At this point, it’s become a horrible cliché. The age-old question whenever a new manufacturer releases a brand new vehicle: “Is it capable of climbing up to Baguio?” Being that the country’s self-proclaimed summer capital is over 4,000 feet above sea level and features sections of roads that are enough to make the most seasoned travelers lose their lunch, there’s nary a vehicle being sold today that is incapable of scaling the path going up. Or, is there?
Back in November, Honda Philippines released the next-generation BR-V in the country. Reception to the news was extremely positive, so much so that Honda Sales General Manager Atty. Louie Soriano was proud to announce that sales for the vehicle have made it to the thousands at the end of 2022, with projections of 800 to 900 units sold monthly moving forward–and for good reason. Made to compete with the likes of the Mitsubishi Xpander, the Nissan Livina, and the Toyota Avanza, the second iteration of the vehicle continues to fulfill its mission of being an indispensable 7-seater, subcompact, crossover, only this time it’s now chock full of features as Honda has finally decided to fit the BR-V with its incredible Honda SENSING intelligent suite. So not only can it physically be capable of transporting a family comfortably, it can now do so much more safely.
So last January 9, Honda invited the media to put this to the test by planning a spirited drive up to the mountains of Benguet to put the car’s capabilities to its paces. While it may seem mundane to go up to Baguio these days, there was a twist: we would not be making our ascent using the normal routes like Kennon Road or Marcos Highway. Instead, the convoy of vehicles would be making its way up through the scenic but extremely challenging Asin–Nangalisan–San Pascual Road. Opened in 2018, this relatively new alternative route utilizes sections of an unfinished railway system which owes itself to its narrow width–only one lane of some portions–and unusually winding layout.
The first portion of the drive was fairly uneventful. Keeping four automotive writers entertained during the journey was the BR-V’s new 7” infotainment system hooked up to Apple CarPlay, pumping classic tunes. It was also at this time that lead driver, and renowned racing driver Georges Ramirez invited the convoy of drivers to explore the capabilities of the new Honda SENSING suite during the long stretches of the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway such as the Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), and the Road Departure Mitigation System (RDM). The vast expanse of open road also managed to showcase the All-New BR-V’s incredible fuel efficiency, with our vehicle’s new 1.5 Liter, DOHC, inline-4, i-VTEC gasoline engine managing to maintain an average of 17 km/l making its way through NLEX, SCTEX, and TPLEX. Where the vehicle came into its own, however, was when the group finally made it to the foot of the mountain. Splintering off from the rest of the Baguio-bound traffic, the convoy made a sharp detour onto what appeared to be a newly-paved strip of road. This, of course, was the entry point to Asin Road.
Passing through a long but picturesque bridge, the vehicles were greeted with an abrupt elevation change, which was short work for the crossover’s velvety-smooth CVT transmission. From the cabin, the engine would let out a very audible grunt while it reaches its ideal powerband, but once it does, you can definitely feel its 119 HP and 145 NM of torque easily navigate the unusually steep terrain. And not only that, being that it’s a rural tertiary road, the route was riddled with narrow, bumpy, and uneven surfaces along the way, which was a perfect opportunity to showcase the BR-V’s suspension and steering. Its MacPherson strut and torsion beam suspension, and electronic power steering made the drive challenging yet enjoyable.
The drive up Asin Road terminated at the Bencab museum, which was only a short distance away from the end of the journey at Camp John Hay. All told, the journey in our fully-loaded vehicle with cargo and four automotive journalists on board took close to 6 hours–with rest stops and driver changes in between–a distance of 547 kilometers with an average consumption of 11.7km/l. A comfortable, productive, and overall insightful drive throughout. Though it needs to be said, our test vehicle at the time was the top-of-the-line VX model, complete with all the options and accessories. The good news is that Honda has said during the drive that they intend to make aftermarket accessories more accessible and affordable to its buyers straight from the dealers in an attempt to reclaim the market that third-party manufacturers have taken over since it took its focus off years prior.
It’s hard to find any fault in a vehicle as well-built as the all-new BR-V. This lengthy and out-of-the-ordinary drive just helps to reinforce those thoughts. Fans of the badge that came to love the first generation model are certain to find that it’s an excellent rethink of something that was already good in the first place, while at the same time, new buyers will find that its sheer indispensability is something that puts up a compelling reason why it’s worth buying.