I have recommended the Honda BR-V to many a family who were in search of a seven-seater but didn’t have much to spend. In fact, my cousin bought one based on my recommendation back in 2018 and she absolutely loves how practical it is and the fact that it didn’t cost her an arm and a leg. That first generation was considered a people carrier, more in line with a MPV, but Honda has now moved the pendulum and have taken it into SUV territory. And I think this might be a bit of a mistake.
BR-V MPV FTW
Don’t get me wrong, the new second generation BR-V offers a lot in terms of looks and style, and of course features, but I think that customers are going to be confused by the price of it and where it sits. You see, most people would compare it to the Toyota Rumion, Suzuki Ertiga and the Mitsubishi XPander, and they wouldn’t be wrong. But this new generation model, according to Honda, rivals the Hyundai Grand Creta. From a price point of view, it is more expensive than any of the aforementioned models barring the Grand Creta which comes in about R100 000 more. So this new BR-V sits somewhere in the middle, and rather awkwardly I feel. Only because if you are on a budget, but need seven seats, you are more than likely going to lean towards the actual budget-friendly offerings like a Rumion, which comes in almost R100 000 cheaper than the new BR-V.
BUT WHAT MAKES THE BR-V APPEALING
Well, here’s the thing, it certainly looks a whole lot better than its predecessor, both inside and out. It also moves further away from the hailing cab/ride services that the BR-V has come to be known for. If you have used Uber or Bolt you have certainly sat inside a BR-V. And while this is not a bad thing, most customers aren’t keen on being mistaken for a driver when they’re merely trying to fetch the kids from school.
This model is longer, wider and higher than the outgoing model. The wheelbase is also longer and what this all means is that the cabin is more spacious. I climbed in to the third row of seats, which is super easy to do thanks to the second row folding all the forward, and I found it to be rather roomy and comfortable back there. Taller adults might struggle a bit with headroom, but not so much so that you would be too uncomfortable on a short ride. And let’s be frank, most passengers occupying those very rear seats are still in to Paw Patrol or Peppa Pig.
The cabin has a simplistic and modern feel and appearance. The aircon panel looks ever so slick. It also now boasts a new seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as well as a new 4.2-inch TFT display in the instrument cluster – on the range-topping Elegance model only. Speaking of trim levels, there is a Trend and Comfort option. But here is where things start to get a bit tricky again…
Honda boasts about the safety features on the new BR-V, and sure, it is impressive to have six airbags, Vehicle Stability Assist, ABS with EBD, Hill Start Assist, ISOFIX child seat anchors, seat belt pre-tensioning and Lanewatch blind spot monitoring – although rivals will also have most of, if not all, of these too – but if it is a full host of driver assistance systems and features you want, you will need to opt for the Elegance model which adds Honda Sensing with its 100-degree front wide-view camera, Collision Mitigation Brake System, Adaptive Cruise Control, Road Departure Mitigation System, Lane Keep Assist System, Lead Car Departure Notification System and auto High Beam. It is probably worth it to spend the R25 000 over the Comfort model but then you are hitting the R460 000 mark. As much as it feels more upmarket than the rivals I have mentioned, I am not sure the price difference between them is worth it.
The new BR-V retains an enhanced version of its 1.5-litre naturally aspirated engine that puts out 89 kW and 145 Nm. The Trend model is only mated to a six-speed manual, while the Comfort offers a choice between this and a CVT ‘box. The Elegance only comes with the CVT. And here is where things go really pear shaped for me. While the engine is eager and feels refined enough, this CVT is the reason most people hate CVTs. It whines and shouts at you if you put your foot down and takes far too long hunting for a gear. The noise intrudes into the cabin and can make things rather awkward when trying to overtake another car…you just appear angry and impatient, even if you’re just casually driving past. Just be sure to smile when you pass another car.
I hate to be so negative about this car, because it is excellent in many ways. However, when new cars are just getting better and better, being good is not good enough. I think the BR-V will find a customer, but it might be a customer who hasn’t done enough homework. If Honda had changed the name, it may have made more sense. I fear customers will still associate it with its predecessor and so won’t understand the price hike. Honda assures me that the dealerships have been well trained on this vehicle and will know how to sell it to a customer, but you’ll need the customer in the dealership before this can happen. If you don’t need seven seats, but love the Honda brand, take a look at the HR-V because it is probably my favourite model from the Japanese marque. As much as the BR-V is better than before, I just wish that it had remained a budget-friendly fuss-free seven-seater.