In December last year, I had the opportunity of breaking away to spend some quality time with my family, and doing so with my choice of 7-seater vehicle for a “long-haul test drive review”. Being so impressed with the Honda BR-V, I set off to the coast with the dynamic and practical offering from Honda.
The abbreviation BR-V stands for Bold Runabout Vehicle, which in my opinion was a very apt description of what this stylish seven-seater SUV presented as. Wanting to get to know this vehicle on a more intimate level, I checked in with the team at BB Honda Zambezi, under the capable leadership of Danie Engelbrecht, the Dealer Principal.
With 18 years of experience in the motoring industry, Danie comes from an aftersales background and has a general love for motor cars. Being with the BB Motor Group for 12 years, Danie has worked his way up through the ranks and is an avid supporter of this reliable brand. Danie notes that he has witnessed first-hand the positive change and evolution to the offerings from this dealership in the last two years as the brand is moving forward to bring modernity, technology and innovation to their fleet. With customer satisfaction and making every person who enters the dealership feel welcome as his drive, Danie is proud of the fact that his Dealership has become a comfortable and safe place for his clients.
Danie introduced me to Sydney Mpolokeng (Team Leader) and Pieter Cronje (Sales Representative) who make a formidable team in my opinion, when it comes to presenting Honda products to the public. Pieter, having been in the motoring industry for the last 5 years, feels that the trustworthy character of the Honda brand is what stands out for him. Although predominantly popular with older couples, due to its long history in the country, the Honda brand is now growing in popularity with the younger generation. Having chosen to work with this Dealership specifically, due to the work ethic and processes internalised by this Dealership, extremely loyal to the brand (thanks to his loyalty to the Dealership itself).
Similarly, Sydney explains that he had previously made different ventures into the industry, but returned to this Dealership and this brand due to the leadership and team work in BB Honda Zambezi. By providing attention to detail and ensuring that he follows through on what he has committed to, Sydney believes that he – together with his team members – have been equipped to deliver the best of their abilities to provide the clients with what they need. The brand, Honda, inspired loyalty and this is something that both Sydney and Pieter feel are very important. Their belief in customer service lies in being transparent and serving their clients with integrity; both of them note that their own personal growth has been invested in through their time with BB Honda Zambezi.
Looking at the BR-V, I found an immediate appeal in the sculpted body with its clean, modern lines and wide grille. The front view of the BR-V gives off a sense of bold confidence and capability, whilst the rear sports an in-line, connected tail-light design that easily distinguishes it from other vehicles. Whilst oozing sophisticated SUV style, the BR-V has a decidedly athletic appeal, with sleek, silver roof rails that underscore its versatility and practicality. Distinctively styled 16-inch alloy wheels also add to the rugged-yet-refined look of this 7-seater, and attention to detail culminates in colour-coded, electrically adjustable exterior mirrors.
Inside the cabin, the BR-V radiates comfort and style with a stunning, high-quality leather interior and finely-detailed finishes; although cloth is standard on the entry-level models, according to Pieter and Sydney, this is something you could add on. The dashboard is suave and modern, and ergonomically designed in such a way that every control needed is easily within reach and logically laid out. I find that I particularly like the pleasant aesthetics of the horizontally-themed dash and console, as well as the silver accents and piano-black finishes on the instrument panel. Further spiced up with a white-lit 3D speedometer and information display, the BR-V’s console is designed to provide you with all the relevant information you need to drive with ease and confidence. Although there is no dedicated infotainment system, the BR-V does have Bluetooth connectivity and AUX/USB inputs to ensure you can connect your phone or audio system. On the higher-spec Elegance model, you also have access to steering controls.
In the driver’s seat, I find ample leg room and (as a relatively tall woman) more than enough head room too, due to a 30mm longer wheel base than its CR-V relative. With the driver’s seat pushed all the way back, I note that there is still sufficient room for an adult to sit comfortably behind the driver, and still have space between the knees and back of the seat. In the sweltering Johannesburg heat, I am delighted to find rear air-con vents to keep the back two rows of the vehicle cool, thanks to a particularly potent air-conditioner system. As a 7-seater, the BR-V certainly exceeds expectations in terms of how many passengers can be accommodated. The third row may be a tight squeeze for adults, but should be quite fine for children.
A highlight in the BR-V was the ease of maximising the versatile nature of the car. The second row of seats (which, incidentally, can be reclined for additional comfort) are equally as comfortable as the front seats, and in order to access the third row, a one-touch tumble lever simply flips the seat up with effortless efficiency. Amazingly, the third row of seats also has a reclining option for extra comfort, and still maintains class-leading boot space behind the third row (which is usually lost in other vehicles of this class). With another easy pull of a lever, the third-row seats tumble forward quickly and effectively to enhance boot space even more. I found the versatility and practicality of this design incredible and user-friendly, and marvelled at the space available as I packed my family up for a trip to the coast; packing was a sincere pleasure in this regard. The boot, with all 7-seats in use, is noted to be 223 litres, which can be expanded to 691 litres with the third row of seats down. For full boot capacity, all seats can be flipped down to open up a grand 1164 litres of boot space.
My hosts at BB Honda Zambesi note that the BR-V is not only designed for versatility and maximum utility, but it is also designed to be a smooth and refined vehicle to drive. Equipped with a 1.5 litre i-VTEC engine, and the option of a six-speed manual gearbox or five-speed auto, the BR-V showed great fuel efficiency, as Pieter and Sydney explain: averaging around 6. 5 litres to every 100 kilometres, this can be increased or decreased depending on how heavy your right foot is (equipped with a 42 litre fuel tank). There are also sufficient cup-holders all round for all passengers, and pretty good storage cubbies where needed.
In terms of the actual drive experience, I found the reliable and consistent response of the BR-V to be very comforting on the long road. With 210 mm ground clearance, the BR-V negotiated rougher terrain with ease, and managed to be smooth and reactive in the way it handled as we made our way through a fortnight at the Coast. With 145 Nm torque, the BR-V pulls off with satisfactory insistence and holds it own on the road quite well. I sincerely liked the light touch of the BR-V, which did not come across as clumsy or awkward despite its rugged size, and the knowledge that the familiar Honda reliability and build-quality of the car itself – added to dual airbags and ABS braking as part of the safety systems on-board – meant my family and I were safe and secure on the road. With a great Euro NCAP rating, I have added peace of mind as to the safety results the vehicle obtained.
Returning the BR-V after the extended test drive, I spent some more time in reflection. It is clear that the BR-V fills a very big gap in the market for 7-seaters, as it is one of the most affordable SUV’s available at present. Starting out at a reasonable R263 200 for the manual variant and R279 100 for the top of the range variant, the BR-V is the ultimate of style and versatility without compromising on comfort and affordability. Further backed up by the personal, client-centred service offered by BB Honda Zambezi, the BR-V is on top of my list of best buys for its segment.
Back at the Dealership, I am happy to hear that Dealer Principal Danie Engelbrecht feels positive about the future of BB Honda Zambezi: since taking over management in September 2015, they have grown from strength to strength. With current promotions ensuring you can get a top-spec BR-V for less than R300 000, this is the Dealership to contact.
Journalist: Desh Bechan
Reporter: Inge Stols
Editor: Belinda Anderson