What’s Hot: Spacious rear seat, comfortable suspension, sharp interior design.
What’s Not: Doughy CVT, flimsy parcel shelf, no integrated sat-nav.
X-FACTOR: Honda's HR-V shows other compact SUVs how it's done.
Vehicle Style: Compact SUV
Price: $24,990 to $33,990
Engine/trans: 105kW/172Nm 1.8 petrol 4cyl | CVT auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.9 l/100km | tested: 9.1 l/100km
Small SUVS are making a big impact on the Australian motoring landscape.
With sales growth in the category far outstripping other segments, it's fair to say that impact is only going to get bigger.
And there's a steady stream of new arrivals. The Mazda CX-3 isn't far away, the Renault Captur has only just touched down in Aussie showrooms, and this week it's the Honda HR-V's turn to make its sales debut in Australia.
The HR-V nameplate has been here before, of course. It was only on sale for two years, between 1999 and 2001, but it was one of the first true monocoque compact SUVs in Australia.
However, being a pioneer is no guarantee of success. Petrol was cheaper back then, and car buyers were still “living large” in bigger SUVs and sedans.
But times have definitely changed, and so has the HR-V.
Now based on the Jazz platform and available solely with a front-wheel drive automatic drivetrain, the new HR-V puts Honda in prime position to capitalise on Australia’s growing appetite for compact SUVs.
We travelled to Tasmania to drive it for the first time, and were pleasantly surprised by what greeted us.
- VTi: Climate control, cruise control, trip computer, USB audio input, Bluetooth connectivity, Honda Display Audio infotainment system, cloth upholstery, electronic parking brake, power windows.
- VTi-S adds: Dusk-sensing LED headlamps, front foglamps, rain-sensing wipers, autonomous emergency braking, keyless entry and ignition, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear lever, Lanewatch camera system.
- VTi-L adds: Leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, front and rear parking sensors, rear armrest, panoramic glass sunroof, auto up/down windows, heated front seats, power-folding wing mirrors.
- Luggage space: 437L minimum, 1032L maximum.
But the design and materials used in the HR-V's interior are a cut above. It's a premium cabin, and a very pleasant place to be.
The design is thoughtful and ergonomically sound. The centre console is high to give support to inboard elbows and to position the gearshift closer to the driver's hands, and there's a small cubby below for wallets, keys, phones and other junk.
There are soft materials on the doors rather than hard plastics, and the leather upholstery of the VTi-L range-topper isn’t bad.
Even the base model feels upmarket, with capacitive touch controls for the single-zone climate control system as well as subtle chrome accents.
The 3D detailing on the speedometer also adds to the premium feel of this cabin, and the cupholders cleverly fold to accept larger or smaller cups and bottles with ease.
All models get a seven-inch touchscreen that can display map info from a Honda-sanctioned navigation app, but it only works with iPhones, costs $39 to purchase and relies on a data connection to function.
And it’s the same system on all models, even the $32,990 VTi-L. A proper integrated sat-nav simply isn’t available in the HR-V range.
Otherwise the HR-V is well specced, with standard-fit reversing camera, electric park brake, cruise control and Bluetooth.
Mid and high-grade models get LED headlamps, autonomous emergency braking and rain-sensing wipers.
As far as comfort goes, the HR-V achieves an average score.
The hip-point for the front seats is high and makes it easy to slide in and out, and forward vision is decent. However, the seat squabs are short and under-thigh support isn’t terribly generous as a result.
The back seat is quite spacious though, with plenty of leg, knee and shoulder room for a couple of adults.
The sloping roofline does eat into rear headroom, but unless you’re a basketballer you should find enough space for your noggin in the back of a HR-V. It’s comfortable enough, but there’s still a little room to improve.
The HR-V also boasts the same Magic Seats system found in the Jazz and Civic Hatch, which allows the rear seatbacks to not only fold down, but for the rear seat squabs to fold up.
Tall items can then be carried in the space immediately behind the front seats, using the full height of the cabin.
The boot floor is also quite low, while the hatch opening is wide to facilitate loading. With the rear seats up you can cram up to 437 litres of cargo back there, 1032 litres with the seatbacks folded down.
The cargo cover is a flimsy piece of stretched fabric though, which is frustratingly fiddly to remove and replace, and doesn’t move upwards when the hatch is opened.
ON THE ROAD
- 105kW/172Nm 1.8 litre naturally-aspirated petrol inline four
- Continuously Variable Transmission, paddle shifters on VTi-L
- MacPherson strut front, torsion beam rear suspension
- Electric power steering, 10.6m turning circle
- Disc brakes all around
The HR-V’s 1.8 litre engine and CVT automatic might not rouse your adrenal glands, but the combo works well enough for day-to-day driving.
However, with just 105kW and 172Nm, the single-cam engine (shared with the Civic hatch) doesn’t have an overabundance of oomph.
Overtaking on country roads takes some planning as a result, ideally with the added safety of an overtaking lane.
The CVT can be a little slow to respond to demands for more power, and is far too keen to dial up a tall ratio. It's obviously tuned for economy, but in hilly areas its constant ratio-shuffling can be an annoyance.
The suspension is hard to fault though. It's soft and allows a bit of body-roll, but only the harshest bumps will use up enough suspension travel to unsettle it.
Around town it delivers a comfy and settled ride, while on country roads it easily soaks up large undulations and small potholes.
The electric power steering works well, with a linear feel and little notchiness around dead-centre. The turning circle is 10.6 metres - not super-tight, but certainly tight enough for urban duty
Whether on the 16-inch or 17-inch alloys, road noise is acceptable. More importantly, ride compliance does not seem to suffer much on the bigger wheels.
ANCAP rating: The Honda HR-V has yet to be tested by ANCAP
Safety features: Standard safety equipment comprises six airbags (front, front side, full-length curtain), ABS, EBD, brake assist, stability control and traction control.
VTi-S and VTi-L models gain autonomous emergency braking (which can help avoid collisions at speeds below 32km/h and above 5km/h), as well as a wide-angle camera that monitors the lane to the left and is activated whenever the left indicator is tripped.
Go for the flagship VTi-L ADAS and you also get a forward collision warning system, lane departure warning and auto highbeam.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Renault Captur and incoming Mazda CX-3 are the most direct rivals in terms of size and fit-out, but don’t discount the established Holden Trax, which has been the segment sales leader for a while now.
Honda also regards the Nissan Qashqai as a rival, but in truth it’s a size bigger than the HR-V and can’t compete on price.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Honda has come up with a winning formula with the compact HR-V. We think buyers will like this car.
It’s impressively well-finished for an entry-level SUV; you could easily be forgiven for thinking it costs more than it actually does.
For Honda, the HR-V is the right product at the right time. It’s easily one of the best (if not the best) in the compact SUV segment.
If you’re considering downsizing into a smaller SUV or up-sizing into something a little taller than the average hatchback, put the Honda HR-V at the top of your list.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- 2015 Honda HR-V VTi - $24,990
- 2015 Honda HR-V VTi-S - $27,990
- 2015 Honda HR-V VTi-L - $32,990
- 2015 Honda HR-V VTi-L with ADAS - $33,990