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.