Honda has launched its BR-V 7-seater compact family car to the South African market and, at first glance, the newcomer looks likely to become a popular model for the Japanese brand.
Honda has been hard at work trying to bring something fresh and particularly competitive to market amid the tough trading conditions that have made the new car industry virtually grind to a halt. Simply put: there's not enough disposable income going around and people are not willing to get further into debt. However, there's always a need for affordable motoring and Honda, well aware of these trying times, has launched the BR-V in South Africa. Trends have shown that the market is favouring a small crossover that offers practicality and reasonable spec and the BR-V ticks both those boxes with ease.
Honda South Africa did not hide the fact that the BR-V is aimed squarely at prospective customers in the Ford EcoSport/Renault Duster/Suzuki Vitara market and while this segment is extremely competitive, the Honda has one major advantage – it has 7 seats, whereas most its rivals especially major competitors, can only accommodate 5 occupants. And, unlike most 7-seaters, which offer pitiful legroom for the third row, the BR-V is acceptable for adults, but admittedly it is a tight squeeze for taller folk. Fold the third row of seats down and you gain access to what Honda calls "class-leading space". The seats are easy to operate and the second row tumbles forward to provide decent access to the third row.
The Honda BR-V is made in India and rides on the same platform as the Mobilio and Brio. Interestingly Honda South Africa has discontinued the Mobilio, because the market favours SUVs over MPVs. We could be rude and say the BR-V is essentially a raised-up Mobilio with some styling changes. This is not an insult, as the Mobilio was a surprisingly capable people mover. The BR-V boasts some impressive ground clearance at 210 mm, but there's no offroad 4x4 capability. Instead, you'll find it competent on gravel roads and that extra clearance will keep rocks away from the vehicle's vulnerable underbelly.
The range comprises 5 models, 3 specification levels and 2 transmission options. The same engine powers the entire line-up: a 1.5-litre naturally aspirated motor that produces peak outputs of 88 kW and 145 Nm. There is a choice between a 6-speed manual gearbox and a continuously variable (automatic) transmission and on launch, we drove the top-spec manual derivative.
Light on its... feet
We found that the BR-V had a fair ride quality and the vehicle feels light and nimble in general driving conditions. The gearbox, clutch and steering felt easy to use, which is great. This will change, of course, when you start loading the Honda up with passengers and this is where we reach our first niggle.
While the rev-happy engine copes well with a pair of passengers on board, there's a lack of in-gear punch for overtaking. You'll need to drop a gear or two and rev the engine to get the best out of it. Once the motor reaches a certain point of the rev range, it sounds terribly strained. Being a Honda motor, it'll probably be reliable and quite frugal. The BR-V is claimed to consume 6.3 L/100 km, we found the vehicle's consumption hovering around 7.5 L/100 km.
Over and above its 7-seat configuration, the BR-V is very well priced. The range starts off at R238 900 and there's no other vehicle in the crossover segment that can match the Honda for interior space. Sure, the Renault Duster has more technology and creature comforts, but it's not as practical, the Toyota Avanza is also practical, but cannot match the Honda attractive packaging. The flagship 1.5 Elegance CVT is priced at R288 300, making it a very well-priced offering under R300 000. We think this new offering from Honda will prove popular thanks to its super pricing, decent features and excellent practicality. The safety features are a little shy and comprise just two airbags, which we find odd for a seven-seat vehicle.
Honda BR-V – Price in South Africa
1.5 Trend Manual R238 900
1.5 Comfort Manual R252 900
1.5 Comfort CVT R268 300
1.5 Elegance Manual R272 900
1.5 Elegance CVT R288 300
Pricing includes a 5-year/200 000 km warranty and 3-year Roadside Assistance. Comfort and Elegance models benefit from a 2-year/30 000 km service plan with services set at 15 000 km.
Spy Shots: 2018 Honda CR-V
Crossover Comparison: Honda HR-V vs Mazda CX-3
SUV Comparison: Ford Kuga vs Honda CR-V vs Subaru Forester
Honda HR-V Video Review and Comparison
Honda CR-V 2.0 Elegance (2015) Review