Honda HR-V is Hip and Peppy

By Lee Pang Seng

YOUNGER car owners are making up a good share of the customers eyeing new models being introduced and they are more inclined to try something new and fresh, rather than stick with standard fare. SUVs and Crossovers have come to be fashion statements among them and many automotive makers are certainly right on this current pulse.

Honda is one of them and it came up with the Vezel during the Tokyo International Motor Show in 2013. This was its compact alternative to the CR-V (Comfortable Runabout Vehicle), which has already established its footprint in many world markets, including that of the US.

Apparently, the feedback from many markets, including Malaysia, indicated that the Vezel name was not appealing and felt that a more familiar one might help to enhance its appeal. Honda decided to go with the HR-V name, continuing in a way from a model that had since been discontinued (the earlier HR-V was sold from 1999-2006 in three and five-door versions although Malaysians only saw the reconditioned ones).

There is no link between the two as the earlier HR-V was developed from the Honda Logo platform (a compact hatchback sold mainly in Japan) while the new HR-V was based on the Jazz and City platform. Being a Crossover, the HR-V has a longer wheelbase of 2610mm, an additional 10mm more than the Jazz’s, but 10mm shorter than that of the CR-V.

As a compact Crossover, the HR-V is smaller dimensionally against the CR-V: at 4294mm, it is clearly shorter in overall length by 296mm; at 1772mm in width, it is narrower by 48mm and at 1605mm in height, it is 80mm shorter. Likewise, the HR-V runs on narrower tracks front and rear at 1535mm and 1540mm (against 1580mm front and rear for the CR-V). It runs on a slightly higher ground clearance of 180mm (CRV 170mm).

The advantage comes in the lower vehicle weight with less metal and materials, ranging from 1255kg to 1292kg depending on models; the CR-V’s kerb weight is from 1490kg to 1540kg for the 2.0-litre model. As the HR-V is powered by a 1.8-litre single overhead camshaft 16-valve four-cylinder engine with i-VTEC delivering about 104kW (141PS) at 6500rpm and 172Nm at 4300rpm for the Thai-spec HR-V, it does enjoy a better power-to-weight ratio against the CR-V 2.0L.

We had a go at the HR-V during a ‘teaser’ 220km media drive in Chiangmai arranged by Honda Malaysia and could relate to this in the quicker acceleration from the traffic lights and during passing manoeuvres. The HR-V comes standard with an electronically controlled CVT (continuously variable transmission) and this had not taken away the quick acceleration performance when it was required.

The only thing was that the CVT did have its characteristic growl when downshifting to a lower ‘gear’, which might not go down well with some. We found this audible note tolerable but more importantly, it added in a good way to the motion of gaining speed quickly and passing another vehicle safely.

If you are in no hurry and would like to drive along at an easy pace, the CVT serves its purpose nicely and quietly, and most appreciable of all, in a smooth manner. With electronic control, it can also select ‘gears’ to serve a current situation. An example was when we lifted off the accelerator pedal on approaching a slower vehicle; we could feel a retarding effect that was achieved through the downshifting of ‘gears’. The nice part was that the deceleration was smoothly and progressively executed and effective as we didn’t have to hit the brakes.

We could proceed at high cruising speeds (beyond 140km/h) at a quiet pace as the HR-V appeared to knife through the air without much turbulence being heard. Its aerodynamically efficient body has a Cd (drag co-efficient) of 0.33, which is reasonably low for a Crossover, and good body insulation has done its work as well in providing a quiet ride. We had three on board and we could converse normally across the cruising speed range.

The HR-V seemed equally well at home through winding stretches too: the EPS (electric power steering) gave good directional feel to raise our confidence in taking to these sections of the route at quick speeds. The other likeable impression was the minimal body lean as the HR-V was taken through the corners: it did appear that the anti-roll bars were thick enough to control body lean to a very good degree.

Little touches here and there had added nicely to the overall drive impression. The one-touch turn indicator was one: just tap on the indicator stalk when you want to change lanes and the turn indicators on the desired side would blink three times, enough to warn other road users of your intention as long enough road space is given for them to react.

There is also the electric parking brake with the Auto hold feature. The buttons are placed side by side at the base of the gearshift console. You press or depress the ‘P’ button to release or activate the parking brakes. The Auto hold item is to be used when you come to a stop-and-crawl traffic situation. By pressing it, the system will hold the brakes when you come to a stop and releases them when you hit the accelerator to move. It is to make inching along in such situations a little more bearable.

Other niceties are the pushbutton stop/start feature, ECON mode when you want to stretch your petrol ringgit further by gaining more mileage per litre, and touch panel for the air-conditioning controls. As rear passengers, we found the 50:50 split seatrests with limited rake adjustments practical as we could lean back a little and catch 40 winks during some stretches.

The HR-V is good on interior room too: good space all round and with the front seats adjusted to the rearmost, we still enjoyed good legroom with the raised floor section to brace our feet against. There is a simple folding centre armrest that came in useful for us to brace against during our ‘naps’.

The flexible interior for loading luggage is a given; in addition, the HR-V has a tailgate opening that is as wide as 1180mm and loading height is 650mm, reportedly one of the lowest for its class. And for the front folks, the double deck centre console is a nice idea. It might not be new but it has its uses. There is the multi-utility cupholder with which you can fold away the sections to open up the space for other things. The lower section of the centre console has the power charging plug, HDMI and other ports.

Our Chiangmai drive was with HR-Vs running on 17- and 18-inch alloy wheels and bigger tyres. The HR-V for the Malaysian market will run on 16-inch rims. As for the price, we were told during the drive that the HR-V would be priced between the top-end City and the Civic, which would make it very attractive. It was little wonder that the pre-launch road show had garnered bookings in the high hundreds, if not above 1,000 by now!

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