What’s Hot: Sophisticated, comfortable on-road, and spacious (with versatile 'Magic seat system')
What’s Not: Clunky infotainment, awkward rear door handles
X-FACTOR: A step ahead of other compact SUVs, a real segment-defining car.
Vehicle Style: Compact SUV
Price: $24,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 105kW/172Nm 1.8 petrol 4cyl | CVT auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.6 l/100km | tested: 7.8 l/100km
Compact SUVs are the ‘new black’ this year; manufacturers are falling over each other in the rush to join this fast growing segment.
Somewhere in the middle, Honda’s reborn HR-V aims to be a bit of everything. A lifestyle accessory that’s easy on the eye, versatile, but still compact enough to survive the city.
The HR-V is firming up as something of a favourite around the TMR watercooler.
We’ve spent some time in the upscale VTi-L model and came away impressed, but wanted to know if the more budget-friendly VTi could do the same.
- Touchscreen climate control, trip computer.
- Cruise control, electronic park brake.
- Honda Display Audio infotainment system, Bluetooth connectivity, USB input.
- Cloth upholstery, ‘Magic’ folding rear seat.
Step into the HR-V and the clean layout is impressively minimalist.
Both the audio system and climate controls are completely touch-screen activated, button clutter is removed, and the upright dash free from adornment, aside from the bank of air-vents facing the passenger.
Higher up the range there’s a glossy centre console, padded dash facing, and leather-wrapped wheel, but for the VTi it’s urethane on the wheel and dash and a low-sheen centre console.
A lapse in taste is the moulded faux stitching (you have to wonder...), but there’s no reason why the HR-V’s high quality surfaces shouldn’t pass the test of time.
Up front there’s plenty of width, great headroom and a commanding driving position. Some taller passengers wished for more rearward seat travel though.
Head to the back seat and it is surprisingly roomy. Long legged passengers can still stretch out, plus the Magic seat system means extra storage beneath the rear bench.
The sweeping rear door-line might cause some passengers to duck on the way in, but, once seated, there’s not much to disagree with.
Those high-placed hidden rear door-handles won't be much fun for the kids to reach up for though.
They might look sharp, but will stop the littlies from getting in by themselves (without help or a growth spurt).
We like the seven-inch touchscreen common to all in the range, but compared to some systems this one feels a little ‘old’. The interface is basic to look at and clunky to use.
Something as simple as pairing a new phone will have you reaching for the owner's manual every time.
The boot provides a yawning 437 litres of storage with the seats in place, or 1032 litres with them folded.
Honda’s clever Magic Folding Seat system also allows the interior to be configured 18 different ways, allowing a storage solution for tall things, or long things, or even downright enormous things, plus people - and is entirely fuss-free to operate.
ON THE ROAD
- 105kW/172Nm 1.8 litre naturally-aspirated petrol inline four.
- Continuously Variable Transmission.
- MacPherson strut front, torsion beam rear suspension.
- Electric power steering, 10.6m turning circle.
- Four-wheel disc brakes.
- 16-inch alloy wheels, 215/60 R16 tyres.
Honda has opted to keep the powertrain specification simple, with a 1.8 litre engine and CVT automatic the sole drivetrain for the HR-V range, at least for now. Likewise, front-wheel-drive is the only configuration on offer.
The single-cam engine is also what you’d call "simple" compared to its more technically sophisticated competitors.
Thanks to the help of Honda’s iVTEC, the naturally aspirated engine musters a reasonable 105kw at 6500rpm and 172Nm of torque at 4300rpm. Not blistering, sure, but a decent match to the demands of the HR-V in most situations.
Honda’s CVT auto also does a good job of acting like a regular automatic transmission. Around town it gets away cleanly and doesn’t suffer the ‘stretchy’ feeling of earlier CVT cars.
It isn’t perfect though, it doesn’t feel quite as clever as the same transmission in a Jazz or City. Part-throttle driving is fine, and kickdown feels strong, but give it some herbs and the transmission becomes droney.
Unfussed, calm, quiet progress is the order of the day with the engine management favouring lower engine revs, and little intrusion from road and wind noise, both of which are well-isolated.
Push hard and the engine can get pretty coarse, but that’s the only demerit-point to the overall refinement.
Ride comfort is exceptional; over most surfaces the HR-V is very composed and settled. There’s no bobbing or rocking, just a smooth comfortable progress.
Part of that comfort can be attributed to the VTi’s smaller 16-inch wheels and fatter sidewalls. The HR-V also utilises Honda’s amplitude reactive dampers - although it sounds like an adaptive system, it isn’t - but it helps quell smaller, high-frequency vibrations.
You’ll find a bit of body roll, although nothing excessive. The steering also feels a little disconnected, but it has a nicely judged weight making it stable at freeway speeds, but still responsive around town.
ANCAP rating: The HR-V has yet to be tested by ANCAP
Safety features: Standard safety kit includes six airbags (front, front side, full-length curtain), ABS, EBD, brake assist, emergency stop signal, stability traction control, tyre deflation warning, reversing camera and front pretensioning seatbelts.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
With more rivals arriving by the day, you’re spoilt for choice in this market.
If you’re looking at the HR-V you might also like to consider the roomy but less powerful Skoda Yeti, versatile but but plain Holden Trax or the down to earth Ford EcoSport.
More contemporary rivals include the funky Renault Captur and the sophisticated Mazda CX-3.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Honda’s new HR-V shows that the Honda of old is finding its mojo. A car with a high-quality feel and great comfort is exactly what Honda has been missing for so long.
Although it lacks some of the glitz of higher specced models, the HR-V VTi offers the same solid underpinnings, strong features and sharp value for money.
We wish Honda had been a little more family focussed and included ‘real’ rear door handles, and we’d also like an overhaul of the HR-V’s infotainment system. But those are minor things, when so much of the car is as impressive as it is.
If you’re looking for something with useable space, a compact footprint and tidy road manners, the HR-V is simply too good to ignore.
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