Hello again to Honda

AT last, Honda’s mojo is back with its charm­ing and like­able HR-V small SUV, re­ports NICK DAL­TON


THE coupe-like styled five door wagon is rolling out the show­room doors and putting a smile on the dial of buy­ers, sales­men and women.

It’s the best thing from the Ja­panese man­u­fac­ture for some time and adds the shine to the mar­que’s tar­nished rep­u­ta­tion in re­cent years as a builder of qual­ity and well en­gi­neered ve­hi­cles.

It paves the way for the new Civic due soon.

The car is in such de­mand that deal­ers are hid­ing their stock lev­els from each other.

This year it is fourth on the sales charts (3027), up 45 per cent on last year, be­hind Mazda’s CX-3 (4527), Mit­subishi ASX (4429) and Nis­san Qashai (3238).

DE­TAIL­ING Honda is on the warpath with the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion HR-V. The VTi base model is $26,990 drive-away with au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, a re­vers­ing cam­era, cli­mate con­trol air­con­di­tion­ing, elec­tric park brake, cruise con­trol, Blue­tooth phone and au­dio stream­ing, a seven-inch touch­screen, and 16-inch al­loys.

Th­ese are on top of the sex­tet of airbags, ISOFIX child seat latches, emer­gency stop sig­nalling, hill-start as­sist, sta­bil­ity con­trol, trac­tion con­trol, anti-lock brakes, elec­tronic brake-force dis­tri­bu­tion and a tyre de­fla­tion warn­ing sys­tem.

The re­view ve­hi­cle was the VTi-L – an­other $10K – and fin­ished in a classy metal­lic bur­gundy hue.

It has big­ger 17in al­loy wheels, pad­dle shifters, leather seats, heated front seats, eight way elec­tri­cally ad­justed driver’s seat, panoramic sun­roof, rear tinted glass and front and rear park­ing sen­sors.

Be­ing based on the lat­est Jazz light-car plat­form, the Thai-built Honda has a low rear floor sec­tion as a re­sult of a repo­si­tioned fuel tank and the ac­com­pa­ny­ing trade­mark Magic Seats.

It be­comes a van in just one tug of a lever.

An­other sur­prise fea­ture is HR-V’s re­motely-con­trolled elec­tric win­dow sys­tem.

In­side the HR-V is in­cred­i­bly roomy.

The lug­gage area fea­tures a low load­ing sill as well as wide cargo floor for a proper wagon with the rear seats folded – 1032 litres in to­tal.

There’s also plenty of legroom in the back, helped by a partly re­clin­able back­rest and the airy en­vi­rons that the deep glass area of­fers.

In the front it is con­tem­po­rary and swanky with pi­ano black trim, a large cen­tral touch­screen, and con­trast­ing metal­lic sur­faces.

The dash­board and raised cen­tre con­sole look and feel far more ex­pen­sive and mixes func­tion­al­ity with aes­thet­ics, high­lighted by su­perbly clear ana­log di­als that sur­prise with the outer ring glow­ing green, blue or pur­ple depend­ing upon the driv­ing style, plenty of stor­age, clever multi-ad­justable drink hold­ers, ex­cel­lent ven­ti­la­tion and a great driv­ing po­si­tion.

How­ever, there’s nowhere that re­ally fits mo­bile phones, wal­lets or sun­glasses.

There is no volume knob for the sound sys­tem and it was bet­ter to use the steer­ing wheel con­trols.

DRIV­ING Honda makes strong en­gines and the free-revving 105kW/172Nm 1.8-litre twin­cam four-pot petrol/ con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sion (CVT) combo is no ex­cep­tion.

It is rea­son­ably quick off the mark and slews be­tween ra­tios.

The i-VTEC vari­able valve tim­ing unit is dis­tinctly quiet when cruis­ing but when pushed can get rowdy as it takes on its sewing ma­chine per­sona as CVT trans­mis­sions are renowned for.

Over­tak­ing needs judg­ment too and it’s a pity there is no man­ual ver­sion. At least there are flappy pad­dles be­hind the steer­ing wheel.

The seats lack sup­port and feel flat both front and rear.

While the HR-V re­turned an in­di­cated fuel con­sump­tion av­er­age of 7.4L/100km, achieved both on the open road and in tight in­ner-ur­ban traf­fic over 415km, Honda sug­gests 6.9.

In­ter­est­ingly ri­val Suzuki Vi­tara achieved 6.3 a cou­ple of weeks ago.

Vi­sion all around is ex­cel­lent aided by the ex­pan­sive glass ar­eas. With an elec­tric rackand-pin­ion steer­ing sys­tem, the HR-V’s helm feels just about right for round-town ma­noeu­vres, but is a bit light and doesn’t pro­vide much feed­back be­yond the city lim­its.

It han­dles well for a SUV, with good com­po­sure and con­trol. Even­tu­ally it will turn wide through faster cor­ners (un­der­steer), but there is noth­ing sud­den or alarm­ing.

Ride qual­ity is sup­ple enough in most sit­u­a­tions.

Noise lev­els are gen­er­ally low, but road hum can be a prob­lem on coarse bi­tu­men sur­faces.

Honda’s capped-price ser­vic­ing is in­cluded as part of a three-year 100,000km war­ranty, and runs for five years/100,000km – which­ever comes first. Prices vary be­tween $284 and $298, and are due ev­ery 10,000km or 12 months – again, which­ever comes first.

HR-V is the first Honda to have ex­tended ser­vice in­ter­vals. More will fol­low.

DE­CID­ING The good value HR-V is a good look­ing, fru­gal and spa­cious city-friendly com­pact fam­ily wagon with a panel van-like cargo ca­pac­ity.

I’d opt for the base model VTi.

In favour are drive­abil­ity, styling, value, ver­sa­til­ity, econ­omy, per­for­mance, stor­age op­tions, cabin fin­ish, equip­ment and ride.

The CVT won’t be to all tastes and no man­ual op­tion will hurt sales. The lug­gage cover is flimsy as is the tail­gate han­dle, the touch­screen is fid­dly to op­er­ate and the seats are flat.

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