Re­turn to form

Based on the smaller Jazz, Honda’s HR-V is a bet­ter bet for small fam­i­lies

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Road Test - JAMES STAN­FORD james.stan­ford@news.com.au

THE first gen­er­a­tion HR-V was an odd­ball two-door all-wheeldrive hatch that couldn’t go far off road at all. No won­der it was killed off in 2002 af­ter less than three years on sale.

Honda is back with an all­new HR-V and this one is far more sen­si­ble. The en­gine drives the front wheels only, there are four doors and the body isn’t so high off the ground.

Honda built the HR-V on the base used for the small Jazz hatch, but it is big­ger, more so­phis­ti­cated and a bet­ter bet for small fam­i­lies.

The HR-V lines up against Mazda’s CX-3 and Mit­subishi’s ASX. The base model we’ve tested is more ex­pen­sive than most, but it also comes with more stan­dard fea­tures and an au­to­matic trans­mis­sion.

DE­SIGN

This is a good look­ing car, even in the base spec­i­fi­ca­tion, and it got plenty of pos­i­tive com­ments dur­ing the test.

Im­por­tantly, Honda has not tried to make the HR-V look like a shrunken off-roader. The in­te­rior is also taste­ful and a step up over the Jazz. It has a de­cent 7-inch screen in the cen­tre of the dash­board as well as a touch-panel cli­mate con­trol func­tion and a smart and easily leg­i­ble speedo and tacho with a ring that changes colour depend­ing on how you drive.

Some of the plas­tic feels hard and there are some cheap el­e­ments, such as the steer­ing wheel rim.

The HR-V has a vast amount of in­te­rior space, aided by the “magic” rear seats. The bases can fold up or the backs can fold down. They ac­com­mo­dated sev­eral 2-me­tre-long cab­i­net pack­ages bought at Ikea.

ABOUT TOWN

Un­like the base CX-3, the HR-V gets a re­vers­ing cam­era as stan­dard. The $24,990 VTi we tested uses a tra­di­tional flip key (no shame in that), but the next model up, the $27,990 VTi-S gets key­less en­try and start.

Au­to­mated city brak­ing, lane-keep as­sist and blind spot warn­ing is not stan­dard and not avail­able in a pack­age (it is stan­dard on VTi-S). The HR-V does have an elec­tronic park brake and the elec­tric steer­ing is light and makes ne­go­ti­at­ing tight spa­ces an easy task. The hatch has a well-placed grab han­dle. The lug­gage load cover is just fab­ric with a wire frame and it easily slides in and out, but it does look flimsy.

A con­tin­u­ously vari­able au­to­matic trans­mis­sion is stan­dard and it makes light work of city driv­ing.

Reg­u­lar sat-nav is not avail­able, but a smart­phone app can be viewed and con­trolled through the car’s head unit.

ON THE ROAD

Honda has had some hits and misses re­cently, but the HR-V is cer­tainly a hit when it comes to the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

It is one of the best com­pact SUVs for road­hold­ing and feels well planted. The steer­ing has been prop­erly mapped and of­fers lots of as­sis­tance but a rea­son­able amount of feel. The ride is on the com­fort­able side, but the body is still tied down nicely.

This is a front-drive car with min­i­mal clear­ance so there was no chance of off-road work, but we did put the car along some reg­u­lar dirt roads to check the bal­ance. It han­dled the chal­lenge with ease and was not up­set by cor­ru­ga­tions or slip­pery gravel.

PER­FOR­MANCE

The HR-V is not the most po­tent com­pact SUV. If get­ting around in a hurry is a pri­or­ity, look else­where.

That said, the 1.8-litre four­cylin­der en­gine is no slug, with 105kW and 172Nm of torque. Paired with the CVT step­less au­to­matic, it will push the lit­tle Honda around at a rea­son­able rate. But if you want to get go­ing fast, say to go from a stop to high­way speeds, it seems a bit anaemic.

It seems rel­a­tively smooth and quiet in most driv­ing con­di­tions, but if you push it hard, it sounds like it may ex­plode (don’t worry, it doesn’t).

Honda could make the drive much more en­joy­able with a bit

more torque. At least the en­gine and trans­mis­sion com­bi­na­tion is eco­nom­i­cal, with an of­fi­cial fuel econ­omy fig­ure of just 6.6L per 100km (although we used about a litre more per 100km on our test).

VER­DICT

It’s not the fastest or cheap­est, but the HR-V is a stylish and prac­ti­cal SUV that should win plenty of friends.

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Stylish and prac­ti­cal: The 2015 Honda HR-V

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