Ca­pa­ble ur­ban cruiser, but free­way loser

ROAD TEST/ Honda’s up­dated HR-V gets smart new looks but the gear­box spoils the party, writes De­nis Droppa

Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS -

In a com­pact cross­over mar­ket seg­ment burst­ing at the seams with some ap­peal­ing con­tenders, you need to be pretty de­cent to stand out. Honda’s HR-V has done so with its eye-catch­ing styling since its de­but here in 2015, and for 2018 it’s un­der­gone a midlife cos­metic re­vamp that re­ally cranks up the style.

Avail­able as be­fore in 1.5 Com­fort and 1.8 El­e­gance ver­sions, the HR-V now fea­tures the “solid wing face” that is be­com­ing Honda’s new styling sig­na­ture, with slim­mer head­lamps con­nected by a thick glossy bar across the grille. To­gether with a more ag­gres­sive front bumper and LED el­e­ments in the head­lights (LED day­time run­ning lights on the flag­ship El­e­gance ver­sion), the HR-V has an ul­tra-modern ap­pear­ance and wouldn’t look out of place as a prop in a Star Wars movie.

The restyle is topped off by smoked tail lights and new al­loy wheels — 16-inch ver­sions on the 1.5 de­riv­a­tive and 17-inch­ers on the 1.8 El­e­gance.

The up­grades come with 2.1% price in­creases, with the HR-V 1.5 Com­fort CVT sell­ing for R354,900 and the HR-V 1.8 El­e­gance CVT for R419,900.

The in­te­rior has also un­der­gone a re­vamp and up­graded equip­ment lev­els to create a more up­mar­ket feel but it’s still a mixed bag. The cabin vibe in the range-top­ping 1.8 El­e­gance I drove is gen­er­ally quite pre­mium and the car has leather seats, but for the R419,900 price tag I ex­pected the dash­board to have soft-touch plas­tic and not the hard stuff.

For a com­pact cross­over the HR-V is fam­ily friendly with its roomy cabin, which takes four tall adults with­out a squeeze. Honda’s unique Magic Seat Sys­tem al­lows a va­ri­ety of seat­ing and load car­ry­ing con­fig­u­ra­tions. The split rear bench seat can be folded for­ward to ex­tend the 393l lug­gage com­part­ment (with full-sized spare) to 1,002l, and the bench seat’s squabs can also be raised to create a cargo area be­hind the front seats.

Both Honda HR-V mod­els are well stocked, with elec­tric win­dows and mir­rors, re­mote cen­tral lock­ing, air con­di­tion­ing, cruise con­trol, a mul­ti­func­tion steer­ing wheel and a trip com­puter as stan­dard.

Both mod­els also have com­pre­hen­sive safety in the form of six airbags, ABS brakes, sta­bil­ity con­trol and hill-start as­sist.

With its slightly el­e­vated ground clear­ance and high­pro­file tyres the front-wheel drive HR-V is gravel-road ca­pa­ble even though it makes no pre­tence at be­ing an of­froad ve­hi­cle. The ride qual­ity’s fairly cushy and it scoots through turns with car-like agility, as be­fits its ur­ban cross­over sta­tus.

As part of the up­grade Honda im­proved the noise and vi­bra­tion damp­en­ing for bet­ter re­fine­ment, and for the most part the HR-V is a quiet run­ner, ex­cept for when the CVT gear­box sends the en­gine revs sky high in search of more power. This un­for­tu­nately hap­pens quite a lot when­ever the ve­hi­cle en­coun­ters a hill.

Where torque-con­verter or dual-clutch au­to­mat­ics are be­com­ing the in­dus­try stan­dard in most ve­hi­cles, Honda has de­cided to em­brace CVTs and this is the only trans­mis­sion it of­fers on the HR-V, in both the 1.5 and 1.8 de­riv­a­tives.

I have ex­pe­ri­enced CVT driv­e­trains that I’ve liked but this un­for­tu­nately isn’t one of them. Around town there’s not much to com­plain about and the power de­liv­ery’s smooth and un­ob­tru­sive, and the steer­ing pad­dles can be used to ef­fect more nat­u­ral-feel­ing man­ual shifts. But on the open road, as soon as climb­ing an in­cline or an over­tak­ing move is called for, the car hikes the revs and set­tles into an an­noy­ingly loud drone along with a dis­con­cert­ing “slip­ping clutch” ef­fect.

The trans­mis­sion re­ally doesn’t make the best use of the 1.8l petrol en­gine’s 105kW and 172Nm, and hav­ing those revs soar­ing like that isn’t great for fuel con­sump­tion ei­ther. Our test car slurped 8.7l/100km, which is way thirstier than Honda’s 6.8l claim.

The up­dated Honda HR-V makes a good case for it­self with its hand­some styling, fam­ily prac­ti­cal­ity, and a gen­er­ous dose of lux­u­ries and safety, even though it’s on the ex­pen­sive side Type: Four-cylin­der petrol Ca­pac­ity: 1,799cc Power: 105kW at 6,500 r/min Torque: 172Nm at 4,300 r/min Type: Con­tin­u­ously vari­able au­to­matic Type: Front-wheel drive with its price tag ven­tur­ing into the turf of larger ve­hi­cles like the Tuc­son and Sportage. It’s a pity the gear­box spoils the party be­cause there’s a good ur­ban SUV here burst­ing to get out.

THE HR-V IS FAM­ILY FRIENDLY WITH ITS ROOMY CABIN, WHICH TAKES FOUR TALL ADULTS WITH­OUT A SQUEEZE EN­GINE TRANS­MIS­SION DRIV­E­TRAIN PER­FOR­MANCE (claimed)

Top speed: 188km/h 0-100km/h: 10.1 sec­onds Fuel Con­sump­tion: 6.8l/100km (claimed), 8.6l/100km/h (as tested) Emis­sion: 162 g/km

STAN­DARD FEA­TURES

Elec­tronic sta­bil­ity pro­gramme, six airbags, ABS brakes, elec­tric win­dows, elec­tric mir­rors, cli­mate con­trol, leather seats, heated front seats, park­ing rear view cam­era, cruise con­trol, tilt/tele­scopic steer­ing wheel ad­just­ment, hill-start as­sist, re­mote cen­tral lock­ing, LED head­lights, auto head­lights, LED day­time run­ning lights, touch­screen au­dio sys­tem with Blue­tooth, rain-sens­ing wind­screen wipers

COST OF OWN­ER­SHIP

War­ranty: Five years/200,000km Ser­vice Plan: Four years/60,000km Price: R419,900 Lease*: R9,016 per month

The cabin gets a re­vamp but it’s still hard plas­tic on the dash.

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