Since its introduction at the 2016 Philippine International Motor Show (PIMS), more than 14,500 units of the BR-V have been sold. Currently, the BR-V is Honda’s second best-selling model and one of the top sellers in its segment. Honda could’ve just sit back, relax, and let the sales speak for themselves, but over time, newer competition would eventually threaten the BR-V’s market positioning. So Honda has decided to update the BR-V to keep it fresh amidst the newer competition.
Three years is already considered a long time in the automotive industry in terms of product cycles, and yet, none have been able to outgun the BR-V in terms of performance. Under the hood of the BR-V is a 1.5-liter L15A SOHC i-VTEC engine that produces 120 hp @ 6,600 rpm, and 145 Nm of torque @ 4,800 rpm. Whereas the competition insists on a 4-speed automatic, which seems archaic in this day and age, the BR-V uses Honda’s Earth Dreams CVT with a 7-speed manual mode, propelling the front wheels.
Despite the SUV marketing, the BR-V is essentially a jacked-up Mobilio, but it’s an excellent MPV to use as a blueprint in making Honda’s subcompact crossover. For this refresh, Honda’s engineers concentrated on removing its jacked-up MPV stigma and further strengthen its SUV character. So far, it works pretty well. It’s more than just a Mobilio with off-road styling elements because the suspension set-up is actually quite different. There’s 201 mm of ground clearance, which enables it to tackle some rough terrain. Due to its short overhangs, it’s surprising to know that the BR-V has quite a good approach angle, letting it climb up steep grades (or perhaps gutters) quite easily. Car owners in the province normally resort to PPVs like the Toyota Fortuner because of fears that anything smaller won’t be able to handle the daily grind of driving through unpaved roads, so imagine how impressed I was when the BR-V was able to go through the roads in Bataan that are still under construction without any hiccups.
Back to the open road, the BR-V is a showcase of Honda’s overengineering principles to its vehicles. Whereas most of the competition feels like driving a compromised vehicle, the BR-V remains to be one of the most polished in its class. Again, I’m surprised that three years since its release, the competition still has not beaten the BR-V in terms of on-road performance, even more so now that it just got a refresh. Handling leans toward being secure and stable, though as expected, it will understeer when you really try to push it. The steering feels weighty on the move, lending it a feeling of stability especially when you go through very twisty sections of road, though I do wish it had more precision, though.
Everywhere else, the BR-V feels top-notch. At expressways, road and wind noise is well controlled. It may use a simple torsion beam rear suspension, yet the BR-V’s ride is far superior compared to most if not all of its competition. Most of its competitors have a stiff rear suspension meant for carrying seven people regularly, but that results in a very bad ride when there’s only three of you inside or less. Yes, Toyota Rush, I am talking about your solid rear axle.
As mentioned, Honda’s engineers focused on strengthening the BR-V’s SUV character, and that’s truly evident in its refreshed exterior. There’s now a faux side vent treatment where the fog lights reside, giving the BR-V’s fascia a bit of a sporty flair. The chrome grille has been revised to feature a sleeker design, which is then flanked by halogen projector headlamps. LED daytime running lights are exclusive to this V variant I’ve been driving, though I do wish that Honda has added full LED lighting just like in the Rush. The rear fascia also features the same faux side vents found at the front, though in this case it houses the vertically oriented rear reflectors. Lastly, a snazzy set of new 16-inch alloy wheels designs complete the BR-V’s refreshed look.
Though the fundamental interior design remains largely unchanged, it does get a boost in perceived interior quality. This 1.5 V CVT variant we’ve been driving has a leather interior with red accents. It looks really good, especially when matched with the new Passion Red Pearl paint, though I do think that the red accents would be better if they were black when opting for other colors. Still, kudos to Honda for doing a good job updating the interior.
Honda’s magical packaging continues to show in this new BR-V. Take note that the BR-V is just about as long as a subcompact sedan like the Honda City, yet there are acres of space for all occupants. I’m 5 foot 11 and I can still cross my legs while sitting at the back. Of course, the third row is meant for children, but I can accept sitting back there if it is for short journeys. What I do wish Honda has added is a seat height adjuster for the driver’s seat. I’m a tall person, so I’m fine with the BR-V’s driving position, but shorter people seemed to wish for more height. Overseas models have it, so I was surprised that the feature did not make its way here.
When it comes to tech, the Honda BR-V gets a solid boost. Opting for this V variant gets you a 7-inch Kenwood touch screen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Though the user-friendliness leaves a lot to be desired, the addition of the two aforementioned smartphone integration features is a very welcoming upgrade for our digital lives.
The lower S variant hasn’t been left out, either. A rearview camera is now standard on all variants, and so are other safety features that include electronic stability control, hill start assist, and emergency stop signal. This comes on top of the usual dual SRS airbags.
With a starting price of P1,035,000 for the S CVT and P1,155,000 for the V CVT, the BR-V barely had a price increase despite the added features and upgraded looks. It definitely offers a very excellent value in the segment. While its looks, price, tech, and safety features have changed over the years, what has not changed is the fact that the sky is blue and the BR-V is the most powerful in its class.