Honda HR-V

While Honda’s new HR-V may be classified as an SUV, it well and truly blurs the line between passenger car style and mini-van practicality.

REVIEW: Russell Manning

The exterior design of the Honda HR-V is an interesting blend of passenger car and SUV styling cues that give what Honda describes as “coupe-esque” elegance.

Cut through the PR spin and that translates to a fairly high and upright styling with passenger-car like swept back lines. It comes with one engine, a 1.8 litre petrol unit that’s good for 105 kW and 172 Nm, and one transmission, a CVT, driving only the front wheels.

There are four models in the HR-V line-up. The entry level VTi comes with tyre deflation warning, hill start assist, colour audio touch screen, steering wheel mounted audio controls and cloth trim, as well as all the usual tackle. VTi-S adds rain-sensing wipers, fog lights and LED headlights, keyless push-button start, city brake active, blind spot monitoring, and alarm.

In addition, the VTi-L models has front and rear parking sensors, steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters with a seven-step manual mode, leather seat trim, electric sunroof and dual-zone climate control. The VTi-L ADAS (Advanced Driver Assist System) is a distinct model in the range, and adds forward collision warning (a first for Honda Australia), lane departure warning and high beam support system to the usual L fare.

Inside, styling is clean and uncluttered, with an abundance of soft touch trim materials. Heat and ventilation controls are contained in a central touch screen display while another above it houses audio, phone and other controls. The dash instrumentation is large and easy to read and also changes colour to reflect driving style and fuel efficiency. Navigation is available in all models as a phone app rather than a stand-alone system. The map is displayed on the vehicle’s screen but for this, the phone needs to be connected via cable rather than Bluetooth.

The seating position is quite high, which will no doubt please those looking for the improved visibility this style of vehicle offers. Rear legroom is satisfactory though it comes, to some degree, at the expense of front seat space, which taller occupants may find a bit cramped. Rear head room, often an issue in even high-roofed vehicles such as SUVs, is good and will be a pleasant surprise to taller passengers. A huge boot and the inclusion of Honda’s Magic Seat system, previously seen in the Jazz, makes it superbly practical and versatile.

On the road the HR-V is one of the sharper handlers in its class. The electric power steering is nicely weighted and even has a reasonable level of feel, which is something many manufacturers struggle with. At city speeds it’s very quiet, and although noise levels increase at highway speeds and on coarse surfaces, it remains quieter than many in the class. Low speed ride is quite supple but it firms up at higher speeds and the front suspension has a tendency to bottom hard on bigger bumps.

The engine and transmission are well matched and provide a level of performance that’s better than the numbers would suggest. CVTs are still an acquired taste for many but this is one of the better ones and doesn’t have too much of the slipping clutch feel that has traditionally been associated with this type of transmission. Drive it reasonably sedately and you’re unlikely to even notice it’s a CVT. However, as maximum torque is generated at quite high engine speed, the transmission sometimes has to work fairly hard to get on top of the load and it becomes abundantly clear that it’s a CVT.

The VTi starts at $24,990, VTi-S $27,990, VTi-L $32,990 and VTi-L ADAS $33,990. Metallic paint adds an additional $575.

The HR-V is expected to receive a 5-star ANCAP rating when tested and comes with a 12 month/10,000km service schedule and capped price servicing. Watch for a diesel engine option down the track but don’t expect to see AWD versions in this market.

Overall the HR-V is a refined, well-built and versatile package that will no doubt find favour with those looking for something with a bit more sportiness than the average SUV offering can muster.