Driven: Honda's new HR-V crossover

JANINE VAN DER POST
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 HOT NEW SUV: Honda's new urban crossover HR-V has arrived in SA. Image: Honda SA ~ Supplied

CAPE TOWN - Honda has launched its new urban cross-over, the HR-V, in South Africa, and this time, says the automaker, its has all its ducks in a row.

The HR-V was first introduced in 2002 and sold in limited numbers until 2004. Honda says the engine specs weren’t ticking the right boxes fitted with a 1.6-litre unit.

The cars have been in the country since July and the automaker claims it has already sold 177 units locally.

PRACTICAL FAMILY RIDE

The HR-V is aimed at young families and is launched it two versions; the 1.5 Comfort (already available since July) and a 1.8 Elegance. 

The 1.5 litre Comfort version is equipped with halogen headlights, fog lights, roof rails and colour-coded trim. Inside there’s a cloth upholstery, soft-touch surfaces, front cupholders, door pockets, front armrest and illuminated vanity mirrors.


The 1.8 litre Elegance receives a number of upgrades such as new alloys, auto LED headlights with daytime running lights, leather trim, leather steering wheel, auto aircon, heated front seats and a rear armrest. The 13cm monitor in the Comfort version is replaced by a 18cm touchscreen display with reversing camera. 

STYLING

It certainly is a a good-looking crossover. The front end features tapered headlights framing a V-shaped grille and meshed lower air intakes. The large wheel arches adds to its rugged SUV traits along with slim roof rails.

At the rear there are large tail light clusters and what will aid shopping and loading the all the kids’ items a breeze is the tailgate which opens at bumper level.

IMAGE GALLERY: 2015 Honda HR-V

Because of its pronounced roofline curve, the car leans towards a coupé-like impression but the short overhangs, raised height and wide tracks say typical SUV. And the high driving position also gives off a commanding sense behind the wheel. 

HOW DOES IT DRIVE?

The 1.8 litre Elegance was available on launch and it’s a ravenous little creature with 105kW/172Nm. Fuel consumption is rated at 6.8-litres/100km thanks to stop/start functionality. The 1.5 litre unit has recently been upgraded and is the same engine found in the Ballade, Mobilio and Jazz with 88kW/145Nm, up from 81kW.

It’s mated to Honda’s constantly variable transmission (CVT) and according to Honda SA's Graham Eagle, motoring journos are the only people "who ever complain" about this choice. Eagle says the automaker's customers prefer autos and judging by the numbers so far, he’s probably right.

Honda says the CVT unit has been improved quite a bit and although I wouldn’t call it smooth and seamless, it’s definitely much better than before, but I still think a manual gearbox would really bring out all the glory of this new HR-V.

It’s still too niggly for my liking. At least it doesn’t feel like its constantly searching for the right gear as Honda's previous CVT units have in the past.

The CVT can be temperamental when driving aggresively but under normal conditions I’d call the 'box relatively quiet and does a sufficient job thanks to its wider spread of gear ratios. When overtaking you aren't left hesitating on the road as power delivery is smooth and readily available.

It handles really well and it’s a very comfortable drive, thanks to the “relaxed cockpit” and those seats are comfy enough to fall asleep in. The car felt quite at home on gravel roads too and I was rather disappointed that the route didn’t cater for more off-road driving.

SAFETY

The HR-V is packed with equipment such as an electric parking brake, combined with an auto brake hold function which is much-needed in Jozi or Cape Town traffic.

Honda says: “The electric parking brake is engaged via a switch on the centre console, and automatically releases when the accelerator pedal is pressed. The auto brake hold function engages automatically after the vehicle has been braked to a standstill, and the brake pedal is released. The hold function is disengaged as soon as the accelerator is activated.

“However, if the brake hold function remains activated for an extended period of time, for instance in a traffic jam, the electric parking brake will be engaged instead. Again, pressing the accelerator will then disengage the electric parking brake.” 

There are six air bags, head restraints, inertia reel seatbelts for all seating positions, and Honda’s advanced compatibility engineering (ACE) body structure. Driver assistance programmes include: anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution, emergency brake assist and emergency stop signal activation; vehicle stability assist, hill-start assist and a high-mounted LED rear brake light. 

MORE FROM HONDA

Honda new Civic Type R hot hatch will be launched in October 2015 followed by the much-anticipated NSX set to arrive during the first half of 2016.

WOULD I BUY ONE?

Without a doubt. It makes a great family car and with Honda's magic seats which fold upwards and has so many configurations, that alone wins me over. But it competes directly with Opel's Mokka and the HR-V wins hands down on all levels when it comes to comfort, space, looks and the driving experience. And boot space is key.

Prices

HR-V Comfort 1.5 - R299 900
HR-V Elegance 1.8 - R354 900

The HR-V comes with a three-year or 100 000km warranty, a four-year or 60 000km service plan, and a one-year AA roadside assistance package. Service intervals are 15 000km.