Perhaps it’s a bit of knowing what lies ahead, drawing from past knowledge and experiences – that you simply know this car, or crossover if you prefer - is going to be stellar, or good at the very least.
So let’s sum up the Honda BR-V in a nutshell – part MPV, part Crossover, based on a stretched platform from the Honda Amaze sedan, it will seat seven adults and is estimated to be priced just above the Honda Jazz B-Segment hatch.
Granted even for a company like Honda and its current model range, the BR-V might be a niche too far, one might think. But look a little deeper and, you start to see the finer elements of the car – tested and proven over time to be both incredibly efficient and reliable.
BR-V stands for Bold Runabout Vehicle and as you read this, the formal introduction into the Malaysian market is just a few weeks away. Officially, it’s called a full sized seven-seater crossover and not too long ago, we got to drive it on the busy streets of Bangkok.
- Engine: 1.5-litre tranverse-mounted four-cylinder SOHC 16-valve
- Power: 120 PS @ 6,600 rpm
- Torque: 145 Nm @ 4,200 rpm
- Transmission: CVT-type automatic transmission, front-wheel drive
Platform sharing is rather commonplace in this modern age of car building. By stretching and massaging the underpinnings – a wider variety of bodies can be placed on top, be it a sedan, hatch, crossover SUV or MPV.
The BR-V rests on the same platform used by the Brio A-Segment hatch, Amaze Sedan and Mobilio MPV, all of which, are not officially sold in Malaysia. In fact, if you look closely at the Mobilio’s silhouette and you’d find similar proportions to the upcoming BR-V crossover.
From the pictures, the BR-V does look somewhat compact, and by and large, it is – at 1735mm its 37mm thinner than the HR-V SUV. But, measuring in at 4455mm in length, its only 75mm shorter than the Honda CR-V, and the BR-V’s (2660mm) wheelbase means it’s actually 40mm longer than the CR-V’s.
So if you were wondering where the cabin space comes from, there you go, but more on that in a while.
Power comes courtesy of the tried and tested (L15Z) 1.5-litre transverse mounted inline-four i-VTEC engine capable of producing 120PS and 145Nm. Torque is transferred to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission.
As soon as you climb in, it’s easy to appreciate the BR-V’s vast acreage of space. Entry and egress are easy and should be convenient enough for senior aged drivers. The seating position is nicely elevated to allow an unimpeded view of the outside.
There are obvious design traces of the Honda Jazz in here, case in point, the angular finish of the air-conditioning vents and the almost identical meter cluster arrangement.
For some reason, the car I drove oddly was supplied with the FD-series Civic steering wheel – which was superb to use – but unlikely to make it locally.
Headroom and shoulder room is superb as you might suspect and even after a two-hour driving stint from within Bangkok’s city limits heading towards the countryside, the front seats proved both comfortable and supportive.
There are ample cubby storage spaces etched into the dashboard and centre console but a dearly missed omission is the air-con facing cup holders on the driver’s side. In place is a storage space which is convenient for storing your Smar Tag. Two cup holders, otherwise, are found in the just before the gear lever.
Sliding second-row seats allow users to access comfortable seating arrangement depending on how many are seated inside. The BR-V will carry five in comfort all day.
However, the beauty of the packaging is really in the third-row of seats. The seats are rather supportive, while the back supports allow a decent recline angle, the thigh supports are full-sized too.
I’m six feet tall, and by sliding the second row forward, around 3-inches, was able to find a seating position that surprisingly pleasant. Granted, my knees were touching the second-row seats, but, if required to seat slightly shorter occupants, say 5’ 5” and below – the third row is bar none, the best room one can attain without moving up to a full-sized MPV.
As with most of the current crop of Honda vehicles, the texturing of crucial touchpoints are good. The door handles, dashboard, steering wheel and instrumentation are all rather pleasant to touch and operate. I didn’t quite feel the door panels and plastics around the handbrake console were up to spec, the hard and scratchy plastics didn’t quite exude the same quality we have gotten used to with Honda's other products – such as the Honda Jazz.
We were pleasantly informed however, the Malaysian model will have updates to some of the interior appointments. The door panels will receive fabric (or leather) padding and further enhancements in noise suppression material.
The NVH levels was a regular talking point, on the hard concrete roads of Bangkok, quite a bit of tyre roar seeps into the cabin space, again, the team from Honda have assured, the Malaysian model will deliver a more insulated and serene driving experience than the Thai specification cars. This is consistent with our experience of other recent Honda products, where improved sound insulation is implemented on Malaysian models.
A mixture of angular lines make up the front fascia – giving the car a somewhat imposing stance, I personally like how the top edge of the headlamps line the leading edge of the front bonnet around the flanks. The lower regions of the bumper also feature SUV design cues, with its sharp lines and chunky front skirt design.
The silhouette of the BR-V embraces MPV-like proportions – with the vast acreage of glass lining the car’s waistline. Jet black lower body guards skirt the sides of the car – adding to that overall crossover outlook. 16-inch, five-spoke dual-tone alloys are on show here, and if you've checked out our recent preview video, you'll notice them present on the local spec car as well.
Round the back – the tail lamps wrap around the sides, stretching across the rear tailgate, to further accentuate the width of the car. The aforementioned black guard trim wraps across the rear as well.
How does it drive?
Perhaps, the driving experience should take a back seat to the overall practicality and packaging of the BR-V, that being said, it’s no slouch either.
The 1.5-litre four pot pulls strongly above 3,000rpm and is pretty eager to haul the car's weight around town and on the motorway. The well-calibrated CVT is smooth and very efficient at all times.
Getting up to highway speeds is pleasantly easy, with not much protest coming from the drivetrain – on one deserted stretch, it was possible to get the BR-V up to 165km/h, which is plenty for a 7-seater crossover if you ask me.
The BR-V has a class-leading 201mm ride height, seemingly, Honda is taking the Crossover part quite seriously with the BR-V; the elevated ride height should come in handy too, on the pothole-filled and sometimes flooded motorways of Malaysia.
That rise in stature has not hampered the handling in my opinion – the car remains composed at a cruise and very nippy while in mid-to-low speeds in town. I struggle to find any significant difference from how a Honda City performs on the road.
The nicely calibrated steering weightage, responsive powertrain and surefooted handling make the BR-V a superb performer within its category.
How efficient is it?
Having reset the trip meter just before setting off on a long cruise towards Ratchaburi – the BR-V returned up to 13.1km/l while at a gentle cruise on the highways. Moving off the straight stuff for a bit of spirited B-road driving returned around 9.8km/l but no less.
After close to four hours of driving, which included a long stint stuck in traffic returning to Bangkok – the BR-V averaged 10.1km/l. A fair overall return on efficiency given the engine’s humble displacement and rather large vehicle proportions.
In 2016, did you know that more Honda HR-Vs were sold than when compared to the entry-level Jazz model? In fact, the unconventional results went against every sales forecast Honda Malaysia had drawn up prior to the launch.
An obvious rationale, in my opinion, is that perhaps having such a well-packaged product, that suits the trend of the times - can actually make buyers dig deeper into their wallets at the showroom.
And considering the Jazz is as usable as the HR-V if you’d subtract the suave lifestyle premise and image, even in tough economic times such as now, brings about a crucial point – the customers will pony up the cash if the pitch is convincing enough.
With the BR-V nicely positioned as both a lifestyle statement and economical means of travelling for seven, I have a sneaking suspicion, that it will enjoy similar success and market acceptance come time for its launch… stay tuned.! The moment of truth is but a few weeks away, and you’d be happy to know, that you can already place a booking down for Honda BR-V right now.