Back in 1998, Honda introduced the HR-V, a small crossover to slot under the CR-V. The idea of the HR-V back then didn’t really catch on as well as they would have hoped, but something tells us that wont be the case for the new generation HR-V, fresh off its launch from Honda Cars Philippines Inc.
The first thing we noticed about the HR-V was its size. Contrary to popular belief, the HR-V is not a direct competitor of the EcoSport. The HR-V is based on a stretched Honda Jazz platform and is thus significantly smaller than the CR-V, measuring in at 4,294 millimeters long, 1,772 mm wide and 1,605mm tall. The HR-V’s size pits it squarely against the Subaru XV and the Mitsubishi ASX.
In terms of looks, the HR-V is definitely one of the freshest in its category as Honda designers developed it around a Dynamic Cross Solid design concept. The front-end is unmistakably Honda with the headlights, grille and radiator intake all forming one continuous shape, and gets accented by numerous creases and elements to give it a futuristic appearance. The profile of the HR-V is rather coupe-like, given the sloping roof that tapers down at the back, not to mention the fact that the rear door handles are blended with the C-pillars. The small crossover is finished with a shapely tailgate with modern taillights. One thing I noticed is how the ground clearance wasn’t as high as I would have thought, though it is tall enough to clear most urban obstacles and rocks.
Pop the door and a rather premium interior is revealed. The first noticeable aspect of the cabin is its width; unlike the EcoSport or even the XV, the HR-V is rather spacious, laterally. The rear seats are relatively low and not as upright as other crossovers, but they are very comfortable. There’s plenty of rear legroom and, like the Jazz, the Honda HR-V has the ULT seat configuration to accommodate maximum cargo with the rear seats folded down (Ultra mode), long items with the front passenger and rear passenger seats folded down (Long mode), as well as tall items like potted plants with the rear cushions folded up.
The surfaces, the overall look and the details all contribute to the clean look of the cabin. The steering wheel adheres to Honda’s signature design with the leather wrap, the round directional switches and other buttons. There’s a massive center console that rises up from the floor with the shifter bar for the transmission, the cupholders with small foldable trays and an armrest with another small compartment inside. Under that console are the electrical ports such as the 12-volt socket, the USB input and even the HDMI input.
Powering the new HR-V is a 1.8-liter Honda R engine, a derivative of the motor found in the mid-grade variants of the Civic. The SOHC 16-valve i-VTEC R18A1 makes 141 PS at 6,000 revolutions per minute and 172 Newton-meters of torque at 4,300 rpm. Unlike its contemporary in the all-wheel drive Subaru XV, the HR-V being offered locally is purely front-wheel drive and comes with a continuously variable transmission with the Earth Dreams technology for better efficiency.
In urban areas, the HR-V drives with surprising confidence and refinement, something uncommon when it comes to small vehicles. Noise in the cabin is kept very well in check, even when side by side with the loud motorcycles and public utility vehicles common in the metro. One feature we were able to truly appreciate in traffic was the electric parking brake, a function that allowed Honda to install an automatic brake hold, enabling the driver to lift off the brake pedal in stop-and-go driving.
Impressive fuel efficiency
In terms of urban efficiency, the new Honda crossover delivers. At an average speed of 22 kilometers per hour (light traffic) and with Econ mode activated, the HR-V was doing 9.4 kilometers per liter that are exceptional figures. At a slower 18 kph average speed, the HR-V was doing 8.6 kpl.
On highways, the HR-V exhibits its long distance manners. The continuously variable transmission (CVT) is smooth and quiet, with that signature whirr of similar transmissions being effectively suppressed. Wind noise is kept out of the cabin too. For this kind of cruising, the CVT is best kept in D for efficient driving which, at an average of 89 kph, is at 13.8 kpl with three persons aboard.
When taken on provincial roads, the handling that Honda has always been known for came through. Overtaking slower vehicles is a cinch with the body control afforded by the suspension system. The steering may be electric and not as communicative as hydraulic units, but it’s accurate and easy to drive around at speed. Should you make a mistake and enter a corner too hot, take comfort in the fact that the HR-V has anti-lock brakes, electronic brakeforce distributor and stability control.
The 2015 HR-V will be an extremely important model for HCPI, a crossover full of potential in a market where crossovers are very viable given a persistent problem with debris and quick urban floods that would leave many cars stranded.
The new generation HR-V starts at P1.190 million to P1.340 million for the EL variant. The unit Fast Times tested is the mid-grade version, retailing for P1.230 million. The pricing, design and features have made the new HR-V very popular and there are reportedly long queues at Honda dealerships to get one.