What's Hot: Super-flexible ‘magic seats' system; attention-grabbing styling.
What's Not: No air-vents for rear-passengers; no electric seat-adjustment.
X FACTOR: Car-like driving dynamics with vastly more practicality than a car.
Vehicle style: Compact SUV
Price: $$33,565 (with metallic paint)
Engine/trans: 105kW/172Nm 1.8 litre SOHC 4cyl | CVT auto
Fuel consumption claimed: 6.9 l/100km | tested: 8.5 l/100km.
Honda's new HR-V compact cross-over is the best thing the company has produced in a while.
That badge first appeared 14 years ago, then disappeared. Now it's back in a bigger car with a bigger engine, more space inside and a vastly superior drive.
The 2015 version is front-wheel-drive only (in Australia) and this time there is no 4WD version. We will however get a diesel version later this year.
Under the bonnet is a 1.8 litre engine that's good for 105kW of power and 172Nm of torque - not great numbers but up to the task in the small HR-V.
While the HR-V comes in four guises - all with a CVT transmission - we chose the top spec $32,990 VTi-L and its metallic paint lifted this to $33,565.
Quality: Honda's interior designers have put a lot of thought into their new baby and what they've come up with is a stylish interior with a satisfying, smart feeling inside.
The leather-appointed seat trim adds to the quality of the VTi-L's interior and its overall ambience, but some of the dash plastics are hard to the touch.
Comfort: The new Honda's cabin is, on the whole, a comfortable place to be.
While rear-seat passengers have a surprising amount of leg and head-room, this 185cm reviewer found front-seat legroom in the passenger's seat a bit restricted (even with the seat pushed right back).
The front seats though are well bolstered in all the right places and there is a little bolstering for the two outer rear-seat passengers. The middle rear-seat position is really only for little people and for short journeys.
Speaking of those in the rear, no air-vents is an omission.
On a hot summer's day - even with dual-zone climate control - would not be as comfortable as it might be if they could direct some vented air towards themselves.
Equipment: LED rear combination tail lights, LED auto headlights with LED daytime running lights, Honda's clever ‘magic seats' system, display audio system with Bluetooth connectivity and a seven-inch colour touch screen, a multi-angle reversing camera with three modes, smart entry with push button start, front fog lights, rain-sensing automatic wipers and roof rails.
Also on the menu is blind-spot monitoring, city-brake active system, a multi-function leather-wrapped steering wheel, 17-inch alloy wheels, paddle shifters, leather-appointed seat trim, a panoramic sunroof , front-and-rear parking sensors, a rear centre arm rest, privacy glass, dual-zone climate control ‘air' and chrome door handles.
In the entertainment/cabin-technology department, buyers can look forward to Bluetooth connectivity for Apple and Android systems (including audio streaming), a four-speaker AM/FM/single-disc CD, MP3/WMA-compatible audio system, an HDMI port and two USB ports.
There is no in-built satellite navigation. An oversight, for sure, but most of us now have smart phones, so, no great hardship
Storage: With the rear seats occupied, the HR-V is good for 437 litres of luggage space. This rises to a handy 1032 litres when the seat backs are folded flat.
The segment-best magic seats system the interior can be configured no fewer than 18 different ways.
Other storage cubby holes include five cup-holders, map pockets behind the rear-seat backs, four door-pockets, a deep glove box, a small bin beneath the centre arm-rest and a small under-floor tray in the boot.
Unfortunately, given the tough Australian sun, there is no roof-mounted sunglasses holder.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The new HR-V is a well-sorted little car, that, on the whole, rewards the driver in most situations and road conditions.
Despite the lack of power-assistance for the seat, the combination of manual adjustment and the height- and reach adjustment means a satisfactory balanced stance behind the wheel can be achieved.
The dash and controls are driver-focussed with the screen and stack-mounted controls angled towards the driver.
The CVT is not as good as some, but better than many, and it works harmoniously with the engine.
It does flare a bit under full-on acceleration - the revs leaping while the car gathers pace. It is swift enough for safe overtaking, and feels lively around city streets (though certainly not overburdened with power).
When driving in the hills, the CVT keeps things pretty comfortably in the meat of the torque band.
Like most small four-cylinder engines however, it can be a bit intrusive and ‘thrashy' when the revs get towards their peak.
Enthusiastic drivers however will enjoy the steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
Refinement: Honda has put a lot of work into minimising noise, vibration and harshness in the new car. There is new adaptive damper technology, new mounts and bushes and the inclusion of more sound-deadening materials.
Road noise on all but the coarsest of bitumen is comfortably low and conversation with other passengers does not require an increase in volume.
Ride and handling: Steering is well-weighted and responsive and the MacPherson-strut front-suspension set-up helps the car maintain a pretty flat cornering stance in all but the most enthusiastic driving.
What they do is modify the damping characteristics to harmonise with the driving conditions, giving a very good ride. It's clever and it would appear to work.
Braking: Stopping power comes from ventilated discs at the front and solid discs at the rear and there is also an electric park brake.
The HR-V has not been ANCAP tested but Honda says its in-house testing achieved the equivalent of an ANCAP five-star rating.
Safety features: ABS brakes, electronic brake-force distribution, traction-and-stability control, emergency brake assist, an emergency stop signal, front, side and full-length curtain airbags, a multi-angle reversing camera and a tyre-deflation warning system,
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km
Service costs: Service intervals are every six months or 10,000ks (whichever comes first) and capped-price servicing is available.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Nissan Qashqai 2.0Ti ($32,990) - At 106kW and 200Nm, the new slightly bigger Nissan offering has around the same power as the HR-V but around 25Nm more torque.
With a combined fuel-consumption figure of 7.7 l/100km, the Qashqai is a little thirstier on paper. (see Qashqai reviews)
Subaru XV 2.0i S ($36,990) - What the XV does have over the HR-V is all-wheel-drive. It is also more powerful and torquey than the Honda and slightly thirstier.
While the Honda's three-year warranty shuts down at 100,000ks, the Subaru's is three years unlimited kilometres. (see XV reviews)
Holden Trax LTZ 1.4 litre turbo ($29,990) - Like the HR-V, you have to access things like navigation via your phone. The little Holden offering has around the same power as the Honda but its torque is 176Nm compared with the Trax's 200Nm.
The Holden's warranty is the same at the HR-V's: three years/100,000km. (see Trax reviews)
Note all prices are Manufacturers' List Price and do not include dealer-delivery and on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The original HR-V, a bit of a boxy ugly-duckling, was nevertheless one of the first compact SUVs to make it onto Australian roads.
The new HR-V is a much more handsome little vehicle and one of the best cars Honda has produced.
Built in Thailand, it is stylish inside and out, build quality appears to be excellent and the VTi-L we tested comes reasonably well-equipped (although no sat-nav option is an omission).
Perhaps one downside, considering its trendy early-30s target market, is that we think the colour pallet is a bit on the conservative side.
All up, however, the sum of the parts of this HR-V adds up an appealing car, and a good one from Honda.
Despite some fierce competition in this segment, the HR-V has what it takes to be right up there.
Its big test will come in a few week's time when the Mazda CX-3 arrives in dealer showrooms.
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