The six months I have spent with the HR-V has quickly slipped by. My example was one of the first to hit UK roads and I was deeply interested in whether Honda could pull off this new model in its range.
There’s a definitely place on our roads for crossovers smaller than Honda’s own very successful CR-V. As such cars pump up in size with each successive generation, the current HR-V promises to be at least as effective as the original CR-V from 20 years back.
It now sensibly fills the gap between the ever-popular Honda Jazz and the CR-V, while sitting alongside the similarly-priced Civic. The HR-V makes massive sense on paper, too. It comes with all of the Jazz’s renowned versatility coupled to a high driving position and more space.
That means rear seats that fold like an origami toy, and deeply impressive packaging. To my mind I can’t think of any other manufacturer that manages to sweat so much volume for passengers and luggage from a car of this size.
The HR-V might look like compact off-roader, but the UK car market says that few buyers are interested in the additional costs of four-wheel drive. Thus, you get just the front-wheel-drive HR-V in the UK, and if you want automatic transmission, it has to be with the 1.5-litre petrol engine.
Our HR-V came with the 1.6-diesel coupled to a six speed manual transmission. Some years ago, I owned an Accord 2.4S with the sweetest gearchange you could imagine, and this HR-V comes close. The lever snicks satisfyingly through the gate, always easy and precise.
The engine has 120hp, which may not sound like a great deal, but diesel pulling power results in performance that is always in keeping with the whole ethos of the HR-V. Which means just fine, although not much fun.
The HR-V, for all its stylish looks, is actually a bit dull to drive. Everything works as it should, no complaints there, but this is the motor car as a dependable means of getting around, not one that you are ever likely to think “oh good, time for another drive in the Honda”.
This top-level HR-V EX comes in at £26,055 (a rise of £1,110 over the September 2015 launch price), plus £525 for metallic paint. It’s a fully-specced car, with Garmin navigation, smart entry and engine start, a full length panoramic opening glass roof, heated leather seats and LED headlights.
Arguably this is over-egging what is basically a straightforward crossover, one that makes more sense lower down the scale with the S and SE models that loiter around the £20k mark. The S gets Honda’s City Brake safety system that I didn’t need to utilise, thank goodness, but the Forward Collision Warning on the SE model and above is a really useful light/sound combination that strikes up when you get too close to the car in front.
There were two areas where the Honda HR-V irritated, and neither got better with long-term experience. First, the side windows, as expected, get fogged up on the outside on a cold day. On almost every car I know you simply power down the windows to wipe them clear. Not the HR-V. The design means the glass doesn’t touch the window seals so there is no alternative other than to the clean the whole lot by hand.
Secondly, the high-end media centre is frustratingly user-unfriendly. Multiple-layer menus, touchscreen buttons that often don’t respond and so on… It has all the signs of being designed by a bunch of techie kids, who play with their phones all day but don’t yet drive a car.
But let’s not let these things overshadow what is basically a very sensible family car. For those prepared to forgo the finer reaches of driving pleasure, this Honda HR-V works well on very many levels.