- Back after a ten-year gap, Honda's HR-V proves a more than competent performer, says Roy Woodcock
Back after a ten-year gap, Honda's HR-V proves a more than competent performer, says Roy Woodcock
As decisions go, I bet Honda lived to regret stopping production of the original HR-V back in 2005. It was the forerunner of the compact crossover and, shortly after their decision, the market began to explode.
Now everyone seems to want one. Young couples adore the sense of maturity and stability they represent ... they can easily carry kids to school, bring groceries home, and still provide enough space for a weekend run to B&Q.
Older couples appreciate they're easy to get in and out of and love their flexibility after packing away the child seats for hobbies that require a folding second row.
And even a single twenty-something, eyes closed, can see them as something akin to the sports car they've always wanted.
So today, every second car seems to be a crossover, whether large or small, and the segment has exploded with models such as Nissan's Qashqai and Juke, Renault's Captur and Kadjar; not to mention the quirky but popular Citroën Cactus and more mainstream motors such as Vauxhall's Mokka.
It's currently one of the hottest segments in the UK car market and continues to grow at a rate of about 50 per cent a year as new models are introduced – five new players in total this year.
So now, ten years after, Honda has returned to the market with a new HR-V. Late to the game maybe, but it's nothing short of brilliant.
It looks good, ticks all the boxes in terms of interior space and, most important of all, drives as well as a hatchback. The thing that kept striking me after a week with the car, was, Type R aside, why would I choose a Honda Civic over the HR-V?
It was very Civic-esque on the road, had the same levels of passenger and boot space, performed equally well and was less stressful to drive, thanks to the fact that it didn't have the inconvenience of a huge spoiler obscuring rear vision.
It majors strongly on those who value their lifestyles and are design conscious, and Honda anticipates 70 per cent of new HR-V customers will be conquest buyers from other brands, predominantly from the MPV and C-segment.
Inside, it offers class-leading interior space and, thanks to Honda's innovative Magic Seat system (think Honda Jazz), high levels of versatility. Bootspace is particularly impressive: The HR-V offers 470 litres of space with the rear seats up, beating perceived bigger cars such as the Citroen C4 Picasso (358 litres) and Nissan Qashqai (430 litres) and only just losing out to the 472-litre Renault Kadjar. The system can adopt one of three "modes" from the standard seating position –utility, tall and long. High-quality soft-touch materials and sophisticated design define the HR-V's interior where Honda's designers have married expansive spaciousness with the feel of a sporty, enclosed cockpit.
Under the bonnet, there's a choice of two engines – a 1.5-litre (130PS) petrol and a 1.6 common rail turbodiesel as fitted to my test car. With 120 horsepower and, importantly, plenty of torque it is expected to be the biggest seller.
Depending upon wheel size, efficiency is claimed to be as good as 70.6mpg, with CO2 emissions of 104g/km. My top-of-the-range EX model felt firmly planted on the road with, in spite of its high stance, very little bodyroll.
It seemed quicker, too, than the 10.5 seconds time quoted by Honda for the 0 to 62mph sprint, even when in Eco mode, where the car spent most of its time while with me. Fuel economy was impressive; way down on the quoted figures, for sure, but I still managed 54mpg across a week of driving (380 miles of all types).
Only front-wheel drive models of the car are available in the UK but there is the option, on some models, of a CVT auto transmission. That said, I was really impressed by the slick six-speed manual gearbox on my car.
There are four trim graders on this car: S, SE, SE Navi and EX. The entry-level model is well equipped, with 16in alloy wheels, parking sensors front and rear, climate control, heated door mirrors, body-coloured tailgate spoiler, CD player and DAB radio with Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control and all-round electric windows.
So, a winning package all-round. Expect Honda to play quick catch-up in the compact crossover stakes.
Model: Honda HR-,V 1.6 i-DTEC EX, manual
Price: £24,945 OTR. Range from £17,995