I can still recall the immense popularity of the groundbreaking Honda CR-V or Compact Recreational Vehicle (also “Comfortable Runabout Vehicle,” according to other sources – Editor) when it first rolled onto Philippine shores in the mid- to late-1990s. Back then, the CR-V was as much a statement of the owner’s social status as it was a means to fulfill a transport need for the emerging active lifestyle market. It also signaled Honda’s creation of a sub-category of vehicles – the middle of the road, so to speak, between “domesticated” sedans and the “wild” off-roaders.
Twenty years later, Honda has dished out another game-changing product, squeezing in another “lane” in the crossover SUV category. In September 2016, at the Philippine International Motor Show, Honda’s local automobile business unit Honda Cars Philippines, Inc. unveiled the seven-seater SUV the BR-V, or Bold Runabout Vehicle.
When HCPI conducted the first media ride-and-drive with the BRV in mid-January this year (on the challenging, mountainous route from Isabela in Cagayan Valley to Baler, Aurora Province), there were already more than 2,000 reservations for the model.
It seems another bestseller is in the offing for Honda, not unlike the reception the original CR-V received then. However, unlike the CR-V, the BR-V doesn’t come in priced as a luxury vehicle. This time, Honda focuses more on function, and first-time SUV buyers.
Consider that the entry-level BR-V, the 1.5 S CVT, is priced below the million-peso mark at just P989,000, and the top-of-the-line 1.5 V Navi CVT Modulo is still a relatively low P1.185 million. For that you get a spacious seven-seater SUV powered by a 1.5-liter i-VTEC engine mated to the patented Earth Dreams Technology Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT); everything else in between is just extra toppings on the pizza.
Design-wise, the BR-V does stress the “bold” aspect of its exterior look, as embodied in the “Active-Solid Motion” design philosophy. The BR-V exudes that confident, powerful presence, with a wide and striking front grille design, 16-inch alloy wheels, and the LED tail lamp in C-character. With a 201-millimeter ground clearance and a body that measures 4,456mm long, 1,735mm wide, and 1,665mm tall, the BR-V is comparatively heftier than Honda’s more affordable people carrier Mobilio.
For the interior amenities, this variant offers the seven-inch touchscreen display audio and digital air-conditioning controls. The top-of-the-line CVT Navi boasts of the Smart Entry with Push Start System, an automatic type front air-conditioning system, and a seven-inch touchscreen display audio with built-in navigation powered by Garmin.
Unlike the CVT Navi variant which offers leather-wrapped seats, this variant has fabric seats, which suits me just fine, as leather seats aren’t really suited for tropical climates, especially when exposed for prolonged periods under the sun (we all know the burn when sitting on leather seats that have been exposed for even just an hour under direct sunlight). The only drawback here is that the driver’s seat doesn’t come with height adjustments.
Despite the seven seats packed in three rows, the BR-V still offers versatile seating configurations: Second row seats have a 60:40 split, recline, fold, and one-touch tumble type function, enabling easy access to the third row, which has a 50:50 split, as well as recline, fold, and tumble type function.
POWER AND PERFORMANCE
The BR-V has proven that it can take any driving punishment on the road, as our Isabela-Baler adventure showed. The 1.5-liter i-VTEC engine and Earth Dreams CVT generates 120 horses at 6,600 rpm and 145Nm of torque at 4,600 rpm, which would be enough for many (though I know of some who already imagine what a turbocharged version of the BR-V could do, considering that the Civic 1.5 RS has already gotten its turbo upgrade). The front MacPherson strut and rear torsion beam suspension systems work in tandem to provide great handling on the sharp curves of the Sierra Madre mountain range, even with speeds exceeding 60 kph.
In the end, our 500-kilometer trip from Isabela, down to Baler, and through the congestion of Metro Manila (EDSA, in particular) yielded for us an 11 km/liter fuel mileage, but there were just three of us in the unit (plus luggage). So, the jury’s still out on its fuel efficiency when packed with seven humans.
Positives: The low price points will attract first-time SUV buyers; ease of use as an SUV.
Negatives: No seat height adjustment; engine comparison with the Civic RS begs for a turbocharged version