Honda’s new 7-seater BR-V crossover recently sneaked onto the market in South Africa. Is the BR-V the perfect everyday family car? We put it to the test...
We like: Ride quality, solid interior, lots of space for goods and passengers, decent performance
We don’t like: Awkward loading space when seats are folded down, could do with more airbags and park distance control
- For a bargain: Consider the Suzuki Ertiga 1.4 GL priced at R215 900. It’s powered by a naturally aspirated 1.4-litre petrol engine offering 70 kW and 130 Nm of torque. The Ertiga offers similar practicality to the BR-V and includes rear park distance control as standard.
- For more torque: The Mahindra Xylo 2.2CRDi E8 7-seater is powered by a 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine that offers 89 kW and 290 Nm of torque. It is also available as an 8-seater. Pricing for the Mahindra Xylo 2.2CRDi E8 starts from R269 995.
- For better safety features: Toyota recently updated its popular Avanza to include stability control, in addition to the already fitted Isofix child seat mounts, dual airbags and ABS with EBD. It is priced from R219 900.
The Honda BR-V is practical, spacious and comfortable to drive.
The arrival of the Honda BR-V on local soil is well timed. Sales figures suggest that buyers are increasingly considering small crossovers and SUVs instead of MPVs and Honda is looking to capitalise on the opportunity with its surprisingly spacious BR-V.
The compact crossover segment is currently dominated by products such as the Ford EcoSport, Renault Captur and Duster, but the BR-V has a few tricks up its sleeve that buyers will find intriguing. The BR-V is Honda’s new compact "crossover SUV" offering, slotting in below the HR-V, and combines practicality, affordability and the ability to seat 7 passengers. In truth, however, the BR-V is more of a cleverly disguised MPV, masquerading as a SUV.
The BR-V range consists of 5 derivatives across three trim levels and we recently had the high-spec BR-V 1.5 Elegance manual on test to determine just how versatile it is. Does the BR-V offer enough value to gain traction in this highly competitive segment? Let’s see what the BR-V has to offer…
How does it fare in terms of…
With its raised ride height, wheel arch mouldings, roof rails and cladding, the BR-V is an MPV disguised as an SUV.
The BR-V features distinctive Honda styling traits as seen in the swathe of chrome detailing found on the grille, fog light surrounds, door sills, door handles and tailgate. If you aren’t a fan of extensive chrome, then you might find the BR-V a tad OTT (over the top). Its boxy shape is softened with slim headlights, roof rails and extended taillight clusters that give it a more purposeful look. A set of stylish 16-inch alloy wheels are fitted as standard and this particular test unit came in the Carnelian Red exterior colour (3 other colours are on offer).
Overall, we think Honda has done a good job in creating a relatively attractive family vehicle and the BR-V seems to pip its 7-seat rivals (Toyota Avanza, Suzuki Ertiga, Mahindra Xylo) in the looks game. Well done, Honda!
Performance & ride quality
The BR-V is powered by the same naturally aspirated 1.5-litre engine that’s found in the HR-V, Jazz and the now discontinued Mobilio MPV. It’s a zingy motor that develops 88 kW and 145 Nm of torque and those numbers drive the front wheels through a 6-speed manual gearbox.
Decent performance is offered in the BR-V and ride quality is good on most surfaces.
Power delivery in the BR-V, with minimal load, is good. The BR-V gets a move on and happily chugs away at highway speed without much effort. Under harder acceleration, however, the engine starts to whine and strain, but in normal driving conditions, engine noise is bearable. When the BR-V is fully loaded with passengers and luggage, performance becomes more sluggish and the driver will be working the gears and engine harder to compensate for the additional weight.
Being a new vehicle, we did find the transmission to be a bit notchy and stubborn at times and it occasionally required additional force to shift into gear. This characteristic should improve once the vehicle has done sufficient mileage, though.
We were impressed by the BR-V’s impeccable road manners. It handles well and delivers a surprisingly composed and comfortable drive, even on puckered road surfaces. Despite its dimensions, the driver can confidently steer the BR-V into corners and it’s nippy between robots too. Also, note that the BR-V has a ground clearance of 210 mm, which means it can hop the odd pavement if you need it to. The generous ground clearance and plump tyres (196/60 R16) also means that the BR-V is quite comfortable on gravel. Note, however, that no electronic stability system is fitted.
In terms of fuel consumption, Honda claims 6.3 L/100 km and during our test period, we averaged 7.1 L/100 km with ease. You can, however, expect higher figures if the BR-V is fully loaded.
Vehicles that claim to seat 7 passengers usually do so at the discomfort of the poor souls who have to cram into the third row, which is more often than not only adequate for little people or the dogs. The BR-V shatters that mould in the sense that it actually offers decent levels of comfort for fully grown adults. The third-row in the BR-V offers good head and shoulder room, while legroom is adequate, depending on your height – the shorter you are, the better. There are even two cup holders back there to keep passengers happy!
Third-row seating is easily accessed in the BR-V and even adults will find it surprisingly comfortable.
Accessing the third row is simple and can be done by flipping the split-fold middle row of seats up. Space for second-row passengers is very generous and you can actually stretch out a bit, too. There’s also a foldable armrest that can be deployed for extra comfort. The rear door mouldings are equipped with bottle holders and additional storage space and rear passengers also have the benefit of roof-mounted ventilation outlets.
In terms of loading space, with all the seats in place, the BR-V still offers 223-L capacity in the rear. With the third-row seats folded up, space increases to a sizable 691 L and when the second row of seats are folded down, space increases to 1 116 L. However, in this position, the loading area isn’t flat and you will be loading items directly onto the backs of the seats, which could cause damage over time. This Elegance derivative is fitted with leather seats and loading heavy or sharper items will almost certainly result in torn leather.
Boot space can be increased further by folding the third-row seating up, creating ample space for large and bulky items.
The driver and front passenger also have sufficient space and the driver’s seat is manually adjustable with height adjustment. The steering wheel features mounted audio controls and is adjustable for rake only. There’s also ample storage space up front with two cup holders included and there’s more storage space in the door mouldings.
Practicality is a clear strength of the BR-V and it should prove to be a particularly attractive proposition for small families. The only major concern we have with the BR-V's specification is that it only offers 2 airbags (for the driver and front passenger), which may force family-orientated buyers to consider safer options. Isofix child-seat anchorages are also missing from the standard features list. If the lack of these safety features are a concern you may want to look at the recently updated Toyota Avanza, which now featurs electronic stability control as well as Isofix.
The BR-V 1.5 Elegance is decently equipped with standard features, including keyless start, leather upholstery, climate control air conditioning, electric windows and side mirrors and a multi-information display. A rather simple radio system is installed, which is Bluetooth compatible and easy to use. USB and auxiliary ports are fitted as standard.
As mentioned previously, the BR-V only has two airbags and ABS with EBD and brake assist is standard. We were also surprised to find that rear parking senses aren’t fitted, which is odd considering the dimensions of the BR-V. Even the much cheaper Suzuki Ertiga 1.4 GL has rear parking sensors fitted as standard…
Simple and functional best describes the interior of the new Honda BR-V.
Pricing and warranty
The Honda BR-V 1.5 Elegance manual is priced from R272 900 and is sold with an excellent 5-year/200 000 km warranty and 2-year/30 000 km service plan.
Pricing for the entry-level BR-V 1.5 Trend starts at R238 900 while the most expensive derivative in the range is the BR-V 1.5 Elegance CVT priced at R288 300.
The Honda BR-V 1.5 Elegance is a well-packaged crossover SUV that offers lots of space and versatility for a variety of family tasks.
Engine and gearbox performance is decent in most applications and unless you are loading the BR-V up to capacity on a regular basis, there should be enough power at your disposal. Importantly, the BR-V rides well and buyers will appreciate its smooth demeanour on most road surfaces.
At this price point, we feel the BR-V falls short in providing critical features such as additional airbags and stability control. The BR-V 1.5 Elegance is also pricier when compared to the Suzuki Ertiga that offers similar practicality, but the BR-V is certainly worth consideration if you are looking for a relatively affordable and spacious 7-seater crossover, but prefer the more fashionable appearance of an SUV over a MPV.
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