Amazingly, it has been ten years since the Japanese company’s last offering that carried the Honda HR-V name. It was a boxy, slightly disappointing SUV-style car that didn’t really capture the public’s attention. This time around though the company seem to have cracked it with their latest offering; although with reservations on my part.
Coming rather late to the automotive crossover party, it is nevertheless an attractive proposition for those who prefer the high-riding nature of crossovers to the more regular hatch. I would have wished that maybe Honda could have been a little more daring with the design, but they’ve played safe and gone for a conventional sporty appearance.
The rounded front, curved window area and arching roof line all give the HR-V a tall coupé look, aided by a sleek and pronounced crease running through the two side doors that meets up with the window line. It’s smart styling and I especially like the ‘hidden’ rear door handles but find the rear view a bit ordinary, if I’m honest. All models are two-wheel drive. The UK is unlikely to see a 4WD version, alas, although it does exist.
On The Inside
The exterior then is attractive without being in any way controversial or dramatic but it’s on the inside that Honda have really delivered. On the range-topping model we tested the leather seats were really comfortable and it was the work of a moment to find the ideal driving position. Occupants are presented with a cohesive cabin design, with instruments and controls logically grouped in a manner that puts all the usual toys nicely to hand. The plastics employed on the dash are mostly soft-touch and of good, sturdy quality although there’s still some of the old hard stuff about. One feature that I really don’t like is the letterbox-shaped front passenger air vent. It looks like an afterthought. The driver gets nice sail-shaped vents; why could they not have been repeated on the left hand side?
Although the external dimensions appear snug – this car is based on the company’s evergreen Jazz platform – like the Tardis the interior is surprisingly roomy with plenty of space in the back. In fact the available space is better than found in some slightly larger competitors. The same goes for the boot. That’s good design. Overall, the interior has, I’d say, a premium feel about it and includes Honda’s extremely practical magic seats.
This is a simple idea that’s simply brilliant. As usual the rear seat back folds flat and with a 60/40 split to give a cavernous boot. Additionally and alternatively, the rear seat squabs can be folded up against the seat backs and locked into place allowing tall items to be carried inside the car as opposed to rolling around in the back. Now you can transport that old aspidistra or January’s Christmas tree to the tip with ease (Note: the tree will still shed needles whatever you do). You could probably find a use for this feature every day and it makes the Honda HR-V’s interior that much more versatile.
On The Road
The looks may be sporty but Honda clearly don’t want to put off their buyers by making the suspension too firm. The HR-V is good to drive and although it has one of the best rides in its class, gliding over our ruined roads, this softness induces lean into corners so don’t expect rally car handling.
There’s only two engines on offer right now; a new 128bhp 1.5L i-VTEC petrol and Honda’s reliable 1.6L i-DTEC diesel which we found a tad harsh in the HR-V. It settles down when up to speed. With an undernourished 118bhp it’s not tremendously powerful either and can feel a little breathless in low gears. There’s a choice of manual or (the dreaded) CVT gearboxes. It is economical though; Honda reckon 68mpg from the diesel and I saw over 50mpg during our test period despite some lively motoring.
Overall, I rate the Honda HR-V. It is never going to inflame the senses and for the £25k our range-topper costs you can get a well specified Civic Tourer, but if the crossover image is for you then it should be on your shortlist. For my part I would have liked a more radical style; it’s too much like some of the alternatives that seem to adhere to this basic generic shape. I would also like 4WD and a bit more power but I guess Honda build cars to suit their customer base and not just for my benefit. Well, they do, but it’s the Type R. I’ve reproduced the spec sheet below for the test car but you might have to zoom it. Geoff Maxted