When we told people we were driving a Honda HR-V, the almost universal response was, “Er, yuk.” When we reminded them that it wasn’t the tragically un-hip three-door breadvan thing of years back, but was instead a well-sorted, better-looking mini-SUV, the response changed. Suddenly there was interest.
Has Honda got a car other than the CR-V the world will want to own?
The HR-V range stretches from the $24,990 VTi, via the $27,990 VTi-S through to the $32,990 VTi-L. Our test car, the VTi, came equipped with climate control, fabric trim, plastic steering wheel, seven-inch touchscreen six-speaker stereo with USB and Bluetooth, reversing camera, keyless entry, hill holder, power windows all round, power mirrors and tyre pressure sensors.
The HR-V is much improved from the ungainly first generation last sold here nearly fifteen years ago. It looks like a cross between the new Honda Civic and CR-V, which means upright styling and a few extravagant surfacing details that may not quite work for some eyes.
The CR-V-alike daylight opening in profile looks okay, but instead of a window in the third space, there’s a too-high-for kids door handle.
The sixteen-inch alloys on the base model look right, holding a bit of faux off-road cred.
There’s a whole world inside, though. The inside of the HR-V is by far the best of the crop of new, titchy SUVs. The three-dial dash is a clean design and the most is made of the tall console, with a split level arrangement giving an extra bin to hide the USB, HDMI and power ports. There’s storage everywhere, especially in the front, with bottle holders, drink holders and handy little spots wherever you look.
Add to that the excellent Honda Magic Seat system pinched from the Jazz you have an already excellent 437 litres that can expand to 1032. There are eighteen different configurations to choose from and it struck us that on a camping trip, smaller kids could happily bed down in the loadspace with the seats down or flipped.
Sadly, when you do flip the seats you see some decidedly unfinished trim, including partly uncovered wood planks used to bridge the carpet gap. There’s also a deeply nasty excuse for a cargo cover that flaps around when in place to make a very irritating rattle – there’s a little way to go to reach the quality levels of the Honda of old.
Before you even touch the seats, there’s a massive amount of legroom for rear passengers with matching headroom – six-footers will be comfortable back there, something that cannot be said for Holden Trax, Renault Captur or Mazda CX-3. Alone in this category, the rear door aperture doesn’t act like a nightclub bouncer.
The cloth interior is perfectly functional, with good materials throughout except, unfortunately, for the slippery plastic steering wheel. The driver’s lot is made slightly worse by a poor relationship between pedals and wheel, meaning a long-arm, short-leg approach to driving which can be a little tiresome for those of average longitudinal proportions.
Six airbags, ABS, traction and stability controls with passive steer assist and lap-sash belts in all seats.
There is no ANCAP or EuroNCAP crash rating.
The 7-inch screen houses a very basic system. It is effective and easy to use but is really old-looking, something Japanese companies seem to have difficulty getting their heads around. On the base model there’s not much to play with, which means you’re never more than two stabs of the screen from anything.
Pairing phones is easy and you can attach them via USB if you like and if you’ve got something extra-special, you can watch a video via the HDMI port, another Japanese quirk.
ENGINE / TRANSMISSION
The Honda HR-V range all come with the same package – 1.8 litre naturally-aspirated VTEC engine with a continuously variable transmission to get the power to the road via the front wheels.
The engine produces what is rapidly becoming a modest figure of 105 kW and a reasonable 172 Nm of torque, both at higher revs than most of its turbo-assisted competitors manage. Honda claims a nevertheless competitive 6.6L/100km on the combined cycle. Honda doesn’t quote a 0-100 km/h time but it’d be a miracle if it was quicker than nine seconds.
We used a creditable 8L/100km once we gave up on enthusiastic driving, with city driving dropping as low as 7L/100km.
Tooling around town, the HR-V is an excellent machine – quiet, reasonably refined and comfortable. There’s a good view forward and it’s an easy car to place in tight spots, with all the controls spot-on – steering, brakes and throttle. “Green” driving is encouraged by the lighting around the speedo. Drive sensibly and it goes green.
The 1.8-litre might be ready to discuss its superannuation rollover options but the CVT makes the most of the modest figures. It’s just a pity the engine needs so many revs to get a move on, something you’ll notice as the payload increases. As CVTs go it’s not bad, but it’s set-up to pointlessly mimic a seven-speed.
It’s also not the best-handling of the mini-SUV contenders. The springs and dampers aren’t quite matched as well as they could be to Australian roads and with the skinny, cheap tyres, understeer is a constant companion if you fancy a bit of a hustle. Keep it sensible, though, and you’ll find it a very agreeable companion, especially if you prefer a softer-riding machine.
SUMMING UP 3.5/5
The original HR-V was a decade too soon but the new one is pretty much the last off the blocks before the premium brands move on the segment. The extra cooking time has done it the world of good, however, making it a solid overall proposition. The interior, however, is streets ahead for space, practicality and when compared with Trax and Captur, finish.
When you take everything into consideration and focus on what this car is for, it hits the lead in what is sure to be a hard-fought battle for mini-SUV supremacy.
LIKES: Devilishly clever Magic Seats, uncluttered innovative cabin, not-awful CVT
DISLIKES: Ridiculous cargo cover, old-school stereo interface.
AT A GLANCE
Honda HR-V VTi: $24,990 (CVT automatic)
Honda HR-V VTi-S: $27,990 (CVT automatic)
Honda HR-V VTi-L: $32,990 (CVT automatic)
Honda HR-V VTi-L ADAS: $33,990 (CVT automatic)
Note: These prices do not include dealer or government charges. Contact your local Honda dealer for drive-away prices.
16in alloy wheels
LED rear combination tail lights
Honda’s unique Magic Seats
Halogen headlights with Daytime Running Lights (bulb type)
Display Audio system with Bluetooth connectivity (Android and Apple) and 7in colour touch screen
Single zone climate control air-conditioning
Multi-angle reversing camera with three model
17in alloy sports wheels (VTi-L)
Paddle shifters (VTi-L)
Leather-appointed seat trim (VTi-L)
Panoramic sunroof (VTi-L)
Front and rear parking sensors (VTi-L)
Privacy glass (VTi-L)
Dual-zone climate control (VTi-L)
Chrome door handles (VTi-L)
ENGINE (1.8-litre i-VTEC 4cyl petrol engine)
Capacity: 1799 cc
Configuration: In-line 4-cylinder
Bore and stroke: 73 mm x 89.4 mm
Compression ratio: 10.6:1
Maximum Power: 105 kW @ 6500 rpm
Maximum Torque: 172 Nm @ 4300 rpm
Emissions: Euro 5
Drivetrain: Continuously variable transmission, front-wheel drive
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4294 mm
Width: 1772 mm
Height: 1605 mm
Wheelbase: 2610 mm
Track: 1535 mm (front), 1540 mm (rear)
Ground clearance: 170 mm
Tare mass: 1366 kg
Seating capacity: Five
Cargo capacity 375 litres
Fuel Tank Capacity: 50 litres
Turning circle: 10.6 metres
SUSPENSION AND BRAKES:
Suspension: MacPherson strut (front); torsion beam (rear)
Brakes: Ventilated discs (front); solid discs (rear). ABS anti-skid brake system with Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Vehicle Stability Control. Traction Control. Electric parking brake. Hill Start Assist
Steering: Electric power assisted rack and pinion
Wheels / tyres: Alloy 17 x 7J (sports wheel design) / 215/55 R17 94V. Space saver spare
Acceleration 0 to 100 km/h: N/A
Top speed: N/A
Fuel type: 91 RON unleaded
Combined Cycle (ADR 81/01): 6.9 litres per 100 km. CO2 emissions 160 g / km
GREEN VEHICLE GUIDE RATINGS:
Greenhouse Rating: 7.5 / 10
Air Pollution Rating: 7.5 / 10
Three years / 100,000 kilometres