When Honda Malaysia introduced the Honda BR-V back in 2017, many wondered if this new model is an MPV or an SUV.
In short, the then-new model from Honda is an SUV, owing to the fact that Honda offers the Honda Mobilio in Indonesia and Thailand, which is essentially an MPV derivative of the BR-V. Furthermore, the Honda BR-V is taxed by the Malaysian Customs as an SUV, not an MPV.
The Honda BR-V received its mid-life update earlier in 2020, giving the 7-seater SUV mild styling updates as well as equipment updates.
Let’s take a closer look at what we like and dislike about the Honda BR-V.
Pros – It’s the most powerful in its segment
Powering the Honda BR-V is Honda’s tried-and-tested 1.5-litre i-VTEC SOHC petrol engine, mated to a CVT-type automatic transmission. This powertrain combination is identical to the GM6-generation Honda City (now replaced by the GN2-generation model and a newer L15ZE DOHC petrol engine) and GK5-generation Honda Jazz.
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Pros – Its very fuel efficient
Although the Honda BR-V is the most powerful in its segment, don’t mistake it for having poor fuel economy, as its CVT-type automatic transmission aids the BR-V’s fuel consumption.
When we sampled the Honda BR-V, it returned an average fuel consumption figure of 7.5-litre/100 km, making it one of the most fuel efficient 7-seaters out there.
Granted, the larger and cheaper Proton Exora also features a CVT-type automatic transmission, but its old-school turbocharged engine that only has port injection (instead of fancier direct injection) and heavier kerb weight mean that the Exora is far thirstier than the BR-V.
Pros – Best ride and handling
Compared to most of its rivals, the Honda BR-V offers the best ride and handling.
This is achieved by the BR-V’s sedan/hatchback underpinnings, which gives it an advantage over the Perodua Aruz, which is essentially a re-bodied Toyota Avanza – not exactly what comes to mind when comfort or handling is mentioned.
Although the Aruz/Rush gets a more sophisticated multi-link rear suspension setup (BR-V gets a torsion beam rear axle), the Aruz/Rush does not offer a better ride as it utilizes a ladder frame construction. The ladder frame construction is fine for carrying a full load of 7 passengers on some of Indonesia’s challenging rural roads, but less so on our smoother road surfaces.
Cons – Noisy cabin
As comfortable as the Honda BR-V may be, it suffers from the same problem that plagues the City and Jazz – poor sound proofing.
During our time with the Honda BR-V, we recorded an average of 71 dB whilst travelling at 110 km/h, making it one of the loudest cabins in the segment.
Compared to the rear-wheel drive Perodua Aruz/Toyota Rush, this duo’s cabin is marginally quieter than the Honda BR-V, as we recorded an average of 70 dB whilst travelling at the same speed. The larger C-segment Proton Exora also recorded an average of 70 dB at 110 km/h.
Cons – Rather poor safety equipment, but matches Xpander
Unlike the Perodua Aruz/Toyota Rush, the Honda BR-V’s safety equipment is rather spartan, offering only two airbags and stability control.
The Perodua/Toyota duo on the other hand, offer six airbags across the range, as well as autonomous emergency braking.
Cons – Not as well equipped or as practical the Xpander
This may sound surprising to some, given Honda’s reputation for their class-leading interior practicality, but the Mitsubishi Xpander has raised the game when it comes to interior practicality.
In addition to the usual cup holders and cubby spaces, the Xpander also offers a storage space under the front passenger seat as well as a two-tier boot floor – useful for keeping things away from prying eyes. The Xpander also offers a rather deep centre armrest, something which the BR-V lacks.
The Mitsubishi Xpander also offers a 360-degree view monitor as well as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support – both of which are lacking in the more expensive Honda BR-V.
When Honda Malaysia introduced the Honda BR-V back in 2017, it offered something rivals didn’t offer at that time – great SUV-esque looks, stability control, and performance.
However, that was three years ago and times have changed.
With the introduction of the cheaper Perodua Aruz in Malaysia, it becomes tougher trying to justify paying a premium for the BR-V that offers less safety equipment than the Aruz.
Even the Mitsubishi Xpander manages to shake things up for the BR-V, as it is priced slightly cheaper than the BR-V, whilst offering a tad bit more equipment than the Honda.
As such, the Honda BR-V is in a rather tough spot. For those families who are safety-conscious would have picked the cheaper Perodua Aruz or the similarly-priced Toyota Rush, while those eyeing a more practical cabin would pick the Mitsubishi Xpander.
But for those who those who priotize ride comfort and low fuel consumption, then the Honda BR-V makes for a good option – just don’t expect too much from it.