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2015 Honda HR-V review: First drive

The Good

  • Smooth, quiet ride
  • Very spacious
  • Versatile cabin

The Bad

  • Not as sporty as it looks
  • Diesel can feel unrefined
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Our Honda HR-V review reveals a crossover that means business. Watch out, Qashqai. 

The crossover market is one of the most competitive segments in the car industry, and the king of that segment is, arguably, the Nissan Qashqai. But like everyone else, Honda wants a piece of the action, and its weapon of choice is the brand new HR-V.

The original HR-V was a solid enough contender that, in Honda’s corporate eyes, sparked the entire crossover segment when it was released in 1999. Back then, it had few cars to compete with, but how does the new, £17,995 HR-V stack up against modern competition?

Design

Honda’s hit a home run with the new HR-V, to us at least. The new car is pretty damn gorgeous – certainly on a par with, if not better-looking than its main rivals. Highlights include the sleek, coupe-like proportions, aggressively sloping windscreen, hidden rear door handles that disguise its bulk and those natty swept back headlights. It’s a balanced, well-proportioned car that’s daring without being overly fussy.

The new Honda HR-V looks like a quality product on the inside, too – though we wouldn’t expect anything less of a Honda. For the most part it feels as if it’s been made to a very high standard, though Honda’s claims that the surfaces have been finished with ‘soft touch’ materials is spurious to say the least. The plastics, particularly on the dashboard, feel hard and scratchy, while the door panels have been lined in fabric – probably to disguise cheap plastics underneath.

There are some nice touches. The raised centre console has a nice piano black finish and some brushed aluminium highlights make it look rather premium.

Honda’s also ditched mechanical dials – there are virtually zero buttons or switches on the dashboard. Instead, the climate control system is operated by a touch screen interface, which can be used with or without gloves – handy on cold wintry mornings. Above that, you’ll find a second touchscreen, this time housing the Android-based Honda Connect infotainment system, through which you can access the radio, CD player and nav (if fitted).

Practicality

The HR-V’s sporty looks don’t come at the expense of practicality. Inside, the car feels very spacious with plenty of room in the front and lots of cubbies to store the accoutrements of family life. The door pockets are large enough for half litre drinks bottles, there’s a dedicated platform for storing and connecting your mobile phone, but the central cubby is disappointingly small. You’ll get a couple of small packs of Haribo in here, and not much else.

Things are even more impressive at the rear. Head and legroom are impressive across the 60:40 folding rear bench.

Honda’s fitted the HR-V with its Magic Seat system, which lets you fold the car’s seats in all manner of ways. The rear cushions can be folded up, allowing you to load tall objects such as potted plants. With the seat backs folded down, the cushion section drops too, giving you a flatter boot floor. The front passenger seat, meanwhile, folds back, allowing you to load very long objects – a surfboard if you’re so inclined.

The boot itself is massive – 470 litres with the seats up, and over 1,533 litres with the seats down – again, more than a Qashqai.

Performance & Handling

The Honda HR-V drives well and is easy to get on with. The seats are comfortable and boast lots of adjustability, the driving position is excellent, giving you a great view of the road ahead and around the cabin.

The suspension is tuned more for comfort than performance, as one would expect. It soaks up large bumps admirably, though dense arrays of smaller, potholes do send a shudder through the cabin – as they tend to do on most crossovers.

That softish setup means the HR-V suffers noticeable body roll through corners. It never lurches alarming through bends, but the HR-V’s sporty aspirations are limited to looks alone.

The HR-V’s cabin is impressively quiet, for the most part. Honda has added enormous amounts of sound deadening materials in the floor, which contributes to a very serene ride, even at motorway speeds.

The HR-V comes with a choice of two engines – a 120PS 1.6-litre diesel, or a 130PS 1.5-litre VTEC petrol. Neither will set your world alight with performance, but the diesel pulls away confidently thanks to 300Nm of torque, and will hit 62mph from a standstill in roughly ten seconds.

You won’t want to work it that hard, however, as enthusiastic acceleration reveals a side to the engine that’s rather unrefined. Our test car was fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox, though Honda also offers the option of a CVT semi-automatic transmission on the petrol car.

Economy & environment

Economy, all important in this sector, is strong in the HR-V. The diesel engine produces up to 71mpg, while the petrol delivers 54.2mpg, impressive figures for a car of this size. CO2 emissions are reasonable, too, considering how big this thing is – only 104g/km, so expect to pay just £20 annually in Vehicle Excise Duty.

Equipment & Value

All Honda HR-Vs get the new Honda Connect touchscreen infotainment system. Like most mobile phones, it uses the Android operating system, which allows it run a range of apps such as a calendar, calculator, photo viewer and streaming music services. You can even download more apps by connecting the car to a Wi-Fi network and accessing the Honda App store.

Honda Connect isn’t quite as responsive as a mobile phone, and it doesn’t come with sat-nav as standard (that’s a £600+ option), but it’s a nice enough addition.

Intelligent speed limiter. Push the LIM button twice and the set button during cruise control and it’ll link the traffic sign recognition to the speed limiter.

Verdict

Honda’s done a great job with the new Honda HR-V. The segment it competes in might be incredibly competitive, but the HR-V isn’t simply here to make up the numbers. It’s one of the best looking, most frugal, most spacious, and most accommodating family cars we’ve ever tested.

It’s not the kind of car that delivers endless driving thrills, but it does the basics impeccably well. If you’re looking for a new mid-sized SUV for your family, it’s a car you should seriously consider buying.

Specification

Engine1.6-litre diesel
Power120PS @ 4000rpm
Torque300Nm
Acceleration0-62mph in 10 seconds
Emissions104g/km of CO2
Economy71mpg
Price£17,995

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