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