Eye-catching, elegant and fills the gap
BRIAN BASSETT takes all the short cuts he knows through the city in the new Honda HRV.
THE SUV and crossover market has expanded significantly both in the world and in South Africa over the past five years, and Honda, with its already successful CR-V and Jazz, has built a considerable reputation as a maker of good, durable and well-designed vehicles.
The Jazz is a favourite with retired people and the CRV serves families who can afford a larger SUV. What Honda did not have in the South African market until recently was a compact crossover that could compete with the likes of the Nissan Qashqai, Opel Mokka and Hyundai ix35 —a product which combined the best features of the Jazz with those of the CR-V at a realistic price. Enter the Honda HR-V (Hybrid Recreational Vehicle). My thanks to Gary Stokes, dealer principal of Honda Fury, Pietermaritzburg, for allowing me a few days to get to know the car.
Honda designers have ensured that the HR-V is distinctive. The exterior is eye-catching and elegant, with a design that blends together a sleek cabin and dynamic lower body.
The body shape and tapering rear windows add a sporty side profile complemented by reardoor handles integrated into the side windows, giving a sporty, almost coupé-like profile.
The sporty motif is carried through by the sharply cut swage lines along the body, which provide decided agility and youthfulness to the overall design.
The HR-V is distinctively a Honda, with its bold, flowing wing design of the unified front grill and headlamps. Foglamps are built into the front bumper and punctuate the car’s feeling of toughness and durability. The rear is crisply styled with the large, molded tail-gate allowing easy access to rear storage space.
Access to the interior is easy with the hip-height seats. The overall impression is of spaciousness, quality and excellent ergonomics.
The use of quality, soft-touch surfaces subtly accented with brushed-chrome highlights provides a premium ambience. The cockpit has a sports-car like enveloping feel, with a high deck console that houses the automatic gear lever. The combination of analogue dials and digital information readouts provide adequate, but not overwhelming driving information, with a lighted floating ring around the speedometer that indicates by changing its colour whether the driver is driving economically or not. The dashboard is framed by the multi-function steering wheel with flappy paddles, which are fully adjustable, and control the usual radio and Bluetooth functions as well as the cruise control. A central touch screen in the upper dash is a useful information tool.
The four-speaker radio/CD/ Aux system has plugs for all your electronic toys. The interior houses four adults easily, five with a slight squeeze. The HR-V also has the so-called “magic seat” system which made the Jazz so well-liked and the boot provides 393 litres with all seats in place and 1 006 litres to the window line with the rear seats folded away in 60/40 fashion.
The HR-V is a car for young families and those who need a little more than the Jazz. Therefore it has the whole alphabet soup of safety devices including ABS, EBD, EBA, Vehicle Stability Assist, Hill Start Assist, Auto Brake hold and a whole lot more. If you are like me, you will spend a little while looking for the electric hand brake. I am old enough to be used to a conventional hand brake and as with most things electronic, I am a little nervous. Like most cars these days, the HR-V has central locking, speedsensitive locking doors and an alarm that wakes the neighbours when my two well-fed cats decide to jump onto the vehicle in the middle of the night.
The HR-V also has six front, side and curtain air bags, and seatbelts for all, with IsoFix child-seat anchors. It also has a five-star Asean-NCAP rating and so is safe for family consumption.
Performance and handling
The HR-V Comfort CVT is a pleasant and inviting car to drive. I liked the high ride, which makes parking and manoeuvring in the city easy, and the four-cylinder, 1,5-litre, 88 kW/145 Nm engine puts out enough power to move you out of danger if necessary.
Cruising on the highway is also pleasurable as the kick-in gear provides enough power to pass easily any articulated vehicle. On D roads in the Midlands, the HR-V is stable, even at speed. The CVT gearbox is so smooth that you are not aware of gear changes and sound proofing is good.
I was tempted to take the HR-V off-road, but for that you need a CR-V and most people do not take their cars on Camel Trophytype rallies, the riskiest we get is the school run. Performance is SUV-like, with the 0-100 km/h coming up in about 12 seconds and a top speed of 180 kmh.
Fuel consumption is difficult because so much depends on how and where you drive. The manufacturers suggest a consumption of 6,2 l/100 km, but the vehicle I drove suggested that I was getting more like 7,9litres.
Costs and guarantees
The 1,5 Comfort will cost you R299 900, or just over R300 000 with on-road costs. The 1,8-litre i-VTEC due later this year is likely to be around R355 000. The car comes with a three-year or 100 000 km warranty and five-year or 90 000 km service plan. Services are every 15 000 kms. This is one of the most hotly contested segments of the South African car market, so negotiate and also look at the Kia Soul 1,6 Start Automatic, the Ford Ecosport 1,5 Titanium Powershift, the Toyota Rav4 GX CVT, the Nissan Qashqai and the new Renault Captur (see page 6), to name but a few.
“Cruising on the highway is also pleasurable as the kick-in gear provides enough power to pass easily any articulated vehicle. On D roads in the Midlands the HR-V is stable, even at speed. The CVT gearbox is so smooth that you are not aware of gear changes and sound proofing is really good.”