First Drive: 2016 Honda BRV prototype

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D3---BRV20151117Since the start of 2014, Honda Cars Philippines has been shooting at the market in full auto or automatic.

New generation models of the Jazz, Accord, City and Odyssey were joined by new nameplates like the Brio, Brio Amaze, HR-V, Mobilio and even the Legend. If that wasn’t enough, they even updated the CR-V and Civic.

Those models, however, could very well be overshadowed by what could be the most important model for Honda Cars Philippines in the very near future: the BR-V. During the run up to the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show, the Honda Motor Company gave journalists from Southeast Asia a brief sample of the pre-production model to see if the model has potential in our respective markets.

Seeing the Honda BR-V up close for the first time, it becomes apparent that this is one really good-looking small crossover. The pattern of the fascia is more squarish than its stablemates in Honda and that’s a good thing, giving the BR-V a more distinct appearance from what is fast becoming a family face. To the side, the BR-V also looks pretty good, and has quite a few character lines that sweep up from front to back, and a rather distinctive beltline. The design of the BR-V was also nicely finished off in the back, with a tall, sport utility vehicle (SUV)-like tailgate and a pair of taillights that flow continuously from one side to the other.

Technically speaking, the BR-V is based on the Mobilio multi-purpose vehicle albeit with SUV-like proportions. Nevertheless, comparing the two in terms of dimensions lends a lot of similarities. The Mobilio measures in at 4,386 millimeters x 1,683 mm x 1,603 mm (length x width x height) while the BR-V is at 4,456 mm x 1,735 mm x 1,666 mm. The wheelbase of the MPV is at 2,652 mm while the BR-V is at 2,660 mm. The most important thing about these similarities is that it will give the BR-V an edge over its fellow B-segment crossovers: a third row. Yes, the BR-V will be the only one in its intended class that will offer seven seats.


Nice cabin
The cabin of the BR-V is actually a nice place to be in. The dashboard may be made of hard plastic, but it looks to be of high quality, thanks to texturing. Despite being a prototype, the panel gaps appear to be very consistent and the feel of the materials, the wheel, the shifter bar and the other controls inside are very typical of Honda. Of course, being just a test car, this one did not come with a radio to test.

The cabin is quite generous in terms of lateral room, and that goes for the first two rows. Headroom is good and the dip on the beltline of the vehicle does seem to work to give the rear passengers a better view of what’s beyond the glass. The third row can be cramped for most adults on long drives, but they’re pretty good because, at the end of the day, two extra seats are still two potentially useful seats. They can also be folded to increase cargo space.

A twist of the key lights up the 1.5-liter i-VTEC engine matched with the Earth Dreams CVT, much like the Honda Mobilio. What’s unusual is that the spec sheet of the BR-V says it has dual overhead camshafts (DOHC, or twin-cam) as opposed to the single cam version of the 1.5-liter in the Mobilio, City and Jazz. What is also strange is that despite claims it has a DOHC engine, the power figures are exactly the same as the other 1.5-liter models: 120 PS (118 horsepower) that is achieved at 6,600 revolutions per minute and 145 Newton-meters of torque at 4,800 rpm. We actually wanted to verify the engine by popping the hood, but the guys administering the test wouldn’t let us. I guess it’s still a secret.

On the short road course, the BR-V proved to be a smooth and quiet crossover. There really isn’t much to be excited about in the powertrain department, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good. Power is decent and the delivery to the front wheels is smooth. We asked if an all-wheel drive version is possible in the future, but judging by the engineers’ expressions, that might not happen.

Cornering and body control seem to have been well sorted out in typical Honda fashion, but the really surprise is the ride comfort that is also surprisingly good. The smoothness of the Japanese-made tarmac may have an effect on that, but given that this BR-V was made in Indonesia -a country with roads similar to ours- we can be sure that rough and bumpy surfaces would have been factored in by the suspension and NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) engineers.

It must be stated that our time behind the wheel of the BR-V was only a sample of a sample, but it already seems that Honda has some very strong cards in their deck when they come out with is in the market. Toshio Kuwahara, president of Honda Cars Philippines, said that the BR-V could arrive sometime late next year and hinted at pricing that could be between the Mobilio (P967,000 for the top spec) and the wider HR-V (P1.190 million for the entry grade).

Now the challenge falls on the development and manufacturing team to work on the final production specifications for the Southeast Asian markets… and left hand drive, of course.

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