By Franky Johnson
The BR-V is Honda’s newest entrant in South Africa’s compact sport utility vehicles segment and joins the long-established CR-V and the highly popular HR-V, introduced last year, however the Honda BRV is quite unique in the segment in that it’s a 7-seater and bigger than other ‘compact’ SUVs.
The new range comprises five models. The base model is the Honda BR-V 1.5 Trend Manual, moving up a notch is the Comfort Manual, followed by the Comfort CVT, the Elegance Manual and the top- of the range Elegance CVT. Viewed from the front, a broad chrome-finished horizontal bar in the front grille provides a home for the prominent Honda logo, while a slimmer secondary bar links the curved, clear-lensed headlights.
The headlight clusters comprise projector halogen headlights and LED position lights. The colour-coded bumper incorporates a large lower air intake, flanked by chrome-bevelled fog lamps on the Elegance flagship models. In true SUV style the BR-V comes with silver-finished roof rails, and the wheel arches are filled with steel 16-inch wheels shod with 195/60 R16 tyres on the base Trend model, alloys on the Comfort and Elegance models and a full sized spare wheel on all. Contrasting wheel arch surrounds and protective trim add to the BR-V’s rugged appearance. Door handles are colour coded on the Trend and Comfort models and chromed on the Elegance.
At the rear, the boldly shaped tail light clusters are linked by a slim LED light guide. An integrated rear roof spoiler adds a sporty impression, while the generous tailgate opens all the way down to bumper level, allowing easy and convenient access to the boot. Elegance models gain a protective garnish on the front and rear bumper.
On the inside, like in most Honda cars, the ergonomics are spot on. The interior is user-friendly and you are at home within minutes of being seated. All controls are easy to reach and the centre console is angled toward the driver. The instrument cluster is dominated by a large, centrally located speedometer, flanked by a rev counter on the left, and a multifunction digital display on the right, and a trip computer with information on driving range, fuel consumption, fuel tank level, ambient temperature and time, as well as odometer and trip meter readings. On the tachometer is an "Eco" indicator which lights up when the car is being driven economically.
The centre stack is dominated by the 4-speaker audio system, which comprises an FM Stereo/AM tuner, together with a USB socket for connecting iPods or USB flash drives, Bluetooth, outside temperature display and a 12v charging socket also located in the front centre console. The BR-V Trend is fitted with manual air-conditioning, while the Comfort and Elegance versions have fully automatic climate control air-conditioning with roof-mounted air vents for rear passengers.
Controls for the air-conditioning are located below the audio system, while the ones for the electrically adjustable exterior mirrors, electric windows and central locking are located on the door-mounted driver-side arm rest. The Elegance spec includes smart keyless entry and push button start.
The Trend and Comfort models are upholstered in an attractive cloth material that looks quite durable, while the Elegance versions get leather upholstery and leather trim for the steering wheel and the gearshift knob.
The big advantage the Honda BR-V has over its competitors is that it seats seven adults in three seating row configurations: two front seats, a middle row split 60:40 with seating for three, and a third row split 50:50, that will accommodate another two average sized adults. The third row seatback is able to recline and is easily tumbled forward to increase luggage capacity from 223 to 691 litres, or with both rows folded down, luggage space increases to an impressive 1 164 litres.
Oddments storage is provided for in the cubby hole, the door pockets, map pockets behind the front seats on the Comfort and Elegance models and no less than 11 cup holders distributed throughout the cabin. Safety items on the new Honda BR-V include driver and front passenger airbags, ventilated disc brakes in front and drum brakes at the rear, ABS and EBD, high-mounted brake light, parking brake, key reminder and seatbelt warning reminder.
Under the sleek bonnet of the new BR-V SUV range Honda have slotted in their transversely mounted 1.5 litre multipoint fuel injected overhead cam i-VTEC 16-valve 4 cylinder petrol engine developing 88 Kw at 6 600 rpm and 145 Nm of torque at 4 600 rpm with drive to the front wheels through either the all-new six-speed manual gearbox or the CVT automatic gearbox in the Comfort and Elegance models. Honda claims an average fuel consumption figure of 6.3 litres per 100 kms with the manual gearbox and 6.2 for the CVT version. The tank holds 42 litres. Drive with a light foot and you should achieve very good fuel economy.
For the ride and drive we were able to test drive the Elegance, both with the 6-speed manual transmission. Starting with the Honda BR-V 1.5, from behind the tilt adjustable steering wheel, leg- and headroom was good, the manually adjustable driver’s seat slides back- and forth and also adjusts for height, and I had no problem finding a comfortable driving position, and all round vision was good.
On the road the Honda BR-V feels very car-like to drive, and by SUV standards, the handling is excellent. On the freeway the BR-V travels comfortably at the 120 km/h speed limit with the engine turning at 3 300 rpm. The new smooth changing six-speed manual gearbox has a good spread of ratios however tall sixth gear is more of an overdrive as I found it necessary to change down to 5th gear up most inclines, to keep up the momentum.
Driving the new BR-V through the “twisites” at fairly high speed, body roll is well-controlled for an SUV, considering its ground clearance of 210 mm, and even more so when having to dodge a pothole or two. Also in the stopping department, standing on the brake pedal at 100 km/h brought the BR-V to a standstill in a straight line in just over three seconds, which is good.
For around town driving the lightly weighted electric power steering makes light work of parking and the compact turning radius of just 5.3 meters makes for easy maneuvering in tight places. The suspension is compliant over most road conditions and absorbs bumps very efficiently. All round I found the BR-V to be a very good performer and reasonably priced.
Pricing at launch starts at R238 900 for the Honda BR-V 1.5 Trend Manual, R252 900 for the 1.5 Comfort Manual, R268 300 for the 1.5 Comfort CVT, R272 900 for the 1.5 Elegance Manual and tops out at R288 300 for the Honda BR-V 1.5 Elegance CVT. Prices include Honda’s five-year / 200 000 km warranty, three years AA Roadside Assistance while the Comfort and Elegance models benefit from a two-year/30 000 km service plan with services every 15 000 km.