Jiseishin: 2019 Honda BR-V 1.5 Elegance CVT
By Gordon Hall
Jiseishin: It means patience, or self-control, in Japanese. We mention that because car reviewers tend to become exasperated with CVT (constant velocity transmission) gearboxes. While Honda’s is better than most; working pretty well with the brand’s more powerful engines such as the 1.5-litre turbo and 1.8 iVTEC, it was less happy with the unboosted 1.5 fitted to our test Honda BR-V.
We hated it initially for slipping and whining, as these things can do, until we placed our mindset into that of a typical buyer of this car and acquired Jiseishin. Treated gently, the car accelerates smoothly and kicks down competently when asked to do so. It will never be a racer although sliding the stick backward, to Sport Mode and holding selected gears using the shift paddles, might help you release your inner rebel on occasion.
We believe a typical buyer might be someone who loves his or her Honda Jazz but would like a compact SUV for the school run or for taking neighbours to the mall. As 130 SA buyers per month, on average, can confirm, BR-V has secret weapons that most wannabes do not. First, it seats seven adults comfortably with sufficient head- and knee room and easy access to the back row. It helps if they are reasonably supple, of course. Being aged under 50 or so helps too – you get the idea.
Usefully, all second- and third-row seats can be folded and tumbled away to accommodate whatever oddly shaped cargo you might like to load when passengers aren’t your immediate priority. Second-row chairs slide fore- and aft to adjust kneeroom as needed, backrests in both rear rows can recline individually and six-footers have more than a fist-width of headroom – in all seats.
Comfort fittings include a row of repeater vents across the ceiling, stacks of cup- and bottle holders, a central armrest, adequate seatback pockets and door bins, and a second courtesy light. Rather inconveniently, the second row offers only a lap belt for the centre passenger and two head restraints.
BR-V’s second secret weapon is the fact that it, like Honda Brio, is built in India. Gravel roads there are easily as bad as ours so the odd stretch of washboard, interspersed with small potholes and tooth-rattling embedded stones, shouldn’t faze it at all.
Despite looking tall and skinny the BR-V held on tightly, with minimal body lean, along twisty country roads at speeds slightly faster than average buyers would probably push them. No Civic Type-Rs were challenged but the little bus did rather well.
Fit and finish
If you’re especially picky, though, you could be disappointed with standards of fit and finish – doors tend to clang, carpets are lightweight and not all panel gaps are even – but you can’t buy a Maybach for just a whisper over R300 000.
To give you an idea of pecking order in the range, the basic Trend model offers two airbags; disc and drum brakes with ABS; steel wheels; manual transmission; halogen headlights with manual adjusters; roof rack; fabric upholstery; manual wing mirrors and manual air conditioner. Entertainment comes from a four-speaker music centre with radio, CD player, Bluetooth phone connection and the usual input sockets. Windows are all powered with auto-down for the driver. Automatic door locking, keyless entry, an onboard computer with outside temperature display and an immobiliser complete the package.
Kit improves progressively via the intermediate Comfort level until top-of-range Elegance offers leather upholstery, manual or CVT gearboxes, alloy wheels, keyless entry and starting, front fog lamps, automatic air conditioning with the roof vents mentioned earlier, powered and folding side mirrors with indicator repeaters and two more speakers.
Instrumentation, controls and infotainment are simple – no touch screen, no satnav, no fussiness. This car is made for people wanting solid, basic transport without toys that don’t contribute to overall utility and enjoyment; people with Jiseishin.
**Test unit from Honda Motor SA press fleet
Price: R312 100
Engine: 1497cc, SOHC 16-valve, four-cylinder
Power: 88kW at 6600rpm
Torque: 145Nm at 4600rpm
Zero to 100km/h: 10.9 seconds
Maximum speed: 140km/h
Real life fuel consumption: About 8.0 l/100 km
Tank: 42 litres
Luggage: 223 – 691 – 1164 litres
Turning circle: 10.6metres
Ground clearance: 210mm
Towing: Not permitted
Warranty: 5 years / 200 000 km with 3 years’ roadside assistance
Service plan: 2 years /30 000km at 15 000km intervals