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Not long ago Honda brought to market the seven seat Honda Mobilio people carrier, a ugly little multi purpose vehicle not unlike the Toyota Avanza. You see, Toyota sells the Avanza by the shipload because it is the default choice of fleet managers everywhere. It’s small and economical, yet it seats seven and most importantly it is a Toyota. It’s practical and functional above all else. It isn’t fast or attractive or comfortable or anthing really. It exists to serves its purpose and people buy it because they don’t know what else to buy. Essentially a grudge purchase. People buy it because they have to, not because they want to.

Honda tried taking a bite out of Toyota’s success in this market segment by offering us the Honda Mobilio because it does everything the Avanza does a little better, but they didn’t realise we don’t want another Avanza. We didn’t even want the Avanza to Start with. Obviously it didn’t sell very well and the nice people over at Honda were all very confused. They obviously realised that the Avanza’s success could not be explained in logical terms and decided to give consumers what they really wanted.

Let me introduce you to the “new” Honda BR-V, a small, seven seat SUV. The Mobilio essentially received a comprehensive makeover. It might just be a makeover, but it is very well executed. The BR-V receives a very attractive version of the new Honda Ballade’s chromed wing grill, black plastic cladding along the lower sections of the bodywork including the wheel arches, front and rear bumpers and door sills. The SUV touches don’t stop there because the “new” BR-V also features  metallic detailing on the doors where regular SUVs have those side steps because SUVs are usually quite high. The Honda BR-V is however no taller than the Mobilio it replaces. I had to mention this because it really makes for a brilliant optical illusion. Together with the chrome door handles, fake skid plates front and rear and satin metallic finish on the roof rails, it seriously looks like an SUV.

Even the rear light treatment with a full length horizontal reflective strip connecting the LED light clusters sounds like a gimmick, but it’s really attractive despite the somewhat awkward dimensions. One simply does not expect to see these design cues on small cars. I think it rather refreshing.

It has absolutely no functional SUV abilities though. It can’t go off-road and the BR-V is available in front wheel drive only, featuring Honda’s bullet proof 1500cc iVtec four cylinder as the only engine choice. You are very welcome to choose your BR-V with Honda’s CVT automatic gearbox, but as usual it screams at you  and since the six speed manual gearbox is an absolute joy to use I can’t recommend the automatic.

The well-known and reliable little engine pushes out a gutsy 88Kw of power and 145Nm of torque and all seems ample until you fill all seven of those seats. Suddenly the BR-V is not as quick as it was before, but it certainly doesn’t feel strained or overworked.

Starting at R238 900 the Honda BR-V represents excellent value for money. The priciest version is only R288 300 and boasts high end luxury features such as keyless entry and start as well as a touch screen infotainment system able to play any audio format. It even has an HDMi cable port which enables you to mirror the screen of your smart phone, tablet or even laptop on the infotainment system’s touchscreen.

Fit and finish is commendable both inside and out, but I was particularly impressed with the almost premium look and feel inside the cabin. This is the most affordable seven seat SUV/crossover on the market, but you would never say that from behind the steering wheel. I reviewed the mid-range Elegance spec  model selling for about R250 000, but it features keyless entry and start. The seats, gear knob and steering wheel are all covered in leather and the second as well as third row passengers have their own ventilation controls courtesy of a ceiling mounted duct arrangement I thought really quite clever.

Remote switches on the steering wheel manage your audio system, but the BR-V also comes standard with two airbags, ABS brakes, electric windows and mirrors as well as fog lights and air conditioning. The Honda BR-V represents fantastic value for your money, particularly when compared to Ford’s EcoSport or even the Renault Duster. Those are both available with similar mechanical arrangements to that of the Honda, but neither offer a seven seat configuration. Yes the Honda BR-V is based on a people carrier, but it uses this aspect of its design to great advantage. It cant go off-road at all, but neither can the Ford EcoSport while the Renault Duster might be a bit more robust it feels agricultural compared to the very attractive and thoroughly refined Honda BR-V.

In conclusion, if you’re in the market for a small SUV or crossover with an emphasis on space, refinement, quality and fuss free, bulletproof engineering between R240 000 and R290 000, the Honda BR-V should almost certainly feature on your shortlist.

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