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Honda BR-V

Motoring Review

Once a thriving segment within the local market, the multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) has seen its presence slowly diminish over the last few years as consumers continue the shift towards crossovers and SUVs as their preferred methods of family transport.

Now very much relegated to niche status, the slump in MPV sales has seemingly done little to deter Honda from launching their newest model into a part of the market that has diminished at the same rate as the growth record by pseudo off-roaders.

Replacing the Mobilio, which incidentally has not been produced for over a year due to a slump in demand, the new BR-V plays its biggest trump by offering seven seats while also incorporating the looks of a crossover without the dreaded mommy-van designation.

Like its predecessor, the Indian-built BR-V, which according to Honda stands for Bold Runabout Vehicle, rides on the same underpinnings as the Brio sedan, but with a 471 mm increase in overall length to accompany the third row seating.

Its biggest gain over the Mobilio on first glance though, is the go-anywhere-inspired looks. Call it quirky perhaps by virtue of resembling an MPV trying to be a SUV, the BR-V nonetheless stands out a lot more with its combination of strong lines, chrome grille and foglight surrounds, and angular swept-back headlights.

More importantly, the addition of chunky black plastic cladding around the wheel arches, doors and bumpers, as well the silver roof rails, eye-catching 16-inch alloy wheels and silver front and rear scuff plates gives it a more rugged appearance, even in the White Orchid Pearl paint finish of our flagship Elegance test vehicle.

Open the front door, the interior appears sparse and even somewhat old fashioned in its execution, although some pocking around soon puts this to bed. Finished in a combination of hard but durable-feeling plastics with piano key black finishes around the sound system and silver inserts on the grippy leather steering wheel, the overall look and feel is restraint but classy with solid levels of build quality and fit-and-finish.

An Elegance exclusive is the additional fitment of leather seats and keyless start in the form of a bright red S2000-like start/stop button to the right of the steering wheel.

Bucking the trend of modern interiors, the lack of a touch screen infotainment display in favour of a traditional audio system came as somewhat of a surprise, as the setup proved to be tricky when pairing your smartphone to the standard Bluetooth. That said, the four-speaker system, which also boasts USB and Aux inputs, is otherwise easy to use with the facia’s uncluttered appearance being further boosted by the easy to use settings for the climate control. Another feature only fitted to Elegance models is the fitment of steering wheel mounted audio controls in relation to the normal radio switches.

As mentioned, the BR-V’s biggest talking point is its seven-seat layout. Utilising a 2-3-2 layout like the Mobilio, the second row, which features a 60/40 split, can be titled forward using the one-touch side mounted lever for easy access to the third row, or slid backwards and forwards individually depending on preference.

A simple space test using family members as guinea pigs resulted in the third row offering more space, but only just, for medium sized adults than the family’s much larger and bulkier Nissan Patrol. Luggage space is rated at 223 litres with all seven seats up, and 1 164 litres with the second and third rows folded.

Despite the cab's basic fundamentals, additional standard items to those already named include electric mirrors, auto lock / unlock doors, electric windows all around, height adjustable driver's chair, a myriad of storage areas and keyless entry. Safety consists of ABS and pre-tensioning seatbelts, although the fitment of only dual airbags is somewhat disappointing given its family hauling target market.

On the move, the BR-V proved to be somewhat of a mixed bag with a hit-and-miss drivetrain combo. Powered by the same 88kW /145Nm 1.5-litre VTEC petrol engine as the Jazz, the BR-V does have the added benefit of a sixth ratio as oppose to the former and Mobilio’s five, but the close ratio layout proved somewhat tricky, especially when shifting from fifth to sixth. This aside, shifting action is light and the clutch more like stepping on a marshmallow than anything else.

Known for its rev-happy tendencies, it is a Honda after all, the engine loves to make its presence known at the national speed limit, and although this might be of little concern when fully loaded and/or going uphill, the noise becomes a trifle too much on the open road with one or two people on-board.

Given its country of origin and SUV-shaming 210 mm ground clearance, the BR-V’s firm but not uncomfortable ride managed to make light work of the usual array of pot hole roads and badly place manhole covers, with surprisingly little body roll despite its stance.

Pulling off a dual purpose roll is by no means the easiest thing to do, but one which the Honda BR-V manages to largely succeed in. Despite the low airbag count and love / hate drivetrain setup, it otherwise makes for the perfect one-finger salute to more expensive less practical SUV's.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

ENGINE LAYOUT SOHC 16v Inline 4
DISPLACEMENT 1,497 cc
MAX POWER 88 kW @6600 rpm
MAX TORQUE 145 N.m @4600 rpm
DRIVE LAYOUT Front engine; Front-wheel drive
TRANSMISSION Six-speed manual
ACCELERATION (0-100 km/h) n/a
TOP SPEED n/a
FUEL CONSUMPTION 6.3 L/100 km
EMISSIONS 151 g/km
PRICE from R272 900

Article written by Charl Bosch

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