The Honda BR-V could’ve been a great MPV; instead it’s just a good one

The competition is too good
by Dinzo Tabamo | Oct 19, 2018
PHOTO: Dinzo Tabamo

Consumers want everything from a vehicle these days. Roominess, ride comfort, fuel economy, ground clearance, brand cachet, and of course, value. What else can carmakers do but try to meet those requirements? 

And so the subcompact MPVs arrived: the Chevrolet Spin, the Suzuki Ertiga, and lately, the Toyota Rush and the Mitsubishi Xpander. Obviously, the segment is white-hot right now. 

I already tried out the Rush recently, and were still waiting for Mitsubishi Motors Philippines to lend out units of its Xpander. So I contacted Honda to get reacquiainted with the Japanese carmaker’s subcompact MPV/SUV offering. Here are my 11 main takeaways from my test drive of the BR-V:

1) In terms of looks, to me, it’s a toss-up between the BR-V and the Xpander. It’s a minor miracle how the BR-V looks so much better than its MPV twin, the Mobilio. Although the Rush doesn’t look bad, either. 

2) The audio system sounds surprisingly good in the second row. With your smartphone connected via Bluetooth, you can control the volume and music tracks from anywhere in the MPV—even outside. The Bluetooth pairing is a bit wonky, however. Make the mistake of pressing the wrong button on the non-backlit steering wheel, and the infotainment system will cycle through AM and FM sources. Once you’re back in Bluetooth audio, the sound won’t come from the speakers but from the phone. The workaround for my iPhone? Activate Siri, cancel the command, and audio comes out the speakers again. Weird. 

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3) The second-row space is decent. It could use more thigh support, but thats rather expected in this price bracket. The second row reclines, and that counts for something. 

4) The A/C is still Honda, and it’s still a glacial godsend in this weather. But without auto climate control, it’s hard to regulate the temperature. 

5) The third-row space is usable. Preferably for small people and for short trips. 

6) The cargo space is still decent even with the third row upright. A few overnight bags, maybe small, luggage is fine. 

7) Fuel economy was 8.6km/L after an out-of-town trip north. Not bad, but worse than in Honda’s similar subcompact offerings like the Jazz and the City. 

8) The fun-to-drive factor is still there. You can feel the engine becoming more lively with the transmission in ‘S’ mode, and the chassis likes darting in and out of traffic. But the BR-V is clearly a family-oriented vehicle, and it rides like one. Comfortable on long drives, and can soak up road imperfections capably.

9) The transmission console does not light up when the headlights are activated. You can see what gear the BR-V is in via the gauge cluster, but I kept looking at the transmission area for a lit indicator.

10) The toys offered by the Rush leaves the BR-V behind. Automatic headlights, remote key fob, and automatic climate control are all available in the top Rush variant that is similarly priced with this BR-V S CVT model. 

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11) It has the perfect storage space for toll stubs. That’s cool.

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PHOTO: Dinzo Tabamo
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  • Top Gear Philippines Rating
    --/20
    Engine
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    Power
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    Torque
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    Transmission
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    Fuel
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    1.8 E CVT
    Starts at P1,110,000
    TGP Rating:
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    Pros
    Light on amenities, Honda kept styling it long after it was done.
    Cons
    Light on amenities, Honda kept styling it long after it was done.
    Verdict
    Honda’s winningest combination comes when you opt for a six-speed manual transmission available in the Civic hatchback Sport, in which …
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    TGP Rating:
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