’s. Still, here’s hoping Honda would update the infotainment system later on to improve its usability.

On the subject of safety, the BR-V’s Honda Sensing system works as advertised. The wide-angle monocular camera provides systems such as autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and lane keep assist—all of which don’t give off any false alarms. However, it must be pointed out that the adaptive cruise control turns on only at speeds above 40 km/h. There’s no low-speed follow or traffic jam support. Per Honda, it’s because buyers won’t need the feature—an irony because this 7-seater SUV will probably spend most of its time in the city.

Typical for those small SUV/MPVs, there are two zones for the air conditioning. For the BR-V VX though, it’s an automatic climate control for those in the front and a ceiling-mounted blower for the second and third row. Now, normally, Honda’s air conditioning is adept at handling Manila’s heat, but here, only those in the front row will find the AC good. Those in the second- and third-row seats will find the cabin almost always warm even with the AC at full blast. Definitely, this is one car that needs heat-rejecting window tint.

Design-wise, there’s nothing objectionable here. It looks like a proper global Honda model (as opposed to the first-generation’s third-world appearance). Visually, it looks better with its large, upright grille and 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. If there’s one complaint, it’s how Honda managed the rear taillamp’s real estate. You’d think the entire cluster lights up as a brake lamp, right? Nope. It’s just a small inverted L on the white portion of the taillamp.

As far as 7-seater SUV/MPVs go, the BR-V shows why Honda’s still one of the best in the business in coming out with a mechanically-polished ride. Given where it is in the market, of course some compromises had to be made, particularly in the areas of NVH and that poorly-executed infotainment system. But where it counts—mechanical polish, interior packaging, and usable tech—it delivers an experience that’s above others in its class. Yes, it is expensive, but every single cent’s account for here. The BR-V is the Honda of small 7-seater SUVs, and that’s probably what enthusiasts only need to know.

2023 Honda BR-V 1.5 VX Honda SENSING

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Bottom Line
Pros Surprisingly good road manners, frugal, flexible interior packaging.
Cons Buggy infotainment, poor NVH insulation.
TL;DR The Honda of small 7-seater SUVs. 'nuff said.
Year Introduced 2022
Warranty 3 years / 100,000 kilometers
The Basics
Body Type Sub-compact SUV
Seating 7
Engine / Drive F/F
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 1.5
Aspiration Normally Aspirated
Fuel Delivery EFI
Layout / # of Cylinders Inline-4
BHP @ rpm 121 @ 6,600
Nm @ rpm 145 @ 4,300
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / ~91
Transmission CVT
Cruise Control Yes, Adaptive
Fuel Economy (km/L) @ Ave. Speed (km/h) 9.70 km/L @ 15 km/h
(fueled with Petron XCS)
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,490
Width (mm) 1,780
Height (mm) 1,685
Wheelbase (mm) 2,700
Curb Weight (kg) 1,298
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Torsion Beam Axle
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Drum
Parking Brake Hand-Type
Tires Bridgestone Turanza T005A 215/55 R17 V (f &r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 6
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors Yes, Rear
Parking Camera Yes, Rear
Front Seatbelts 3-pt ELR w/ pre-tensioners x 2
Rear Seatbelts 3-pt ELR x 3 (2nd row),
3-pt ELR x 2 (3rd row)
ISOFIX Child Seat Anchor Yes
Other Safety Features Hill Start Assist
Collision Mitigation Braking System
Lane Keep Assist
Lane Departure Warning
Road Departure Mitigation
Honda LaneWatch
Exterior Features
Headlights LED
Fog Lamps Yes, Front (LED)
Light Operation Auto On/Off
Wiper Operation Fixed Intermittent
Tailgate Manual
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment (driver) Manual, 6-way
Seating Adjustment (front passenger) Manual, 4-way
Seating Surface Leather
2nd Row 60/40 Split-Fold, Reclining, Sliding, Tumbling, w/ Arm Rest
3rd Row 50/50 Split-Fold
Sunroof No
Multi-Information Display Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, w/ Fold
Rear View Mirror Day/Night
Proximity Key Yes
Climate Control Front, w/ Rear Blower, Rear Vents
Audio System Stereo
Smartphone Connectivity Apple CarPlay
Android Auto
# of Speakers 6
Steering Controls Yes


  1. Vs the bigger, powerful innova matic E?

    1. Fair question. While it's spacious and torquey thanks to its diesel, it's also getting mighty old. It doesn't handle like a car nor is the comfort-level that good. Safety features aren't as robust too...might be worth waiting for the Innova Zenix...that one should shake the market.

    2. GAC GN6 better than both the Zenix and any Japanese subcompact MPV

  2. Hoping for reviews of MPVs w turbo such as the GAC GN6 and the Jetour X70.

    1. If they offer it to us hahaha. We're not scheduled for either car.

  3. and million miles reliable than unreliable china cars with junk resale value

    1. Why not give the Chinese a chance to prove themselves? The Japanese were once like the Chinese.... trying to copy the Americans and Europeans.

    2. Of course they have been given a change thas why they are in ph now ang sir uly waiting for them to lend units for them to prove dear worth😁😁😁

    3. Sadly, most aren't brave enough haha.

  4. 🤔🤔🤔...Well, year after year car buyers has speaked, sales numbers dont lie

  5. is the NVH level of the current BRV much better than the previous facelifted one? Because when the BRV was first launched here, NVH was terrible, but I've read that it was improved with the facelift.

    1. Yes. It has been improved over the previous BR-V, but even compared to other sub-compact SUVs, particularly the Stargazer, the BR-V is noticeably noisier. The problem is the engine/tranny combination. It needs to hold revs (5,000 rpm) for extended periods so it just feels the cabin with a drone-like sound.


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