2018 Honda HR-V EX-L Road Test and Review
(4 / 5)
The compact SUV market is not just full but saturated. And yet, more and more vehicles keep on getting crammed into the same market space.
The Honda HR-V, though, has been there right from the start. The first one was a blocky, angular, but somewhat appealing crossover, and in many ways the latest HR-V shares many of its positive attributes.
The new version is also built solidly and is very safe, but it some aspects it has moved the game on somewhat. The design is very modern, and it manages to pack a heap of room into a little car. It also asks that you pay for the privilege.
First thing’s first, let’s take a look inside. The cabin is one that’s a model of simplicity, but of very high quality. Of course, like every other subcompact SUV you can find cheaper plastics, such as the dashtop itself, but the grain offsets the plasticky look. Everything facing the driver, though, looks and feels high end (for this segment, mind you).
The design is aimed at creating a cockpit-like experience with the centre stack aimed at the driver, and the front seats are both heated and shaped very well. And while you may think they’re all leather, the company stipulates that they’re leather-appointed – again all to keep the costs down.
Honda’s party trick, however, is the second row. It is honestly one of the most spacious subcompact crossovers you’ll ever find. Got four adults to cart around? No problems. Even for those over six-feet tall, the HR-V will keep them happy. And the best part? There’s still room in the trunk for their luggage.
Open up the tailgate and you’ll get 15.4 cubic feet in the trunk, with 51.6 cubic feet when you fold the back seats down. And with its “magic seats” setup, it cleverly packages them away so you can make the most of the HR-V’s space.
You’ll find the HR-V is very well stocked as standard. The front driver’s seat is electric, there’s a huge sunroof, tyre pressure monitoring, LED headlamps with daytime running lights, front and rear park sensors, high-beam assist, Bluetooth for your tunes, sat-nav, USB, HDMI and the list goes on.
Pop the hood and you’ll find Honda’s 1.8-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine. There are no turbos, which is why it’s comparatively low in its outputs, but still, 140 hp and 127 lb-ft of torque is enough to get it up and going. And with variable valve timing, there’s a distinct change where it’s happier at the top end.
Matched to the engine is a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which seems to be all the rage these days. Interestingly, there’s a sport mode for the gearbox, but we’re not sure who would make use of that.
Also strange is the fact that the HR-V is equipped with paddle shifters which attach to the steering wheel. This crossover isn’t the kind of vehicle that is going to be driven with enthusiasm, so we’re not quite sure why this is offered. In fact, driven in Auto is the best way to experience the HR-V.
So, there’s just enough power to keep it ahead of traffic if need be, and it will hit 60 mph in under ten seconds. However, it’s much happier when not revving its head off. Rather, driven gently, the engine stays quiet and the whole experience is quite lovely.
Fuel economy isn’t too bad, though if it were a smaller engine and turbocharged, much like the Hyundai Kona, we’d bet it would be even better. On test we matched Honda’s claim of 26 mpg for around the city. Sure, you can do better, but in the real world, that seems pretty accurate.
There’s a bit of road noise from the HR-V’s 17-inch wheels but there’s also wind noise from around the bottom of the windscreen – we couldn’t quite isolate the root of this noise. Perhaps the wiper blades?
Turning into a corner and you find that Honda has given the HR-V excellent steering, with no torque steer to ruin the experience, and the weighting and feedback is nice and natural.
It will also take being thrown into bends as well, with a good chassis balance and nice, neutral handling. Of course, it’s not all-wheel-drive, either, which means there’s even more capability from more expensive models.
More importantly, it gets a five-star safety score from several organizations, meaning it will protect you and your occupants. Included in the active safety gear is traction and stability control, AEB, lane departure warning, forward crash alert and there are a heap of airbags, too.
There are two IsoFix points for attaching kids seats, the reversing camera has a bird’s eye view and there are guides and parking sensors which means it’s easy to back into a space. It’s also a small car so it’s quite simple to wheel into the tiniest of parking lots.
It’s quite easy to recommend the HR-V. It’s at its best in EX-L form thanks to the right balance of tech, safety and looks. Sure, it’s not the cheapest machine out there, and it’s only front-wheel-drive, but it will be dependable transport to keep you happy and safe for years to come.