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First Drive: Honda BR-V is an MPV with SUV styling

More spacious, more SUV, same CVT

Ntsako Mthethwa
September 15, 2022
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First Drive: Honda BR-V is an MPV with SUV styling

So far this year, Honda has been on its feet launching a swathe of vehicles. Its most recently launched model is the all-new BR-V SUV, slotting in below the HR-V model. 

It's not the oldest model in the brand's history books, but it's still an important one for Honda: The 7-seater BR-V is entering its second generation, and it brings with it a fresh new design and a complete SUV stance rather than the middle-of-the-road MPV look of the outgoing model.

While the compact 7-seater SUV segment isn't the biggest in Mzansi, the new BR-V is set to go head-to-head with notable stalwarts in the segment such as the Mitsubishi Expander, Suzuki Ertiga and Toyota's Rumion. Unlike its forebear, which was built in India, the new BR-V is built at the Indonesian factory and exported to other markets including South Africa. 

Less MPV, more SUV

The new BR-V is sold locally in three variants; Trend, Comfort, and Elegance. We spent time saddling in the latter at its launch in Cape Town. At first glance, the BR-V has gone through notable advancements, and while the outgoing model was more of an MPV than an SUV, the new model does a good job of ticking the SUV boxes. 

Its body length and width have been stretched by a further 35 mm and 45 mm, respectively, and that's resulted in enhanced interior space. Candidly, there's 20 mm worth of additional space in the second row, while the third row gets an additional 30 mm of space compared to the outgoing model. 

The BR-V look

Honda designers have done a superb job by giving the new BR-V a fresh new look that is undoubtedly worthy of praise, thanks to a completely reworked front end that features a new grille, LED daytime running lights and headlights. The rear boasts LED taillights that mimic the look of those fitted to the current Fit and Ballade variants. 

The Trend and Comfort models ride on 16" wheels, while the Comfort upgrades to bigger 17" alloys. Exterior colour options include Opal White (Pearl), Modern Steel (Metallic), Lunar Silver (Metallic), and Crystal Black (Pearl).

Hardy interior

In terms of interior feel, the Elegance model we sampled at the launch left us feeling underwhelmed due to the overabundant use of hard plastic on the dash and door panels. However, for a tad more of an upmarket feel, the BR-V has leather-like inserts on various touchpoints, which is a welcome factor. 

Honda offers fabric seats as standard in the Trend and Comfort models, while the range-topping Elegance model is bolstered with synthetic leather upholstery. For added comfort, rear passengers get air-conditioning, power outlets in all rows, height adjustment for the driver's seat plus front- and second-row armrests. 

All models get an intuitive 7" touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity as standard. A 4.2" TFT display we've come across in other models within the Honda banner resides in front of the driver in the Elegance model. It's worth noting, though, that the lesser trims get what Honda calls a segment LCD and a four-speaker audio system instead of the six-speaker system. The Comfort and Elegance models are further equipped with an integrated reverse parking camera. 

As is often the case with seven-seaters, the boot space in the new BR-V isn't the best with all the seats raised, although, at 244 litres, it puts a ding in the Ertiga and Rumion's 209 litres. It's still outclassed by the Xpander's 495 litres, thanks to a luggage floor box with a lid. 

Regarding safety in the new BR-V Elegance model, impressive seems to be the name of the game thanks to the Honda Sensing system that includes a Collision Mitigation Braking System, Road Departure Mitigation and Adaptive Cruise Control. Lane-Keep Assist, Auto High-Beam, Lane Watch Camera and a Forward Collision Warning are also included in the safety suite. 

Familiar engine territory

The 1.5-litre naturally-aspirated engine is shared across the Fit and HR-V and BR-V ranges with an unchanged 89 kW and peak torque of 145 Nm. It's paired with a CVT transmission that drives the front wheels. Sadly, a 5-speed manual transmission is only reserved for the Comfort and Trend models. 

While the BR-V isn't built to tear up the tarmac, it executes its tasks well, if I am honest. The issue, though, is that the rubber band effect with the CVT is still ever-so-present, especially when overtaking. This begged the question of its ability to cope when laden with seven passengers. However, as peppy as the engine is, the CVT's droning would settle down when driven with the lightest foot in and around town. 

Our launch drive took us along the N2 highway and the BR-V felt tight and composed with less body roll than the previous iteration. Even though Honda has applied noise reduction to make the interior quieter, we noticed a considerable amount of wind and tyre noise filtering into the cabin at certain speeds. 

Wants and needs

The new Honda BR-V may have minor glitches, but it gives buyers of 7-seater MPVs a superb option to consider without really breaking the bank. The truth, though, is that rivals such as the Suzuki Ertiga, Mitsubishi Xpander and Toyota Rumion offer regular automatic transmissions that aren't just better at shifting cogs but also offer better fuel economy. 

Sadly, buyers who prefer manual shifting will have to settle for the Comfort or Trend variants since these are the only models that come fitted with a 5-speed manual gearbox. 


  • 1.5 Trend MT: R379,900
  • 1.5L Comfort MT: R409,900
  • 1.5L Comfort CVT: R434,900
  • 1.5L Elegance CVT: R459,900

All models come standard with a 5-year 200,000 km warranty and a 4-year 60,000 km service plan as standard. Also included is 3-year AA roadside assistance.


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