The HR-V has always been a trend leader, but somehow everyone forgets that’s been the case for almost two decades.
The first HR-V (‘High Rider Revolutionary Vehicle’) was, in 1999, a car ahead of its time with its crisp, almost un-rugged lines a new way of looking at a sport utility vehicle (SUV). Quite telling that it already pulled the trick all crossovers do now, a lack of visible B- and C-pillars.
The second-gen model was more fortuitously a sales leader too, like the Toyota Wish (which is now dead with a shocking replacement) it flourished as a PI bargain buy, then as a nicely-priced, fully-official model.
But who is the Honda HR-V for?
The second-gen Honda HR-V launched in April 2015, and Ju-Len, in his infinite ‘wisdom’ said in CarBuyer’s first review of the model,“…the HR-V is for couples who haven’t been married long enough to squabble about minor things like whether the cabin temp should be 23 degrees or 25 degrees.”
Like the new Lexus UX 200, it’s ostensibly aimed at small families or young couples, but the real answer is, with crossovers/sporty utility vehicles (SUVs) reaching close to sedans in terms of sales, basically everybody.
There are now SUVs in literally every segment, from compact (incoming Suzuki Jimny) to super-lux (Porsche Cayenne) and super-super-lux (Rolls-Royce Cullinan). The SUV wave has been long swelling, but it was arguably the HR-V that really broke it in here Singapore at its debut.
In 2018 that wave shows no sign of abating, and with the HR-V now at the significant three-year-time-for-a-facelift mark, has it remained sharp enough to occupy the lead pack in the hardest fought, mainstream small SUV segment?
Honestly, and in Honda’s own words, this is a facelift so not much has changed mechanically. The styling, at least, has enjoyed a marked improvement.
The design team’s pulled the usual mid-life facelift tricks, and the face looks familiar enough, but compare it closely and you’ll realise the entire front end is quite different as it’s not simply a case of ‘new-headlights-and-bye-let’s-go-for-sake’.
At launch the 2015 model had plain-old halogens, and received projector-style LED units a year later, but now the facelift has ‘new style’ LEDs that look more akin to the ones on the Honda Civic 1.5 Turbo that has a sort of herringbone pattern.
The chrome strip surrounding the Honda logo is more prominent and stretches over the headlights (Honda ‘Solid Wing Face’, anyone?), the black grille section below it is re-shaped, with the sections around the fog-lights also taller, plus a more aggro front splitter.
Suffice to say, if you’re buying this for new car recognition, then it’ll be quite obvious to most people. In contrast, the rear is unchanged though it was already one of the more pleasing aspects of the HR-V, with its hidden door handles and coupe-inspired design.
The fact that the Honda doesn’t compromise on space for design is still one of our favourite things about the HR-V. Like the closely-related Jazz hatchback, it’s slightly staggering how easily five adults and luggage can fit in the small crossover.
The boot can contain 470-litres of luggage, which basically gigantic and also class-leading, with Honda’s Magic Seats you have added flexibility of totally folding flat, or simply putting the seat bases up to carry tall objects.
Despite it having a shorter wheelbase than its arch rival, the Toyota C-HR (2,610mm to 2,640mm), it’s roomier inside, partially because it feels less claustrophobic, a compromise the C-HR makes for its aggressive design.
The cockpit hasn’t changed much, which means even drivers new to the HR-V won’t get lost. There are some dashes of elegance in the gloss black climate controls and infotainment system, a very clever armrest console that accepts cups, then deepens on demand to take water bottles. Under the main cockpit area is another small stowage space with USB, 12V and HDMI ports.
From behind the wheel, the HR-V is perky as it’s ever been, the 130hp 1.5-litre engine is still zingy and enjoyable. If you’re in a hurry, you’ll have to get through the typical Japanese CVT slurring, but at least the LX has paddle shifters to help that along.
The car’s tall seating position helps a driver to judge corners better, and the HR-V backs this up by being quick on its feet, almost tippy-toe like, there’s all the neatness and vim you’d expect from a small Honda.
The biggest drawback we do notice is the ride quality. It’s like a supercar, in that you can feel almost every road imperfection. Not harshly, but you still feel it nonetheless, and we’re a bit disappointed it hasn’t been remedied in this update.
You’re all probably sick of me saying this (hell, I’m sick of me saying this) but crossovers should ride well, that’s the whole point of having an SUV. But since all the crossovers behave the same way, and buyers we’ve spoken to don’t seem to mind, it’s a moot point if you’re not me.
In the end, if you’re a driver with a pulse, then you’re probably in the market for a small crossover now, the HR-V is an unavoidable inclusion to the shortlist, which should also include the Toyota C-HR, and Nissan Qashqai.
Amongst the HR-V range itself, the LX is the clear choice, offering the larger, more capable 7.0-inch Display Audio system with six-speakers (compared to the basic DX 5.0-inch and four speakers), paddle shifters, silver roof rails, and six airbags (compared to two) for a $6k premium.
Convertible cupholders transform at the push of button to take bottles too. Very clever, and typical Honda.
In a pure question of how much car you can get for $100k, the HR-V still represents strong value even amidst the return of the likes of the Suzuki Swift, and renwed Kia Cerato. And if you’ve always had your eye on the HR-V, well it’s almost $50k cheaper than when it first appeared, and that by itself might be a good enough reason for the crossover crazed.
Honda HR-V LX
|Engine||1,497cc, inline 4|
|Power||120bhp at 6600rpm|
|Torque||145Nm at 4600rpm|
|VES / CO2||B / 129g/km CO2|
|Price||$98,999 with COE|