The Honda HR-V of the late 1990s was fun, stylish, urban and unique – a crossover before we even knew what a crossover was. It reached the end of production in the mid-2000s, but now the HR-V is back except this time it’s been reimagined for the modern compact crossover buyer.
Of course, since the Honda HR-V was last for sale in Ireland there has been a compact crossover explosion, with new entrants from the likes of Renault, Peugeot, Citroen, Opel and Nissan.
But with striking good looks borrowed from big brother CR-V, the HR-V gets off to a good start.
Inside the design feels modern and high tech, and the quality, fit and finish inside is really good with lots of gloss black surfaces and stylish strips of chrome. It’s one of the best interiors I’ve seen in a compact crossover. A touchscreen is standard on all but entry level cars for controlling music, radio, and Bluetooth connection. The heating and ventilation settings are also controlled by touch controls. They look good but they are a bit fiddly to use.
The new HR-V is built on the same platform as the Honda Jazz and Honda has maximised the space available to create a spacious car despite the compact dimensions. There are plenty of useful storage spaces around the cabin and an excellent large boot (470 litres) with low sill and wide opening for ease of use. The HR-V also gets Honda’s Magic Seats innovation, which gives you more possibilities for carrying large and awkward items by flipping the rear seat cushions up.
On the road the slightly elevated driving position gives you that authentic SUV feeling but the HR-V handles just like a car. It feels nicely rigid and controlled through bends and the steering is sharp so you feel in tune with the car as you turn into corners. On less than smooth roads there is noticeable road noise coming into the cabin and obstacles like manhole covers and potholes send a bit of a jolt into the cabin, but they don’t unsettle the HR-V too much. It always feels secure and planted, and by and large this is a comfortable car to while away a few hours in.
You can choose from a 1.5-litre petrol with 130bhp or a 1.6-litre diesel with 120bhp. A 6-speed manual gearbox comes as standard but there is the option of a CVT automatic on petrol models. The test car has the 1.6-litre diesel and it’s a powerful offering for the HR-V with plenty of torque and flexibility through the gears.
It will hit 100kmh from a standstill in 10.5 seconds and returns up to 69mpg with motor tax of just €190 per year. It’s the same engine that appears in other Honda models like the Civic, but it’s disappointing that you’re not as isolated from the engine noise here as you are in the Civic so you will hear the engine working at low speeds around town and under acceleration.
There are three trim levels for the new HR-V – SE, ES and EX. Petrol HR-Vs start at €23,995 and diesel models start at €25,995 but base models are very well equipped. Standard equipment includes 16” alloy wheels, auto lights, climate control, cruise control, electric mirrors and windows, Bluetooth, steering wheel mounted controls, and electric parking brake.
ES adds more including 17” alloys, parking sensors, Honda Connect infotainment system, front fog lights, traffic sign recognition and lane departure warning.
The diesel EX test car has a list price of €33,495 and includes keyless entry and start, navigation, leather seats, panoramic sunroof, rear parking camera, heated front seats, rear privacy glass, roof rails, LED headlights and LED daytime running lights.
Where the first generation of the HR-V stood out because it was one of the pioneers of the concept of a junior SUV and it did it in considerable style, today the new HR-V looks quite conventional.
Yet the sporty, coupé-like styling, that plush, versatile interior and a drive that’s genuinely engaging for a crossover mean that this new HR-V is a convincing offering in a segment with many players, but few characters.
Model tested: Honda HR-V 1.6-litre i-DTEC EX
Price: €33,495 (Range starts at €23,995)
Engine: 1.6-litre turbo diesel
0-100km/h: 10.5 seconds
Economy: 68.9mpg (4.1/100km)
CO2 emissions: 108g/km
Tax band: A3 (€190 per year)