New from the ground up, the HR-V is Honda’s interpretation of an affordable yet premium compact SUV. Tasked with battling with the likes of Nissan’s Qashqai and Mazda’s CX-3, the HR-V blends familiar Honda technology and versatility with bold design themes.
And while the ‘compact’ term is being bandied around, like the Japanese firm’s hugely popular Jazz supermini the HR-V is bigger than it looks. Boasting a spacious cabin, clever folding rear seats and an easily accessible load bay, it’s targeted firmly at families seeking an active yet upmarket lifestyle.
Look hard enough and you can see elements of Honda’s existing Civic and CR-V models in the design of this HR-V. This is a good thing, as it promotes a sense of corporate family values and the latest Honda design language is pleasingly bold for a once conservative company. That said, many Hondas are bought on the strength of reputation, which centres around dependability and reliability. There’s certainly more than a sense of those attributes in the HR-V.
Honda’s Jazz is a good demonstration of the supermini done right: spacious cabin, clever packaging and thoughtfully engineered details. The HR-V is no different, as it offers owners the same trick folding rear seats from the Jazz and a cabin large enough to accommodate a three metre long load. Elsewhere there’s more than enough oddment storage space, while head and legroom in the rear is easily a match for cars a class above.
Although famous for cars like the NSX supercar and Civic Type-R hot hatch, Honda doesn’t forget its bread and butter models when it comes to driver enjoyment. Weighty steering, good ride quality over a variety of road surfaces and a comprehensively adjustable driving position all help to ensure a HR-V driver will be a happy driver.
Key to the car’s appeal are its two engines, a familiar 1.6-litre diesel and new 1.5-litre petrol unit. The former is mated to a slick six-speed manual gearbox, while the latter can also be had with a city-friendly CVT auto transmission. The diesel turns the HR-V into a great all-rounder, as it’s just at home on the highway as it is chugging along in the city. In petrol guise the car is a good choice for predominately urban use and there’s no questioning the CVT gearbox’s role as a labour saving device for the morning commute.
Honda doesn’t ‘do’ bargain basement, but the HR-V strikes a good balance if you’re after a premium ambience for sensible money. Standard kit levels are high, with all bar the base model getting a flash-looking colour touchscreen as part of the infotainment system. Cabin build quality is well above average, while it’s hard to put a figure on Honda’s long-standing reliability reputation. Modest emissions and fuel consumption performance from both engines should also do wonders for your bank balance.
Honda loyalists keen to move up from, say, a Jazz or even a Civic will no doubt be pleased by the arrival of a suitable lifestyle-focused crossover displaying familiar attributes and packing proven comfort and safety kit. Even if you’re not an especially passionate Honda fan, it’s difficult not to be impressed by the car’s ability to offer above average levels of space despite its compact footprint and keep a firm lid on running costs. The car’s Germanic build quality is also worthy of note, yet it’s not short of visual character.
Engine: 1.6-litre diesel Power: 120bhp
Transmission: six-speed manual
Performance: Top speed 119mph, 0-62mph in 10.2 seconds
Economy: 68.9mpg combined
Emissions:108g/km of CO2