Finding the right balance between practical and fun is a tricky process. Too much of one or the other usually means the whole endeavor is wasted. This is doubly true for vehicles. You can choose a fun ride at the cost of practicality, or have a completely useful, but unexciting machine. Honda proposes you can have both with their BR-V, and they took members of the motoring press on a ride from Isabela to Baler, and finally back to Manila to find out for themselves. We were flown into Isabela, at which point, were assigned our groups, cars, and radios, had a quick lunch, and were off to Baler.
The BR-V is essentially a sporty version of their already successful Mobilio. With sharper lines and a higher profile, this vehicle is a little closer to a full SUV than its city-dwelling predecessor. The cabin bares the same, comfortable, roomy interior, and is supremely quiet, even at speed, or on bumpy roads—and we had our share of those.
For those who haven’t been, the road down to Baler from Isabela is treacherous, to put it mildly. While the majority of it has been paved, there are long stretches of ongoing construction, with loose soil, gravel, or mud. Remember, this is an incredibly twisty road that spans several peaks, and snakes down to the ocean.
While we made sure we were going at a reasonable speed, having the Ramirez brothers in charge means you do have to focus. This brings you to a point where you stop worrying about anything and keep your mind on the drive—there was just no attention left over to second-guess the vehicle’s abilities. Interestingly, while it’s got MPV DNA in it, the BR-V was more than happy to rise to the occasion. Despite some sickeningly tight turns taken at greater speed than I would on a normal day, we felt little cabin roll, even when consecutive opposing turns had to be made. On top of that, more than once, we had to jam on the brakes (dogs and cats are fickle creatures), and despite the stuttered screeching of ABS, there was no loss of control—nothing even close to it.
The 1.5-liter engine had plenty of pull, even with four passengers, camera gear, and luggage for the overnight trip. There was no lack of pull, even when the road got steeper than what the occupants would want to think about. Engine response was likewise quick, with hardly any time between tapping the gas pedal and being pushed smartly back into your seat.
After a few hours of driving through what seemed like endless twisties, changes in elevation, and even a few shallow water crossings, we found ourselves at our stop for the night, Costa Pacifica in Baler. There was hardly enough time to have a quick dinner in order to get enough sleep for the long drive back to Manila the next day.
The drive home still had its share of hair-raising moments, but it was mostly long stretches of flat road after we got out of the mountains. Here too, the BR-V performed well, with my passengers falling right to sleep. Even with the body more along the lines of a van than a sedan, we got all the comfort, and none of the bouncy, floaty feeling one might expect. Once we hit the city, we came to appreciate how much smaller it felt, compared to its actual size. Despite terrible rush-hour traffic, we didn’t feel any particular difficulty navigating through the tangles and turns of Metro Manila. It might not have been a pleasant route, but the BR-V made up for it inside.
Overall, everyone was impressed with the way the BR-V performed. With everything we loved about the Mobilio, and a few tweaks here and there to make it a much better ride outside the city, and enough space for the family, and then some.
Honda seems to have found a winning formula. We can’t wait to get our hands on one for a full review.
Also published in GADGETS MAGAZINE March 2017 Issue.
Words and Photos by Ren Alcantara