Great design, improvements set new Honda BR-V apart

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Last time we drove a Honda BR-V, we summed it up thus: “It stands out like a sore thumb among those school parking lot sleepers, but it’s plenty good enough to stand its own ground.” That’s all changed. Now even Honda reckons that this all-new second-generation BR-V is a significant improvement in exterior design. But there’s far more to it than that.

Still, let’s start with the looks. A far cleaner, much purer design takes the Honda BRV into a completely new realm. Now it looks more like a grown-up Civic than an uber XL. A sporty new grille and pretty LED daytime running headlamps contribute to a rugged, but harmonious and edgy take on Honda’s contemporary face. A quantum leap, for sure.


A far cleaner, much purer BR-V design

17-inch alloys and roof rails add to the effect and the new BR-V is just as good from the rear. Modern LED rear taillights blend well with contemporary lines, while this one’s crystal black pearl paint certainly adds that extra touch of class. BR-V also looks a little bigger. Because it is. 35 mm longer and 45 mm wider than before, all that adds to an already spacious cabin.

Those greater exterior dimensions rub off on inferior space. The new BR-V is incredibly spacious inside considering its small footprint. Space gains are most significant around second and third-row leg and shoulder room. Faux leather and a few cooler trim touches and materials add to this Elegance model’s more upmarket feel.

It’s uncluttered inside, where a minimalistic if sill a bit busy fascia benefits latest Honda design cues. Utility is great too, with 60/40 split second, and 50/50 split third row seats to bring a broad range of seating and cargo versatility. For anything from a van-like two seater up to an all-up full uber XL seven seat option that still has a little space for luggage.


BR-V has a Mercedes-like interface

There’s also rear-seat air-conditioning and power outlets in all three rows. The driver’s pew is subtly height adjustable and the steering wheel only tilt adjustable. That said, both the driver’s seat and steering could be more flexible.

A 4.2” TFT information display between the dial works wonderfully with the multifunction steering wheel buttons. Reminds us of the best interface Mercedes did before they ruined all that with silly touch sensitive pads. This old school BR-V system really is good and considers the user before trying to impress with impossible to use ‘new’ tech.

That’s backed up by second-generation 7-inch touch screen CarPlay and Auto infotainment. It has an integrated reverse parking camera and some great Honda Sensing driver assistance facets. They include Collision Mitigation Braking, Adaptive Cruise with Lane Watch and Keeping, Road Departure and Forward Collision.


BR-V does not lack specification, Versatility

Best of all, this more than just ample tech doesn’t get in the way and lane keep assist even stays off once and for all after you’ve turned it off. In other words, it doesn’t reset every time you start the car. But it’s there and easy to turn on when required for longer trips, which is indeed a luxury to have.

Talking safety, the Honda BR-V also packs in ABS anti lock braking with an emergency stop signal, vehicle stability and start assistants, and ISOFIX child seat anchors. Add dual front and side, and curtain airbags among other regular safety features.

One small aspect that bugs us every time is that you must touch and accept the infotainment screen warning every time you start the car. We understood the first time, Honda. Sure, show it for a few seconds every time, after that, but to free up the system every time you fire it up really is a bit much!


More than just better new BR-V looks

There’s far more to the new BR-V than just looks and a bit more space. A lighter, yet 24 per cent stiffer shell joins suspension, braking and steering enhancements for improved handling and stability. Most noticeable however, these and other updates almost completely eliminate the noise, vibration and harshness concerns we had about the previous car.

While we’re scratching about under the skin, BR-V carries over Honda’s trusty 89 kW 145 Nm 1.5-litre DOHC i-VTEC engine. It’s mated to a specifically tuned constant velocity transmission. The new car’s lighter weight saw to it that our black test unit overcame the CVT’s small performance deficit to match the previous manual car in performance.

Look, it’s no rocket ship, but this big little Honda gets on with it well enough. That said, it couldn’t achieve 160 km/h on our test strip, and that was noticeable when overtaking. Which also leaves it a bit gutless with an additional 6 passengers on board. The CVT box kicks down quickly to help when overtaking though. But it makes hard acceleration noisy.


Get in and go BR-V an easy, no frills family car

Honda promises that CVT benefits economy and that this car will return 6.3 litres/100 km consumption figures. That’s pretty much what we achieved when we tried hard. Everyday life saw it showing 7.1 l/100 km, so all good there. Expect it to get heavier on gas with half a primary school soccer squad with you in the car.

Carrying famous Honda 5 year 200 000km warranty and 4 year 60 000km service plan back-up, best of all, even at this Exclusive level, the BR-V is still affordable. Much better looking and featuring an even more spacious and greatly improved, better quality cabin, this get in and go Honda has evolved into a smaty, easy to drive no frills family car. – Michele Lupini

Images & testing: Giordano Lupini

ROAD TESTED: Honda BR-V 1.5 Elegance
Engine: 89 kW 145 Nm 1.5-litre petrol I4
Drive: CVT automatic FWD
0-60 km/h:        5.25 sec
0-100 km/h:       11.37 sec
0-120 km/h:       15.98 sec
400m:             18.0 sec @ 127 km/h
80-120 km/h:      8.09 sec
VMax:             170 km/h
Fuel:             6.3 l/100 km
CO2:              151 g/km
Range:            660 km
Warranty/Service: 5y 200K/4y 60K km
LIST PRICE:       R469K
RATED:            9
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