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 Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING -

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.

Styling

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.

In­te­rior

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.

Safety

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.”

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