Car reviews - Honda - HR-V
Forward visibility, build quality, buttery driveline, cabin ergonomics and layout, practical Magic Seats, sorted roadholding and ride, sweet steering, spacious rear-seat accommodation, improved fuel economy
Room for improvement
Tyre noise, repair-kit spare, price over outgoing range, engine lacks torque for grade climbing, limited rear three-quarter visibility, AM radio reception, mechanical seat adjustment, less powerful petrol engine
Honda’s new HR-V touches down in Oz with petrol and hybrid power
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12 May 2022
By MATT BROGAN
HONDA launched its third-generation HR-V Down Under this month with drive-away pricing beginning at $36,700 nationally.
With a design the Japanese manufacturer says was “conceived to meet the exacting needs of modern customers”, the HR-V is now offered with petrol and petrol-electric hybrid power, and with only two trim grades, each unique to the model’s driveline offering.
That means the “entry grade” Vi X, which is positioned between the outgoing VTi-S and RS grades, is powered by a 1.5-litre i-VTEC petrol engine, while the high-grade e:HEV L (from $45,000 drive-away) combines petrol and electric power, and is positioned above the outgoing VTi-LX variant.
In keeping with the tone set by Honda’s newly launched eleventh-generation Civic, the HR-V small SUV offers a strong level of equipment with no true entry-grade variant offered in the line-up.
Even the lower-specified Vi X is packed to the gills with convenience and safety equipment, including Honda Sensing technologies such as forward-collision warning, collision-mitigation braking system, lane-keep assist and lane-departure warning, road-departure mitigation system, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, high-beam support system, traffic-sign recognition, agile-handling assist system and hill descent control.
Furthermore, the Vi X is fitted with walk-away (proximity) locking, privacy glass, 18-inch alloy wheels, satellite navigation, and a 9.0-inch infotainment cluster with wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto connectivity.
The e:HEV version’s L grade adds a blind-spot information system, rear cross-traffic alert, intelligent speed assist, handsfree powered tailgate with walk-away close function, acoustic vehicle alerting system, electrochromatic rear-view mirror, rain-sensing wipers, heated and power-adjustable wing mirrors (with auto reverse tilting function), a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, acoustic windscreen, as well as rear air-ventilation outlets and USB ports.
Honda says the new-generation HR-V features a more rigid body structure than the outgoing model and “benefits from extensive suspension, steering and braking enhancements”.
A slightly longer wheelbase is further set to improve the model’s ride quality, while an “all-encompassing approach to NVH management” will improve noise insulation and overall cabin refinement, the brand asserts.
The HR-V is said to offer comparable interior space to mid-size SUVs with the rear seats positioned 30mm further rearward to extend second-row legroom, while the model’s rear backrest offers an additional two degrees of recline compared with that of its predecessor.
The HR-V duo is available in a choice of five exterior colours, three pearlescent options – including premium opal, platinum white and crystal black – and two metallic colours – meteoroid grey and premium crystal red.
The new model is offered with a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty and eight-year battery warranty. Service intervals are pegged at 12 months or 10,000km (whichever comes first), with the first five services capped at $125 each.
If you’ll spend most of your time driving the HR-V e:HEV L – the petrol-electric hybrid variant of Honda’s small SUV – in built-up areas, then you’ll probably never notice this car’s biggest let down: tyre noise, and plenty of it.
It’s really the most prominent negative in a vehicle that is otherwise sensibly packaged, pleasing to drive and very well equipped, and a distraction from this mostly refined and comfortable package.
Sure, the HR-V’s 1.5-litre engine gets a little rowdy when it’s called to sustain higher engine speeds, say when overtaking or climbing steep hills, but with 98kW and 253Nm hauling 1382kg (kerb weight), that’s quite understandable. Mechanical and wind noise is well isolated otherwise, leaving only the thrum of rubber on road as the HR-V’s most significant downside.
The Michelin Primacy rubber is otherwise well suited to the HR-V. It’s grippy, and surprisingly compliant, complementing the tune of the strut/torsion beam suspension very well. The new HR-V rides as an SUV in this category should, and is neither too taut nor too soft, providing a confidence-inspiring driving experience over even the most challenging road surfaces.
When weaving through a series of twists and turns, the HR-V feels more capable than many of its rivals, and not only handles unwanted single-wheel and offset camber impacts with aplomb, but steers with an impressive level of accuracy and control. The steering is sensibly weighted, and perfectly manageable when driving at car-park speeds; the turning circle, likewise, feels well-matched to the roomier new model.
The HR-V’s four-wheel disc brakes are nicely modulated and work cooperatively with the regenerative braking offered by the electric motor. Honda quotes the rotor sizes of the HR-V at 293mm (front) and 282mm (rear) on hybrid versions, with the petrol variant scoring 282mm disc all round.
For the purposes of climbing steep hills, the HR-V could benefit from more torque – it tends to labour on uphill slogs. Again, it’s the sort of trait you simply don’t notice in metropolitan traffic, or when cruising at freeway speeds.
But when the cabin is packed with passengers and their shackles, the HR-V is limited in just how much grade climbing it can offer, and we’d imagine the 89kW/145Nm petrol model would be even further challenged [incidentally, the petrol HR-V offers 3kW/3Nm less than the original 1.6-litre VTEC powered HR-V from 1998 and 16kW/27Nm less than the outgoing 1.8-litre range].
We found the continuously variable transmission to be relatively fuss free and decisive, and a key contributor to the HR-V’s exceptional fuel economy. Even faced with challenging country roads and higher average speeds than are usually favourable to “self-charging” (series-parallel) hybrid drivelines, the unit performed well, contributing to an impressive 4.8 litres per 100km on test.
Given the HR-V is only incrementally larger than the model it replaces, it’s intriguing to discover just how much more spacious it feels inside. The flexibility and practicality offered by the cargo area makes the HR-V a useful small SUV whose Magic Seats provide a level of utility most SUVs lack. The load area can accommodate between 304 and 1274 litres of baggage – depending on configuration – and is not penalised by opting for the hybrid variant.
There’s 35mm more rear-seat legroom than before… that may not seem like much, but the combination of 1047mm legroom up front and 1017mm in the second row demonstrates how spacious the HR-V truly is. Head- and shoulder room also feel incrementally larger than before, but we suspect the reprofiled roofline may play more of a role here than changes to the HR-V’s dimensions.
The cabin is also more premium than before in terms of fit-and-finish, with a lot of trickle-down styling and technology evident from the HR-V’s Civic sibling. The layout is sensible with hard buttons for commonly used functions and straightforward touchscreen menus. We found the tech interface in the HR-V logical and easy to use; the steering wheel buttons (to access the instrument cluster’s menu system and cruise control functions) were particularly user friendly.
The HVAC (heating ventilation and aircon) controls are, likewise, simple to operate and can be actioned without taking your eyes off the road. The climate control system is first rate, and the newly adopted outboard diffuser-style vents a terrific means of gently warming/cooling the cabin. The HR-V is further equipped with an electrically heated windscreen to minimise de-icing and defrosting times, and is far more effective than warmed air alone.
We found no issues with the functionality of the touchscreen infotainment array: the wireless Apple CarPlay tech works well and Bluetooth telephony is clear. Less so was the HR-V’s AM reception which is necessary when travelling outside of the metropolitan area where FM and DAB coverage is lacking.
The mechanical seat adjustment feels at odds with the otherwise high level of technology offered in the cabin, but provides an ergonomic and supportive driving position we couldn’t fault. The driver’s seat is generally comfortable, even after long stints at the ‘wheel and, aided by the sweptback windscreen and door-mounted wing mirrors, contributes to excellent forward visibility.
But the HR-V is less easy to see out of when reversing, the thick C-pillars leave the driver to rely on the aft-mounted camera and cross-traffic system. The system is, thankfully, easy to use and we found it incredibly easy to get used to – like most of the HR-V’s technology, really.
We suspect the new HR-V’s boxier styling of is a nod to the original High-riding Revolutionary Vehicle from 1998 and appreciate the more upright nose, longer bonnet and flatter beltline are in keeping with that theme.
Whatever the case, the HR-V is well screwed together with lustrous paint and uniform panel gaps we couldn’t help but pay attention to. The build quality of the HR-V is really quite exceptional, and helps to (somewhat) validate the price rise over the outgoing model. Time will tell if that means enough to the 5000 buyers Honda expects to purchase a HR-V over the next 12 months…
4th of May 2022
HR-V sales to halve as SUV moves upmarket
Honda Australia says higher price, model position will cut sales of its small SUV in two
31st of March 2022
Honda HR-V arrives from $36,700
Petrol and hybrid coupe-style HR-V to arrive with two specification levels
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