The first ever crossover SUV to be introduced in the country is back. Now with far better looks, more power, state-of-the-art features and excellent fuel economy, the all-new Honda HR-V aims to stake its claim on the growing demand for compact SUVs.
The HR-V, which stands for Hi-Rider Revolutionary Vehicle, was first introduced in the Philippines back in 1998 to serve as a smaller but equally competent alternative to the CR-V. Back then, the HR-V, which was marketed as the “Joy Machine,” didn’t get much attention as the small SUV segment had just been established and demand for compact or cross-over SUVs was quite small. In 2006, the model was discontinued. Nine years later, and with the growing demand for crossovers, the HR-V has returned.
Immediately after the HR-V was launched a fortnight ago, Honda Cars Philippines Inc. organized a ride-and-drive event for motoring hacks to prove how good the second-generation HR-V really is.
Using six spanking-new units of the HR-V, the group began with its jaunt toward the western-most part of the Luzon island in Bolinao, Pangasinan. The trip going to Pangasinan covered a total of 380 kilometers through EDSA, the Northern Luzon Expressway, westward via the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway and then north again over the undulating Zambales highway until we reached the province of Pangasinan.
Honda said the all-new HR-V was built on the brand’s strengths that include efficient interior space, top fuel economy and class-leading standard features. The claim seems to be true as the units we drove, did in fact, possessed all three, and then some.
The all-new HR-V is said to share the same platform as the Honda Jazz. It is just about a foot shorter, almost two-inches narrower and three inches smaller in height than the CR-V. Although smaller in most aspects, the HR-V’s wheelbase is only a tad shorter that the CR-V. Actually, it is only one centimeter shorter. One glaring exception though is its ground clearance. The HR-V can clear objects as highs as 18.5 centimeters while the CR-V can only clear 17cm.
Just like the Jazz, the HR-V has enormous cargo space, thanks to the fuel tank cleverly hidden between the main-frame channels and forward of the rear axle. With the seats folded up, the HR-V can accommodate 393 liters of cargo. Fold the seats down and the cargo capacity increases to a whopping 1,665 liters.
Outside, the HR-V looks very appealing. Actually, in my honest opinion, it looks more dynamic than the CR-V. From the side, the character lines sweep upwards to give it that moving look. It also has cleverly hidden rear door handles that make it appear like a coupe.
Under the hood is a 1.8-liter iVTEC engine that is the same with the standard Honda Civic. It has maximum power of 141 PS and 172 Nm of torque, making it capable of pulling the car, together with five passengers, with ease.
The unit we drove had a 7-speed CVT automatic transmission that shifted smoothly and precisely all throughout the drive. The Sport mode and paddle shifters also worked well as there was very little lag whenever I played up or down the gears using the paddles.
The HR-V also has an ECON button that has three modes of operation; gas pedal travel is reduced between 10 percent and 60 percent, cruise control maintains speed less aggressively on uneven terrain, and the airconditioning operation is more economical.
Providing comfort for the HR-V passengers are the McPherson struts in front and the torsion beam and coil spring suspension at the back.
A first for Honda in this segment is the HR-V’s electric parking brake. Engaging and releasing the park brakes can easily be done with just a flick of the switch. Other exciting features include the Hill Assist and Auto Brake Hold that works well in the traffic-bogged streets of Metro Manila.
All HR-Vs will come with 17-inch alloy wheels and 215/55 R17 tires. The Modulo and Mugen versions have 18-inch wheels shod with 225/45 R18 tires.
A joy to drive
Living up to its 1990s marketing slogan “Joy Machine,” the HR-V was indeed, a joy to drive. Driving along the expressways was particularly fun as the light body of the crossover enabled the 1.8-liter engine to pull it up to speed in just a short amount of time. With highly spirited driving in and out of the highway, we traveled at an average of 10.9 kilometers for every liter of fuel. Not bad considering our revs were mostly stuck in the 3,000-rpm range.
The experience became more joyful as we traversed the undulating Zambales highway. With lots of tricycles and slow moving vehicles along the highway, the HR-V proved competent in quickly getting up to speed for a safe overtaking maneuver, and at the same time, come to a complete stop, whenever a trike driver suddenly decides to merge into the highway straight from the shoulder.
The HR-V’s electric steering was also a delight, providing a well-weighted feel and good road feedback. During the typical road ruts, the HR-V maintained its ride stability without feeling any stiffness. The suspension system provides a smooth, low-noise ride all throughout. The tires, however, is a different story. The 17-inch fires fitted on the regular variants provide a soft and confident ride. The bigger tires shod on the Modulo and Mugen versions were quite noisy, though. Even in the NLEX, the tires transmitted unwarranted road noise inside the cabin, making it hard to listen to music or even talk with the passenger seating at the back.
The instrument cluster is well placed and provides a range of information while the dash is easily accessible and simple to operate.
The HR-V has a two-level high center console with USB outlets below. It also has a sliding armrest with a storage space underneath.
In the back seat, passengers will be surprised with the extra knee and head-room the HR-V has. In fact, the space at the back seats is more spacious. The 60/40 seats in the back fold flat to provide enormous space for cargo.
Even in heavy traffic, the HR-V proved to be a joy to drive. With the Auto Brake Hold, a driver does not need to step on the brake pedals the entire time while waiting for the car in front to move forward. With the system on, the car automatically holds the brake in the engaged position, and will only release it when the gas pedal is depressed.
Even though the price of the HR-V is only a bit lower (although a higher specced model would cost more) than the CR-V, the HR-V for me has better value for money as it has ample power, newer features, better flexibility and more fuel efficient.