DURING its preview at the 8th Philippine International Motor Show last year, the all-new Honda BR-V received a positive market response. Mainly, the strong approval was attributed to its fresh look with exuding SUV appeal and bigger dimensions.
To date, HCPI claims it has sold over a thousand units just over a month since its launch. Now that the latest generation BR-V is officially out, HCPI thought it was time for us to experience it in the real-world drive. We get to test this legitimate seven-seater in the long stretches of expressways, all the way up to the winding roads leading to Baguio.
Design-wise, the all-new BR-V finally embraced its proper SUV form flaunting a larger frame with compelling character body lines. The new front end’s matte black grille now comes standard, except for the range-topping VX CVT Honda SENSING variant’s gloss black finish. Moreover, there are the newly designed full-LED headlights and Daytime Running Lights. The LED fog lights are also available on the VX CVT with Honda SENSING, V CVT, and S CVT variants. The auto on-off lighting function is exclusive to the top-of-the-line variant.
One of the main highlights of this latest version is the higher ground clearance to complement the new SUV form. The new 17-inch aluminum wheels are complemented and available to all CVT grades, while the S MT variant comes with 16-inch rims. Going over the rear, the BR-V is treated with newly designed LED taillights that elegantly illuminate the night. These new rollers match well with the matte black body claddings.
Still roomy, and more enhancements
Of course, what comes with a bigger frame are taller headroom, increased legroom, and lateral space for both second and third-row occupants. While that is not always the case in pickup-based SUVs, Honda already proved in the previous generation BR-V that seven seating is possible even in a smaller frame. What is more, the flat-folding seats provide flexible cargo loading. Honda claims that the all-new BR-V continues to focus on its three (3) core values, particularly in terms of SUV and MPV values. A 60:40 split second row with One-Touch Tumble and a 50:50 split third row with Dive Down Mechanism serve a wide range of needs.
There are numerous enhancements like the newly-designed dashboard and console highlight a seven-inch detached-like touchscreen display audio, paired with multiple-speaker system. The infotainment system supports various functions, including Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and USB connection. We like the leather material exclusive to the VX CVT Honda SENSING and V CVT variants, while the S CVT and S MT are treated with high-grade fabric. Steering wheel-mounted audio controls, One Push Start System, rear air ventilation, and Power Adjustable Door Mirrors are standard across all variants, while the Power Folding Door Mirrors with Integrated LED Side Turn Signal Lights are solely for both VX CVT with Honda SENSING and V CVT variants.
Still a smooth operator on freeways
Motivation comes from a new 1.5-liter DOHC i-VTEC engine capable of generating 119 hp and 145 N-m maximum torque. This new and improved engine is paired with a new CVT transmission and fitted in the All-New HR-V non-turbo variant.
The route HCPI designed this time for the drive event was a combination of freeway stretches and tight winding roads. Traversing through the stretches of every freeway leading up to the north was the perfect venue to determine comfort level. As expected, the All-New BR-V did not disappoint. We even felt an improvement thanks to the bigger frame. Still, the noise level inside the cabin is acceptable for the vehicle’s size. Acceleration is smoother and quicker in reaching cruising and high-speed limits. Long highway runs are where the CVT shines in most cases providing seamless shifting and low rpm on high gears.
Still present was that familiar, comfortable driving position ideal for long drives. The new seats provide that snug seating posture once settled and are even better now that it has a level adjuster. Either leather or fabric wrapped, the snug seat design is what matters. Plus, ample cup holders are everywhere, and gadget charging ports are in the center console. Even with the third-row seats situated, we still managed to fit our luggage with some at the cargo bay.
Overall, the level of comfort was even more extant, as expected. The reclining and sliding 60:40 split-second row benches are suitable for comfort and rear legroom. Even the ceiling-mounted air-con vents were more than enough to distribute cold air inside the cabin. These made the initial long drive so seamless that we managed to relax for the succeeding stages.
Agile in tough climbs
HCPI chose the tougher route of climbing up to Baguio—via Asin Road in Benguet. There, the BR-V’s new engine was subjected to high engine speeds to squeeze every bit of its available torque. It was when the paddle shifters of VX/V CVT variants and the Sport mode of the S CVT version became handy. Throughout the climbs and extreme turns, there was a need to constantly push the mill to its peak rpm range to squeeze out more power.
Considering to haul a bigger frame with several adult occupants and sizable suitcases, not to mention the punishing road terrain, we still find the power delivery fairly apt for the vehicle’s purpose, mainly when played right. Well, the BR-V may not have that potency from turbocharged and bigger displacement motors, but it does the job convincingly.
Meanwhile, handling is undoubtedly one of the BR-V’s strong points, thanks to its relatively long wheelbase for its frame. Since body rolls were minimal, we only needed to focus on steering correctly and tackling every tough curve. Nevertheless, steering feedback was also excellent and easy to play with. While pushing the motor, constantly braking and turning, the All-New BR-V was up to the task and delivered impressively, considering its limits. It is an ideal travel buddy where one can throw anything at it and still performs. This model only proved that we do not need bigger SUVs to fit more passengers nor a more powerful engine to go to nice places like Baguio.
Big on safety
Whether with Honda SENSING or not, the All-New BR-V is reassuring. The Honda SENSING safety features include Lead Car Departure Notification System (LCDN), Collision Mitigation Brake System (CMBS), Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), Road Departure Mitigation System with Lane Departure Warning (RDM with LDW), and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC). Standard features are Speed Sensing Auto Door Locks, Dual and Side Airbags, Reverse Camera with Guidelines, Driver and Front Passenger Seat Belt Reminder, Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA), Hill Start Assist, Security Alarm, Immobilizer, Emergency Stop Signal, and ISO Fix Child Seat Anchor.