Johannesburg - SUVs and crossovers… these days there’s one for every season and every reason, from butched up compact hatchbacks for those on a budget to outlandish land yachts for the rich and famous, and just about everything you can think of in between.
Honda’s BR-V is aiming at a more rational client than the average SUV buyer however - targeting those seeking a lot of interior space, and seating for seven, on a relatively tight budget, by SUV standards at least.
With prices ranging between R258 800 for the 1.5 Trend and R318 400 for the 1.5 Elegance CVT, the BR-V is priced directly against the smaller Ford EcoSport, and yet it offers a more practical and versatile cabin with seating for seven.
Built in India, the BR-V shares its platform with the Honda Brio that’s just been discontinued, but it is significantly longer than its budget hatch sibling.
But is it big enough for the family?
It is, but the third-row seats are better suited to kids than adults. Sure, an average sized adult can squeeze in the back for an emergency hop across town - and believe me it is a squeeze, I tried, but ultimately these are kids’ seats.
Getting to them is quite easy, thanks to a slide and tumble function for the 60:40 split middle seats. That mid row is not a bad place to pass time, with reasonably decent legroom, loads of headroom, reclining seat backs and four aircon vents in the roof above.
Even with all seating rows in place, there’s still space for a bit of shopping in the boot, 223 litres to be exact, but when the third row is not in use you can easily fold and tumble it forward to produce a 691 litre luggage area - just remember to strap it to the middle-row headrests or you’ll hear an earth-shattering thunk when you pull off.
The cockpit has a neat and rather minimalistic design, with lots of smooth surfaces, and the lines are generally pleasing to the eye. You don’t get any fancy touchscreen infotainment systems in this car, however, and even the range-topping model comes with a conventional radio, although it is Bluetooth equipped. Other features in the Elegance flagship include keyless entry and start, automatic climate control, leather seat upholstery and front and side airbags.
However, there are some curious omissions from the safety kit list, with ESP stability control, curtain airbags and Isofix child seat anchors not available in the BR-V.
All BR-V models are powered by Honda’s familiar 1.5-litre i-VTEC normally aspirated engine, rated at 88kW and 145Nm, and mated to either a six-speed manual or, as per our test car, a CVT continuously variable box.
The engine feels perky enough in urban driving, and also cruises quietly on the freeway, and the gearbox makes for a smooth driving experience, most of the time at least, but it in typical CVT fashion, you do get a relatively loud and monotonous drone when tackling a hill.
It’s not a car for enthusiasts though, so we can forgive that and its lack of steering sensation because ultimately this car provides a smooth driving experience, acceptable ride comfort and a lot of space for the family.
A practical SUV on a budget is a big ask, but the Honda BR-V does a good enough job on most fronts and is versatile enough to fit most family needs. It offers good all round value, but Honda should consider beefing up the safety spec.