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Spacious, clever, handy Honda HR-V cries for extra poke

Honda’s HR-V SUV first hit the road as a neat three-door soft-roader way back in 1998. Then it disappeared for a few years, before returning as a slightly more sober crossover. This perhaps bolder third one now takes over and follows the latest SUV craze of pretending to be a coupe. Escaping reality, so to say.


Smaller in the flesh than it appears in pictures

Wide and low, our bold new metallic cloud blue HR-V seems smaller in the flesh than it appears in pictures. The completely reimagined HR-V benefits Honda’s contemporary minimalist design philosophy. That pops even more thanks to this Executive model’s gunmetal 18” alloys that bring a certain Touring Car racer zest to the party.

Step aboard to an upmarket, spacious, and minimalist cabin. Conventional, its pleasant and comfortable enough up front. There’s plenty legroom all round, and some cool touches. It’s a bit of a job to find the right driving position though. And while it’s chunky and pleasant to hold, the multifunction steering wheel isn’t quite as telescopic is it should be.

Moving to the back row, the versatile fold-flat and flip-up Magic Seat gains an additional two-degrees recline. That said, headroom is limited for adults back there. And the roof-mounted seat belt mount gets in the way of the right rear passenger’s head.


HR-V has a spacious, upmarket cabin

There’s also a hands-free Power Tailgate with Walk Away Close. That automatically shuts the gate on a wide, accessible boot when proximity key moved away from the car. Don’t talk to it while it’s moving though, or it will get confused and stop. The 319-litre boot might lack a few cubes versus some rivals, but that Magic seat certainly is a bonus.

The new Honda HR-V has a CarPlay, Auto and Bluetooth rich high resolution 8” touch-screen infotainment screen. It’s neatly integrated into the dash and backed by two USB sockets up front and two more in the back. There’s also a handy wireless charging pad ahead of a large centre cubby.

Somewhat sci-fi, Honda’s ‘man-maximum, machine-minimum’ approach happily means that there are still real buttons for the all the major climate and audio controls. But many other functions are buried deep in HR-V’s private cyberspace and will only operate when the car is in park.


Does it have the go to match the show?

The HR-V has unique Air Diffusion System climate control. L-shaped dash vents deliver a natural breeze to all aboard. Controlled by a tactile dial, this air curtain cools occupants in summer and keeps them cosy in winter. And it certainly works impressively well. All that under a Low-E glass tech panoramic roof, which reduces infrared by 75%.

Look around the steering wheel to find the start button to fire up the new HR-V’s old school 89kW 145Nm 1.5-litre DOHC i-VTEC 4-pot petrol engine. Honda calls it powerful. But that’s not quite true. In reality, this aspirated lump struggles in coastal climes. We’d hate to know how it goes at high altitudes. It turns the front wheels via a CVT ‘automatic’ gearbox.

It is reasonably efficient. But then again, several modern turbo rivals will handily beat this HR-V’s 6 litres per 100 km consumption and 144 g/km CO2 emissions. Pity. Honda has some really cool new generation turbo engines that would make this car a class-leading all-rounder.


Honda HR-V is big on safety

The new HR-V has disc brakes all round. Ventilated up front, solid discs at the rear. Add Vehicle Stability, Brake, Hill Start and Brake Hold assistants, and Hill Descent Control for the first time. Just in case you ever you find yourself slipping down the hillside in your front-wheel drive HR-V.

New HR-V is also big on safety. Its Advanced Compatibility Engineering shell is packed with six front, side, and curtain airbags. Honda’s Sensing active safety suite detects road surfaces and traffic day and night. To assist with the Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keeping, Road Departure and Collision Mitigation Braking assistants and Auto High-Beam.

The new Honda HR-V is fairly ordinary, but purposeful to drive. Which fits the crossover bill more than it does those bold styling suggestions. Its safety nannies can get your goat because they get in the way of spirited driving and are too difficult to extinguish. But its pleasant in the road.


Just one small step away from greatness

Spacious, comfy, clever, and practical, this bold coupe-like Honda HR-V certainly does hark back to its surfer-cool roots. It packs many a thoughtful touch, without any undue gimmicks, in a mature, sensible, and decent all-round package.

However, as bold, functional, and practical as it is, this local model suffers from a lack of grunt and sophistication under the bonnet. Not that there’s much wrong with that. But it does lack versus some snappier, sharper tacks in this market box, even if this Honda beats them is a good many other areas. – Michele Lupini

Images & data: Giordano Lupini

ROAD TESTED: Honda HR-V 1.5 Executive
Engine: 89 kW 145 Nm 1.5-litre petrol I4
Drive: CVT FWD
0-60 km/h:        5.50 sec
0-100 km/h:       11.58 sec
0-120 km/h:       16.01 sec
0-160 km/h:       31.36 sec
400m:             18.2 sec @ 128 km/h
80-120 km/h:      7.74 sec
120-160 km/h:     15.35 sec
VMax:             170 km/h
Fuel:             6.0 l/100 km
CO2:              144 g/km
Range:            670 km
Warranty/Service: 5y 200K/4y 60K km
LIST PRICE:       R609K
RATED:            7
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