Without a doubt, the Philippine automotive market is very receptive to SUVs and crossovers. The idea of having the more spacious wagon body, a higher ride height, as well as the ability to ferry seven with luggage room to spare is appealing to a country with high birth rates and no distinction between immediate and extended families.
We recently got to sample Honda’s upcoming seven-seater crossover, the BR-V, to see if the model has potential in our market. Seeing the Honda BR-V up close for the first time, it becomes apparent that this is one really good looking small crossover. Technically speaking, the BR-V is based on the Mobilio MPV albeit with SUV-like proportions. As a result, the BR-V measures in at 4456mm x 1735mm x 1666mm with a wheelbase at 2660mm.
The pattern of the fascia is more squarish than its stablemates in Honda and that’s a good thing, giving the BR-V a more distinct appearance from what is fast becoming a family face. To the side, the BR-V also looks pretty good, and has quite a few character lines that sweep up from front to back, and a rather distinctive beltline. The design of the BR-V was also nicely finished off in the back, with a tall, SUV-like tailgate and a pair of taillights that flow continuously from one side to the other.
Stepping inside, the cabin of the BR-V is actually a nice place to be in. The dashboard may be made of hard plastic but it looks to be high quality thanks to texturing. Despite being a prototype, the panel gaps appear to be very consistent, and the feel of the materials, the wheel, the shifter bar, and the other controls inside are very typical of Honda.
The cabin is quite generous in terms of lateral room, and that goes for the first two rows. Headroom is good, and the dip on the beltline of the vehicle does seem to work to give the rear passengers a better view of what’s beyond the glass. The third row can be cramped for most adults on long drives. Nevertheless, they’re pretty good because, at the end of the day, two extra seats are still two potentially useful seats.
A twist of the key lights up the 1.5 liter i-VTEC engine matched with the Earth Dreams CVT, much like the Honda Mobilio. The engine is rated for 120 bhp and 145 Newton meters of torque at 4800 rpm. We actually wanted to verify the engine by popping the hood, but the Japanese engineers guys administering the test wouldn’t let us; still top secret, they say.
On the short road course, the BR-V proved to be a smooth and quiet crossover. There really isn’t much to be excited about in the powertrain department, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good. Power is decent and the delivery to the front wheels is smooth; we asked if an all-wheel drive version is possible in the future, but judging by the engineers’ expressions, that might not happen.
Cornering and body control seem to have been well sorted out in typical Honda fashion, but the real surprise is the ride comfort which was also surprisingly good. The smoothness of the Japanese-made tarmac may have an effect on that, but given that this BR-V was made in Indonesia -a country with roads similar to ours- we can be sure that rough and bumpy surfaces would have been factored in by the suspension and NVH engineers.
It must be stated that our time behind the wheel of the BR-V can only be considered as a sample of a sample, but already it seems that the BR-V could be the Ace that Honda is looking for, especially in our market. Now the challenge falls on the development and manufacturing team to work on the final production specifications for the ASEAN markets… and left-hand drive, of course.
2016 Honda BR-V Prototype
Engine: Inline-4, 1496cc sohc 16V, i-VTEC, CVT
Max Power: 120 bhp @ 6600 rpm
Max Torque: 109 lb ft @ 4600 rpm
0-100 km/h: 12.8sec. (estimated)
Top Speed: 190km/h (estimated)
Fuel Mileage: TBD (Prototype)
Price As Tested: TBA
+: Smooth, comfortable, surprisingly spacious
-: No diesel or AWD options… yet
C! Rating: 8.5/10