Tested: Honda BR-V 1.5

The trendy box

In today’s day and age, cars have become so much more than just a means of transport. Ego extension, lifestyle tool, branding exercise, family friend – there are many careers a new automobile could get thrown into. As long as it’s not boring, because – you know – everybody has to express their individuality.

Does that mean boring is bad? Most certainly not, I’ve learnt over the years that there are people who don’t mind boring and just want a car. Except that their choices are running out because those aren’t the people most car manufacturers are targeting. Even MPV’s and vans look snazzy these days.

The new BR-V from Honda is a prime example. What should just be a practical box on wheels (like the VW Kombi or Toyota Condor once were) looks more like a stylish cross between car and mini-van. One would expect slab sides, square lights and drab interiors but the BR-V has other plans.

Plans to attract hip and happening customers. Be it a shuttle business, large family and/or bulk transport driver, this Honda provides the sensible space with a huge and very welcome dash of style. Sure, it’s not Audi classy or Maserati chic but for a seven-seater MPV, the BR-V looks interesting.

Honda alleges that this is a sort-of cross-over SUV but I couldn’t see what they’re on about. Yes, the front looks quite chunky and SUV-like but the rest of the car – sleek profile lines and alloys included – can’t hide the fact that this is an elongated people-carrier.

For anyone with mild off-roading ambitions, there is 210mm of ground clearance but only front-wheel drive. Power comes from a naturally-aspirated 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with 88kW or 145Nm delivered via either a six-speed manual or six-speed CVT (gearless automatic) gearbox.

Honda offers three trim levels; Trend, Comfort and Elegance with escalating specifications of which the base spec includes the usual airbags, remote central locking, Bluetooth sound system, power windows and anti-lock brakes. Posher versions get start buttons, climate control, alloy wheels and keyless entry – among others.

All versions also have a full-size spare wheel and foldable furniture to change cargo room from 223L to 691L (far row folded) or 1,164L (both rows folded). Honda alleges average petrol use of 6.3L/100km from the 42L tank. As per usual, we didn’t achieve that figure in everyday driving but think a flat seven is doable.

Top speed is quoted as 160km/h with no official 0-100km/h time but we strapped our Racelogic Performance Box to this BR-V and got a best time of 10.18 seconds. 400m fell in 17.20 seconds but more importantly, we recorded 0-160km/h in 30.99 seconds; not amazing but proof that this car will clock a true 160km/h.

In fact, with a dry weight of 1,188kg, that also proves what immediately struck me about our test car – its very lively 1.5L engine. Like other 1,500 motors (Lancer, Swift, Jazz, etc.) this engine responds to throttle inputs with grainy vigour – a raucous and rev-happy nature with fairly decent mid-range torque.

Honda quotes peak power of 88kW (120hp) at 6,600rpm but I found a few more revs before the rev limiter appeared. In fact, the 160km/h we recorded were very near the limit of fourth gear so the BR-V’s fifth and sixth gears are a welcome addition to this spunky little Honda engine; especially when cruising on the highway.

Passenger space is commendable in all but the far rear seats, ride comfort is good for this segment and so is the top-heavy road holding; on par for a tall MPV. Honda does not provide traction or stability control so the lively BR-V can suffer from grip issues on wet or loose surfaces – and keen drivers should exercise caution in fast manoeuvres.

Prices range from about N$240,000 to N$290,000 and for your peace of mind, Honda includes a whopping warranty worth five years or 200,000km, three years of AA roadside assistance and 15,000km service intervals. Comfort and Elegance owners even get a small service plan for two years or 30,000km.

At this price level, I’m happy with the range of models and that lively engine. More importantly, the Honda BR-V offers the practicality and space of an MPV with the trendy style and modern looks of an SUV. Sort of.

Press shots

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