Honda’s dinky SUV seems to be selling reasonably well, despite featuring in a busy and competitive sector that’s chock a block with cheaper rivals. Does it make sense to plump for a model with a respected brand but expensive price tag… or is it purely a simple case of you only get what you pay for?
The all new HR-V has been with us for a little while now, and if you keep your eyes open, you’ll spot a good few of them nipping about here and there. As is the case with all Honda cars, they could never be regarded as cheap, but rightly so as they all bristle with technology, offer a well equipped environment to tootle around in and of course… seem to have a level of engineering solidity and reliability pretty much second to none. Having worked in and around the motor trade for well over 25 years, I have yet to meet anyone who’s had a bum-steer with a Honda – their reliability record could have been hewn from granite. The problem is that no-one today builds a poor car and rivals from Korea namely Hyundai and Kia are muscling into volume sectors with ever better products – brand snobbery is a dying fashion these days.
Having spent a week behind the wheel of a diesel HR-V SE (one down from top of the range) I can still see why more expensive small SUV’s still have a place in society. First thing of note is the utterly superb 1.6 i-DTEC power unit. Be it found in a Civic or CR-V it is in my view one of the finest plants on sale at the moment. Mated to a Honda 6 speed manual that features a well weighted clutch, the HR-V is a little bundle of joy to have at your command. A careful walk around the outside brings little to complain about in terms of fit, finish or paint quality – it is a Honda after all. The swathe line in the metalwork that rises up past the rear doors looks smart and stylish – if a little lost in the sheen of the white paintwork.
The only mumble about the exterior are the awkward to use (on the rear) and rather cheap feeling door handles. The front handles look chunky and shiny but are in fact just chrome covered plastic items while the rear ones are blended into the 3/4 panel and don’t fit right in the hand when you use it. That aside there’s nothing for either conquest or traditional Honda customers to complain about, it all seems as you would expect. On the inside the same applies but its sadly nowhere near as bold or stylish (in my opinion) as the exterior. The black cloth seats with black dashboard and black facia is just as uninspiring as other models from the likes of Volkswagen and Audi – when will Honda just grab the nettle and add a splash of colour into their interiors?
The dash features blacked out instruments that come to life once the key is turned and there’s a holographic effect to the speedo which I thought looked snazzy but the other half disliked. Its standard fare dual zone climate control has touch sensitive controls whereby you’ll find no buttons only symbols. This also looks quite novel and stylish but adjustments are difficult to make on the move – especially on a rough roads or when at speed on motorways. Too much time is spent looking at what your finger is doing because of the distinct lack of confirmative feel in comparison to prodding or pushing a traditional button. But the big speedo is readable at a glance and the digital fuel gauge readout seemed accurate and a comprehensive trip and vehicle computer predicts range, economy and average MPG – if a little fiddly to initially use.
Its lofty driving position is up there with the best thanks to a comfy seat, good visibility and grippy chunky steering wheel. But its not all good news. All the usual media inputs, USB ports and charging socket are of course all standard. but whoever signed off the positioning of them ought to be taken outside and horse-whipped. Why? because they’re well and truly buried behind the floor mounted console – its absolutely impossible to access them while driving. Even a passenger would be hard pushed to reach them without first removing the seatbelt, its a very poor design and its needs to be addressed – they could quite easily be located under the front centre cubby armrest. On the plus side its roomy, comfy and generally very refined. Occupants will be pleased at the leg and headroom of the HR-V, in terms of passenger space it makes a joke of rivals like the Juke and a mockery of the Mokka!
Round the back no complaints will come from those needing a decent boot. Seats down there’s 470 litres of space for your delectation but knock the backrests down to create an almost perfect flat floor and that figure leaps to just over 1500. Just as you find with other Honda models, the ingenious “magic seat” design means that not only do the rear seatbacks fold flat for maximum clutter clearance, but the squab cushion lifts and locks horizontal akin to being at the cinema. So this allows awkward shaped objects to be loaded transversely through the rear doors that open to almost 90 degrees while leaving the backrests in place – very clever indeed and yet such a simple idea that others are yet to cotton on to. Some other clever tech things include a speed limiter that reads traffic signs and accordingly reacts to it and Honda’s City-Brake system that prevents the car from hitting a stationary vehicle or object in an urban traffic situation.
Out and about the HR-V whips along with strong and punchy performance thanks to a hefty 300Nm of torque and 120Ps of outright power. So long as you don’t hammer the car mercilessly it remains refined, unfussed and remarkably frugal. Gear change quality is worthy of praise too – its short in action, light in required effort and swift with a smile inducing “click” noise as you work your way through the six speeds. I would like a chunkier gear knob though – it looks and feels like something you would find in an amusement arcade. The steering is nice to experience with a nice defined feeling at the rim and a very quick turn in with not too much body roll despite it sitting tall in stature. Actually, if you get overcome with the urge to hustle along a windy A-road the HR-V really does impress and that 1.6 gutsy engine means you can simply enjoy and point and steer without worrying about rowing it along on the gear lever.
There’s little to dislike about the HR-V in general. It does everything quite well but not much to really complain about. Besides my aforementioned gripes stated above, the ride can get a little bit restless at high speeds if not on a perfect surface, road noise in the rear gets high sometimes and the drivers seat had a slight creak during spirited cornering – apart from that, its a rather jolly little car that once you add up the features and the tech, you soon forget about the higher than average purchase cost. And of course don’t forget a Honda will always have better than average re-sale value… so its a fact… we still live in a world where we only get what we pay for!
AUTOBRITANNIA.NET Rating : 7/10
The Humble Opinion:
With good looks and impressive touches to safety and engineering its another well designed Honda. Despite its Jazz underpinnings, there’s no shortage of space and practicality – plus it has what many rivals lack… character. The HR-V is a difficult car not to like once accustomed to.
One or two items are far from perfect though. Some cost cutting can be felt here and there – the floor carpet is particularly cheap feeling. The positioning of the aforementioned media ports is nothing short of short-sighted and stupid… but nothing that cannot be dealt with by the manufacturer.
But a pleasing plus point I noticed was Honda’s fitment of a decent horn on the HR-V… a really loud and business-like two-tone affair rather than their usual type that emulates a kazoo in a marching Majorette band… PLEASE fit this to the Type R Civic too!
Its well equipped, its smart and stands out from the crowd… a cracking small SUV that only needs a nip here and a tuck there to really excel – pity the UK doesn’t get the four wheel drive version though… oh well you cant have it all.
Model Tested: Honda HR-V 1.6 i-DTEC SE
Price: £23,050 (excluding options)
Driveline: 1.6 16v turbo diesel & 6 speed manual gearbox with front wheel drive
Power / Torque: 120Ps with 300Nm
Performance: *0 – 60 in 10.2 seconds (119mph max)
Economy: *70.6 mpg combined (actual 58.9mpg on test)
Co2 / VED: 108G/Km / Band B = zero cost in first year after registration & £20 per year thereafter
* Govt or Manufacturers claimed data
WHATS HOT: Strong and gutsy performance – Good economy – Well equipped – Generally very refined – Impressive tech and safety kit – Clever and practical use of interior space – Strong and progressive brakes – Looks stylish – Easy and effortless to drive – Impressive and tidy handling
AND WHATS NOT: Cheap feeling exterior door handles – Dark and gloomy interior – Touch action climate control can be fiddly to use on the move – Very poor positioning of media ports and charge socket – Carpet feels cheap and thin.
EQUIPMENT HIGHLIGHTS: Dual zone climate – Traffic sign recognition – City Brake Programme – Wi-Fi mobile hotspot – DAB audio & satnav head unit – All round power windows – 17″ diamond cut alloy wheels – Auto lights & wipers – Power fold door mirrors.
For more information on HR-V CLICK HERE