When Honda first released the BR-V, I found it to be a greatly-engineered vehicle but one with questionable design. Sure, the BR-V had the inherent Honda levels of overengineering, especially for its time, but its looks were based on the Mobilio, which in my opinion looked weird if you didn’t get the sporty RS. That’s all been rectified here in this second-generation model. Improved in every way possible, the new BR-V has eventually become Honda’s best-selling model in the Philippines. To see why, we got ourselves a range-topping 2023 Honda BR-V VX to understand how good this crossover has become.
From a styling standpoint, the new BR-V is a massive improvement. Okay, so the previous BR-V didn’t really set the design bar high in the first place, so there was no way Honda could mess up the BR-V in its second iteration. Truth be told, however, the new BR-V looks good. And what’s amazing here is that there’s nothing really visually interesting to talk about when taking each design flourish into isolation. Everything is simple, from the upright gloss black grille, the sleek LED headlights, the simple but tough lines, as well as those lovely 17-inch wheels.
There’s a reason why it looks so good, and it all boils down to proportions. It has a long hood and an upright stance that gives it a proper crossover look, unlike most of its cab-forward rivals that try to hide their MPV roots by adding slashes and creases that sometimes end up making a vehicle look like a caricature. Yes, I do like the Stargazer’s looks, but there’s something refreshing with the BR-V’s dependence on proportions.
Once again, that simplistic theme carries over to the interior. The dash design isn’t visually interesting, but there’s nothing offensive about it, either. Through the use of proportions once again, the interior looks visually large. The materials used are also pretty good. Yes, it’s predominantly hard plastic with a soft, padded layer on the dash if you get this range-topping VX, but unlike its competitors, most especially the Toyota Veloz, the plastics used are thicker and have better graining. The use of piano black is tastefully minimal, while the silver trim adds visual brightness to the otherwise mostly black interior.
Features and Infotainment
Ditto the buttons and switches, which are the best aspect of this interior. They feel crisp, robust, and very premium for their class. Unfortunately, the button situation for the 7-inch infotainment isn’t that ergonomic since it’s on the right side–a sign that the touch screen was made mostly with right-hand drive markets in mind. Nevertheless, the infotainment system works well with crisp graphics, and a responsive interface, plus wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. That infotainment system is paired with a color multi-information display for this range-topping VX, which is sandwiched by perhaps one of the nicest-looking analog gauges I’ve seen as of late.
Also fitted to this VX model is the Honda Sensing suite of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS). This makes the BR-V one of the only few in its class to come with features such as Collision Mitigation Braking System, Lane Keeping Assist System, Lead Car Departure Notification System, Road Departure Mitigation System with Lane Departure Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control (the only one in its class), and Auto-High Beam. This comes on top of the usual array of airbags, reversing camera, and hill start assist, just to name a few.
Space and Practicality
Hondas are always known for their spaciousness and the BR-V is no exception. At the front, the BR-V offers plenty of space. Drivers will also appreciate that the BR-V finally gets an adjustable steering column, but that’s only for height and not for reach unlike all of its rivals now. This could be a challenge for some drivers to find their ideal driving position so do take note of this part.
Space at the second row is just as generous as the front. Though vehicles like these aren’t that wide, the BR-V’s interior is wider than most in this segment. Those seated in the second row will be treated to a 12-volt charging port, rear aircon vents, rear seat pockets, and a center armrest. Meanwhile, the third-row seats are one of the best I’ve sampled in this segment. It’s still a place meant for kids, but even with the second row at its default setting, I was able to fit at a pinch. Those in the third row also benefit from their own 12-volt charging port.
Lastly, let’s talk about cargo. At 244 liters behind the third row, that’s a couple of liters more than what the Stargazer can provide. Folding those third-row seats will increase the cargo area to 530 liters. Still pretty good for the class. Where the BR-V falls short is with the second row now folded as well. With Honda claiming 1,032 liters of space, this is a lot less than its key rivals like the Xpander Cross, which can swallow more than 1,500 liters.
The 2023 Honda BR-V VX gets a 1.5-liter four-cylinder i-VTEC gasoline engine that produces 120 horsepower and 145 Nm of torque, which is sent to the front wheels via a CVT. These are class-leading horsepower figures that are reflected on the road. Accelerating from a stop or even overtaking is easier to do in the BR-V solely thanks to these numbers. The CVT is eager to downshift and the engine, as typical of Honda, is happy to rev. The engine is smooth in its power delivery though most of that power is found in the mid-to-high RPM ranges.
Despite having class-leading power, it’s still one of the most fuel-efficient in its segment, as it averaged around 13.8 km/l in my week’s worth of use (though a high percentage of this is highway since I don’t live in Metro Manila). Where it also excels is in terms of its balanced ride. Yes, there’s a tiny degree of firmness when driving it at low speeds since it’s meant to carry seven people, but at faster speeds, the BR-V’s ride feels very delicate and big car-like. The upside to this suspension tuning is that there aren’t too many vertical movements to deal with, especially when loaded with seven people.
That well-tuned ride also pays dividends to its handling. The general population will appreciate the softly-sprung ride of the Stargazer, but where the balanced suspension of the BR-V is good at is with counteracting body roll. Make no mistake, there’s no vehicle in this segment that can be considered sporty or fun to drive, but the BR-V is perhaps the closest to being fun. The steering has a decent amount of feel, plus it’s the most precise in its segment. The grip limits in the BR-V are also the highest among these seven-seater crossovers, though understeer will be the order of the day if you still push it beyond its limits.
Unfortunately, the BR-V isn’t what I would consider the most refined in its segment. In fact, it’s probably the noisiest, with higher-than-average amounts of road, wind, and engine noise entering the cabin. It doesn’t help that the glass is a bit thin, in which conversations from motorcyclists can be heard from the inside. At least the structure is still inherently solid, isolating vibrations and feeling rock solid even if you go through rougher pavement.
So, what have we learned with the 2023 Honda BR-V VX? Well, there’s no surprise why it has become the best-selling Honda in the Philippines. The Japanese automaker’s usual overengineering that they do with their cars is inherent here. However, in order to meet a price point, concessions have to be made when it comes to overall refinement compared to its competitors.
But, where they spent their efforts and R&D budget are in areas where it probably matters the most to its core fans and buyers–driving dynamics. Truth be told, this segment isn’t known for that, but the Honda BR-V is the most dynamic to drive in its segment. The drivetrain is sublime, the interior feels robust and well-built, and it also looks properly handsome while fulfilling the duty of being a sensible yet well-engineered seven-seater crossover SUV. It is, however, also the most expensive at P1,390,000, but if you find appreciation in a vehicle that puts well-sorted driving dynamics at the forefront, then the BR-V is the seven-seater crossover for you.
Pricing and Rating
Exterior Design: ★★★★★
Interior Design: ★★★★☆
Space and Practicality: ★★★★☆
Safety and Driver Assistance: ★★★★★
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★★
Value For Money: ★★★★☆
Overall: 4.4 out of 5