Long-term test (Introduction): Honda BR-V 1,5 Elegance CVT

If, like me, you’re in your late 30s, the cars available back in the day which could carry more than five people were mostly limited to minibuses such as VW’s Kombi. That has now changed significantly. On the affordable side of the scale, Honda’s BR-V is right up there with cars such as the Suzuki Ertiga and Toyota’s Avanza in providing space for seven occupants.

Setting the Honda apart from those rivals is crossover styling that fits in somewhere between that of an MPV and an SUV. That has its benefits. Climb inside and there is generous space in the driver’s seat and in the second row. Small adults can fit in the third row of seats (offering two separate pews), but ideally these chairs are perfect for children and they even offer access to cupholders.

Although I’ll be up front in this car for the next three months, the air-conditioning vents situated in the roof to keep the second and third row of occupants cool rank as one of the car’s best features. Also, while the BR-V has a mere two airbags, it is fitted with a full-size spare wheel.

Under the bonnet is the 1,5-litre petrol engine which also does duty in the Ballade, HR-V and Jazz. It produces a modest 88 kW and 145 N.m. Connected to a CVT (continuous variable transmission), more drivetrain noise infiltrates the cabin than the HR-V we recently ran in the fleet. This is partly due to the fact that I occasionally need to work the engine harder to maintain an ideal cruising speed. Even so, with a conscious right foot, I’ve managed to keep the fuel consumption to a respectable 7,43 L/100 km.

I’ve picked up on a few cabin quirks. There is no back lighting for the gearlever position (P, R N, D) or for the buttons controlling the windows and mirrors. It’s not the end of the world but it takes some getting used to every time you drive the BR-V at night and need to make adjustments.

Practicality is the BR-V’s trump card. Apart from generous luggage space (192-440/1 344 litres as tested), the third row of seats can fold flat and forward, which opens up the boot to large objects.

We’ve been outspoken about some of Honda’s infotainment systems and this one also takes some time to master. With a limited number of buttons, you need to figure out which control changes which setting. Curiously, the ven- tilation system’s screen is larger than the infotainment’s item.

Being a crossover, I definitely plan to do some modest gravel- road driving in the near future to see whether the excellent on-tar ride remains.

After 1 month
Current Mileage: 
 703 km
Average fuel consumption: 7,43
 L/100 km
We like: 
space; practicality
We don’t like: 
design of infotainment system

 

Long-term test (Update 1): Honda BR-V 1,5 Elegance CVT

Besides accessing the third row of seats, I haven’t needed to completely stow the BR-V’s second row of chairs. I recently purchased two used lounge chairs online and was able to fit both after folding the second row and playing a few minutes of Tetris.

With my new cellphone now connected to the Bluetooth system (you need to hold down the phone button to connect), I can make and receive calls and stream audio effortlessly.

Thankfully, fuel consumption appears to remain constant across a variety of driving environments.

After 2 months
Current Mileage: 
 2 006 km
Average fuel consumption: 7,21
 L/100 km

Long-term test (Wrap-up): Honda BR-V 1,5 Elegance CVT

 

Even if you don’t require a seven-seat passenger vehicle, the option of seating more people is a great one to have. And, sometimes, just having the extra space when the seats are stowed is welcome. Over the past three months, I’ve never had to use the BR-V’s third row. Thanks to the space needed to make room for extra seats, though, I was able to transport large objects including two lounge chairs. Both the second and third rows fold flat and tilt forward, which creates an abundance of air behind the front passengers. 

It’s tricky trying to place the BR-V in a specific box. It’s not a traditional SUV, nor does it look like a crossover. It has more in common with a traditional MPV (which makes sense considering it replaced the Mobilio). However, the ground clearance of 210 mm was enough for me to venture off- road onto pockmarked gravel. The full-size spare wheel also lends peace of mind. 

From behind the wheel, the cabin is straightforward: basic but solid materials are used throughout and it has some welcome features such as an entry-level infotainment setup with Bluetooth and steering wheel-mounted controls. My Android phone seamlessly connected to the system and allowed for perfect audio streaming and making phone calls.

There is a curious lack of extensive interior lighting in the cabin. The door-sited controls for the mirror adjustments and electric windows, plus the gearlever indicator (P, R, N, D, S) aren’t illuminated. It’s a minor inconvenience after dark. Much better are the secondary air-conditioning controls and vents in the roof for aft-seated passengers. 

On the highway, I generally stuck to 100 km/h, as noise intrusion is elevated above this point and can drown out the audio system. The benefit of driving at this speed was that my average fuel consumption settled at a respectable 7,21 L/ 100 km over the course of three months. The best tank-to-tank consumption I achieved was 6,95 L/100 km. 

The CVT is a well-calibrated transmission when you drive at a constant speed. It’s only when you are in a rush and want to overtake quickly that an associated whine becomes intrusive. Although there are small steering-wheel paddles, I rarely used these as my pace of driving was sedate most of the time and the 88 kW/145 N.m 1,5-litre engine has just enough punch to pick up speed briskly. 

TEST SUMMARY 

The seat layout is probably the BR-V’s best feature (aside from Honda’s stellar reliability record). It is clear the Japanese carmaker’s intention with its family wagon is to offer solid transport at a reasonable price, with a relatively generous supply of standard equipment (although nothing superfluous). The faux- leather-trimmed seats are easy to clean and the generous door pockets and storage spaces below the dashboard add greatly to overall daily-use practicality. 

Overall, the BR-V throws up few surprises and should be a satisfying family car, especially over an extended ownership period where it should give few – if any – headaches. 

 

After 3 months
Current Mileage: 
 
3 643 km
Average fuel consumption:
7,21 L/100 km
We like: 
seven seat capability; frugal engine; space