Honda has been on a roll lately. The brand’s new rash of crossovers and MPVs is bringing new customers through the doors in droves. The new Asian-market BR-V and the global HR-V, in particular, present a unique dual-pronged attack on the subcompact-crossover market.
At first blush, the Honda BR-V looks remarkably like the Mobilio it is based on, down to the stepped beltline, albeit with extra black side cladding. But a slightly longer wheelbase, a 210mm ride height, fatter tires, and sexier styling make all the difference in the world to crossover-crazy buyers.
Thin seatbacks and wide doors provide for a spacious interior. While the cabin is on the narrow side, there’s lots of legroom in the first two rows, and the tall roof as well as the reclining seatback means even our gangly test drive editor fits in the third row. At least for short trips.
Seated behind the wheel, you appreciate the work that has gone into differentiating the BR-V from the Mobilio. Aside from the cheap-looking (but effective) ceiling vents, the interior looks much like that of the higher-class City. Indeed, the BR-V drives much like the Honda sedan, with the same light touch, effortless CVT, and confident body control. Unfortunately, the low seat point and the lack of height adjustment leave you wondering if this isn’t indeed a City in disguise. Toyota Avanza drivers literally look down upon you as you pass each other on the street.
Thankfully, Honda isn’t kidding about that ground clearance. The BR-V takes in stride tall humps and steep parking ramps that would catch out a sedan. Despite the ride height, the revised dampers and suspension vis-à-vis the Mobilio give it a lot of mechanical grip. The only dings on its backroads performance are the grabby rear drum brakes (capable, but hard to modulate) and the lack of rear suspension travel—odd for a car with this much ground clearance.
Yes, crossover-ish aspirations notwithstanding, the BR-V is clearly not meant to go far beyond your typical half-developed farm road. But for the daily grind, it’s perfect. A narrow width and good sightlines ensure that threading through traffic is a breeze.
Both S and V variants come with the 1.5-liter engine and the CVT from the City, with Sport and Low modes to make up for the lack of paddle shifters. Despite the heavier body, both deal with even the steepest of climbs with no issue. The most you could ask for is a little more engine braking from the CVT in Low mode for hill descents.
While lacking the HR-V’s pull in high revs, even in Sport mode, the BR-V feels just as quick through traffic, and pips the HR-V by about 1km/L in urban economy. On the highway and with a full load, it returns an impressive 20-22km/L at 80kph.
And price. Starting at under P1 million, the BR-V offers a lot of space, utility and style for the money. Not surprising, then, that buyers just can’t get enough of it.
SPECS: HONDA BR-V 1.5 S CVT
Engine: 1.5-liter SOHC I4
Power: 118hp @ 6,600rpm
Torque: 145Nm @ 4,600rpm
Transmission: continuously variable
UP NEXT: Honda HR-V 1.8 EL CVT