Text and photos by Chris Van Hoven
Honda’s introduction of the second-generation HR-V in 2015 was a timely one. The Jazz-based HR-V was Honda’s entry to the increasingly popular subcompact crossover segment, at the time populated only by the Mitsubishi ASX and Subaru XV. Two years have passed since its introduction, with the HR-V now facing stiff competition in a crowded segment. We find out if the HR-V still holds its own as it approaches its mid-cycle refresh.
As far a departure from the first generation HR-V’s shoe-shaped design, the current HR-V is all about space-age styling and sleek lines. Despite riding on a Jazz platform, it’s larger in every aspect, has higher ground clearance and is nearly 400 pounds heavier, but its svelte profile hides its extra heft extremely well. The HR-V looks well-proportioned from every angle, and its character lines — which extend to its hidden rear door handles — give it an extremely dynamic stance. The kitted-up Mugen variant rides on 225/40/R18 alloys, together with other embellishments that include a front sport grille, front, side and rear skirts, ventilated visors, and a lower wing spoiler. The Mugen accessories do a good job in adding some bulk to the HR-V, making it look a little more athletic.
The HR-V’s cabin is a lesson in excellent build quality. From padded armrests, leather seats, chrome details around the A/C vents, mood lighting on the front speakers, upholstered door panels, and a dash comprised of soft-touch material, the HR-V makes its premium stance perfectly clear. The floating center island brings the gear selector and electronic parking brake switch closer to the driver, which results in a more relaxed driving position. Combined with a tilt/telescopic adjustable steering wheel, low seating position, and height adjustable seats, drivers will easily find a comfortable, natural driving position which helps on long road trips.
The infotainment system and air conditioning controls are typical Honda fare: devoid of physical buttons, including knobs for adjusting the volume. While everything works, it does tend to be a little counter-intuitive, as instead of relying on muscle memory to make certain adjustments, you’ll have to take your eyes off the road to see what you’re pressing.
The seats are remarkably comfortable up front and at the rear, though seating more than two adults in the back could be a tight fit. Two rear passengers will enjoy a “sunken” view of the outside world, which contributes to the feeling of being ensconced without activating any claustrophobic fears.
Another typically Honda characteristic is the HR-V’s excellent capacity to carry cargo. Since the HR-V follows the Jazz’s lead in placing the fuel tank under the front seats, the rear seat cushions can flip up to allow taller objects to fit inside. The rear sets can also fold forward, as can the front passenger seat, which allows the HR-V to boast one of the largest cargo carrying capacities in its class – up to 1,665 liters. Even with everything upright, the HR-V’s 393 liters of cargo space is enough to carry four medium-sized carry-ons and several duffel bags on top.
The HR-V is powered by the Civic’s 1.8-liter SOHC i-VTEC engine which outputs 141 hp and 172 Nm of torque. Mated to Honda’s Earth Dreams CVT, it’s clear that Honda prioritizes fuel economy over performance. Not to say the HR-V is sluggish; in a cityscape environment, the HR-V is peppy enough to zip in, out and about traffic. Maintaining a fast pace on highway roads around 100-120 km/h starts to tax the engine however; and you’ll need to activate sport mode, which holds the revs higher, to get a good sense of engine response. Alternatively, the paddle shifters allow easy access to power when you need it. Combined city and highway driving results in a fuel economy average of about 9.5-10 km/l, which is surprisingly good for its class.
The HR-V is happy to be thrown into corners, with the electronic power steering relaying firm, responsive feedback. Understeer is present, but only in extreme cornering situations.
The HR-V’s NVH levels are impressive as well, keeping the cabin quiet even as it soaks up bumps along the way. Much like the Jazz, Honda has succeeded in finding the right balance between a firm and comfortable ride.
PREMIUM FOR A PRICE
Starting at P1,243,000 for the base model 1.8E, and topping off at P1,513,000 for the top-of-the-line 1.8 EL Mugen, the HR-V is loaded with premium kit, and has a solidly-built cabin with high-quality materials. Other features include a six-speaker audio system, Auto Brake Hold, Vehicle Stability Assist, Hill Start Assist, and a reverse camera. While the HR-V doesn’t come with all-wheel drive like some of its competitors, it still becomes a reasonable buy due to its impressive fuel economy, premium cabin and stylish design.