First-drive review: 2017 Honda BR-V V Navi CVT Modulo

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  • Dimensions (Length x Width x Height x Wheelbase): 4,456 mm x 1,735 mm x 1,665 mm x 2,662 mm
  • Engine: 1497 cc inline-4 petrol, single overhead cam, 4 valves per cylinder
  • Output: 118 horsepower and 145 Nm of torque
  • Transmission: Continuously variable transmission
  • Price: ₱1,185,000

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 18) — As a motoring journalist, I have often been asked by people which is a better buy — a compact car or a sport-utility vehicle (SUV).

Having owned both kinds of cars, I know that these feel vastly different to drive. Step out of something like a Nissan Sylphy and (literally) climb into something like a Mitsubishi Montero Sport and you suddenly feel like you're mighty and invincible.

You have a huge road presence and, from your high perch, you are able to look down on "lesser" drivers in their shorter cars. Indeed, I've found that other motorists are more hesitant to cut me off when I'm behind the wheel of an SUV.

But buying a car isn't just about emotion. There's a lot of money involved in the purchase and, most of the time, the price difference between a compact sedan and an SUV is just too much.

Honda aims to do away with that dilemma with the BR-V, which debuted last year at the 6th Philippine International Motor Show.

Read: 6th Philippine International Motor Show on Sept. 14-18

CNN Philippines took it for a spin at the 2017 Manila International Auto Show to find out if it is any good.

Related: Highlights: 13th Manila International Auto Show

A buffed-up Mobilio

If the exterior looks familiar, it's because the BR-V is a slightly larger version of the Mobilio multi-purpose vehicle (MPV), which is based on the supermini Brio platform.

To be pedantic, the BR-V is 58 millimeters longer, 52 millimeters wider, 62 millimeters taller and, most importantly, has 12 millimeters more ground clearance (at 201 millimeters).

Style-wise, the BR-V moves away from its MPV sibling by having a completely different face, distinguished by a higher hoodline, larger grill and wider headlights reminiscent of the CR-V crossover.

Down the side, the two are pretty much identical, from the downward kink in the rear window to the curved rear-quarter glass. However, the BR-V gains some pseudo-off roader credentials with plastic cladding around the wheel arches, as well as some added sparkle with large chrome strips along the bottom of the doors.


At the rear, though, the BR-V gets a different design. The slimmer tail lights are connected by a large red strip that emphasizes the SUV's width. Meanwhile, the license-plate holder has been placed lower in the tailgate.

This BR-V is also equipped with a ₱66,000 Modulo body kit, which includes a large tailgate spoiler. It may look pretty cool, but I feel that adding it defeats the purpose of having more ground clearance in the first place.

Spacious, stylish cabin


Stepping inside, the BR-V further differentiates itself from the Mobilio by having a dashboard similar to the one from the City subcompact sedan.

There are large, rectangular vents that top the dash, with a nicely integrated 7-inch touchscreen (with standard GPS navigation in this V Navi model) beneath it. Lower still is the climate-control panel, which is clear and easy to use.

Since this is the top-of-the-line variant, there is also black leather throughout the interior as standard.

Much like the Mobilio, there is acres of room inside the BR-V, although I have yet to find out how accommodating it really is (perhaps with my officemates in, say, a road trip to La Union).

Peppy engine, nice CVT

What I can tell you now is how the BR-V drives.

An SUV it may be, but unlike those leviathan 7-seat SUVs that we all know and love, it is fairly easy to enter and exit the BR-V. Once in the driver's seat, there are a multitude of adjustments to help you get comfortable, although support for the thighs is a bit lacking.

But one thing that was surprisingly missing is a seat-height adjuster. At 5'5", I am shorter than most teenagers and being able to move the seat higher would have really helped me appreciate the supposed imperiousness that comes from driving it.

All-around visibility, however, is excellent, but larger side mirrors would have been nice.

Once you fire up the engine, it's all smoothness and calm. It's the same 1.5-liter, twin-cam, 16-valve inline-4 from (surprise, surprise) the Mobilio and is mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

In the olden days, I would grimace at the thought of driving a car with a CVT because it didn't have the smoothness of a standard torque-converter automatic.

But the CVT in the BR-V is superb, making excellent use of the 118 horsepower and 145 Nm of torque on tap (although the aforementioned road trip with the aforementioned officemates will help me see how well it goes when it's fully loaded). Meanwhile, throttle response is also top-notch, both in normal and sport driving modes.

Other great things about BR-V driving experience include the pliant ride, the strong brakes operated by the firm brake pedal (although the brakes come in too deep in the pedal travel) and the light and responsive steering (which could do with a bit more feel).

Interesting concept

In summary, the Honda BR-V is a compact, high-riding and spacious 7-seater that's comfortable and quite nice to drive.

Now as to whether or not it truly is an SUV is subject to debate. Some would say it isn't because it doesn't have a ladder-frame chassis or even four-wheel drive.

But perhaps Honda was trying to appeal to the majority of people who look at SUVs differently. They don't need something that could conquer a mountain or ford a raging river, but just want enough ride height to get over most obstacles and enough space for people and things.

Following the second definition, I think Honda has done well with the BR-V.

Indeed, the ₱1.185 million that this top-of-the-range V Navi Modulo variant costs puts it right in the price bracket of many midrange compact sedans. And frankly, I think it's worth a look.