Honda ‘Amps Up’ East Coast Drive with HR-V Turbo & Hybrid

By Lee Pang Seng

THE Honda HR-V is Honda Malaysia’s best-selling SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle) since it was launched in 2015. Up to 110,000 vehicles were sold up to date and it was no surprise that Honda was flooded with orders when the new HR-V was launched in mid-July.

Close to 30,000 orders were received of which almost 7,000 new HR-V models were delivered as at end September. Again, not surprisingly, the HR-V 1.5L Turbocharged V tops the sales chart with 52 per cent of vehicles delivered. The 1.5L normal aspirated model and 1.5L Turbo E models comprise 18 per cent each and the flagship 1.5L e:HEV RS hybrid holds a respectable 12 per cent.

The upshot in customers’ interest probably had to do with the fact that the latest HR-V is a much bigger SUV dimensionally compared to the previous model. This is despite the fact that the new model sits on the same wheelbase of 2610mm. Depending on models, the new HR-V’s overall length varies from 4330mm to 4385mm against the old’s 4295mm.

In height, the new HR-V is taller too at 1790mm against 1772 although it is slightly narrower at 1590 to 1605. Another important note is that the ground clearance for the new HR-V is now higher varying from 183mm for the turbo models to 196mm for the other two. Being bigger has a slight deficit in kerb weight as all the new HR-V models are heavier with the normally aspirated model tipping the scale at 1273kg and the Turbo V being the heaviest at 1403kg (previous HR-V 1239kg to 1249kg).

On the positive side, a bigger body means a roomier interior. Honda has retained the C-pillar door handle design for the rear doors and the Ultraseat folding rear seats. When the 60:40 rear seatrests are folded, individually or together, the respective seat squab is moved forward so that a lower flat floor is achieved. This allows taller items to be carried, such a tall potted plant.

Under the bonnet, the big change is the engine. Honda has downgraded, so to speak, to a 1.5-litre engine across all four models. The previous HR-V came with a 1.8-litre normally aspirated engine for all the three variants. Honda is so confident of its newly developed 1.5-litre engine to deliver in power, efficient performance and fuel economy, it has shrunk the fuel tank; From a 50-litre in the old to a 40-litre unit in the new.

The strong demand for the new HR-V also had to do with its bold and good looks. While this might be subjective, the new HR-V carries a more macho character with its strong ‘face’. The meshed chrome grille embodying the big Honda logo, flanked by sleek and sweeping LED (light emitting diode) headlamps and underlined by a purposeful under spoiler with LED foglamps is definitely turning heads for its forward styling.

We had our first drive impression in the new HR-V recently when Honda Malaysia arranged a three-day drive to the East Coast – Kuantan and Dungun – in the Turbo V and e:HEV RS hybrid. We started and ended the drive with the HR-V hybrid and had the Turbo V in the Kuantan-Dungun stage.


Going by the current model breakdown for the newer Honda models, a hybrid option now complements the turbo and normally aspirated models. What makes the Honda hybrid model stands out is the way it operates. Honda has developed the combined power package to work more like an electric vehicle in urban conditions unlike the hybrid models that we are familiar with.

This means that it has a bigger battery in the rear and that explains why the HR-V hybrid does not come with a spare tyre but a tyre repair kit. This includes an air-compressor that you could plug to the vehicle to operate for filling up the deflated tyre due to a puncture, so that you could drive it to the nearest tyre shop for it to be repaired or replaced.

The 1.5-litre engine in the hybrid is an Atkinson Cycle unit that runs more efficiently but has the lowest power output among the three engine options available. It delivers 79kW (107PS) at 6000-6400rpm and the electric motor offers more at 96kW (131PS) from 4000-8000rpm. Likewise, engine torque is rated at 131Nm from 4500-5000rpm and the electric motor whips out 253Nm from 0-3500rpm, which is the norm.

Although Honda lists the transmission as E-CVT (electric continuous variable transmission), the electric motor and engine are driving the front wheels directly. Each power source would engage the wheels as per the driving situation – electric motor in urban traffic and mostly engine on highway drives.
That explains why the HR-V hybrid is listed as the most economical in fuel consumption at 4.1L/100km (24.4km/l). As we found out during the East Coast drive, this excellent fuel mileage applies mostly in urban conditions when electric power is mostly in use. You could say, it is the exact opposite of normal vehicles that get better fuel mileages on highway drives but a lot less in urban driving.

The 1.5-litre Atkinson Cycle engine is activated mainly to charge the battery in urban driving so that there is no lack of electric power to propel the Honda SUV. That is when fuel is consumed by the engine. On accelerator pedal lift-off, there is also regenerative charging for the battery and you could see this via the active graphics on the instrument panel.

Given the way the power package operates, there is no tachometer and that space is used for the power graphics or fuel mileage monitoring. We could see that on the highway, the engine is driving the car at a constant accelerator pedal with electric assistance coming in when accelerating or the battery being charged when decelerating. The engine electronic management also has the engine charging the battery on highway runs when the electricity level in the battery falls to a certain level.

We took a diversion by driving up to Genting Highlands to see how competent the HR-V hybrid was and we were not disappointed. Given the rapid successive acceleration and deceleration, electric power was mostly used to drive the HR-V hybrid, either up or down. We could hear the engine charging the battery in the form of an intrusive whine every time we stepped on the accelerator to gain momentum. This was because the engine was revving quite hard to charge the battery.

This whine took some getting used to during the robust drive but when the vehicle was driven under normal conditions, the engine noise was less intrusive as it was not revving as hard. With the strong initial torque of the electric motor, there was no lack of pace driving up to Genting Highlands. For sure, there was no engine lag and the immediate speed pick-up coming out of a corner made it a fun drive, more so when you consider that we had three people on board, including the driver.

This was helped further by the good driving dynamics of the new HR-V. While it basically has the same MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear system of the old, Honda has improved the suspension and the electronic assistance along with the steering system for the new HR-V to take confidently to corners and winding roads. The Electric Power Steering (EPS) gave good directional feedback and the better suspension operation provided the Honda SUV with stable dynamics.

Body leans were well checked and the Continental Ultracontact UC6 225/50 R18 tyres barely squealed as we charged from one corner to the other. And the best part was that the ride comfort aspect remained good all round. We had a taste of that as a rear passenger when the HR-V was driven over speedbumps, rumble strips and the occasional pothole.

We also liked the quiet ride on the highway and trunk roads. Honda has taken the pains to smoothen the body profile to reduce wind noise and air turbulence around the door mirrors and roof. The quieter ride, however, made us more aware of the road noise picked up over the difference tarmac surfaces.

To ease our curiosity, we did a fuel run over 40-plus kilometres, covering a combination of trunk roads and highway, when we left Tanjung Jara for drive back to the Klang Valley. Traffic was rather light and the average fuel mileage based on the HR-V’s computation was about 21km/l. We achieved above 14km/l for the entire 380km, which was comparable to that for conventionally powered cars.

In performance, Honda says the HR-V hybrid would do a top speed of 170km/h and accelerate from 0 to 100km/h in 10.7 seconds. It might not be as quick as the turbo models but the acceleration is respectable. And you would be tempting the speed cameras with the highway speed the HR-V hybrid is capable of.

As the flagship model, the HR-V e:HEV RS hybrid has a higher level of features. One of them is the Hands-Free Power Tailgate and Walkaway Close. With the latter, all you need to do is press a button on the tailgate and when you walk away, it would close by itself electronically. The former allows you to open the tailgate by ‘kicking’ under the bumper, which is useful if you have an armful of groceries.

It has Dual Auto air-conditioning system, sport pedals (which we feel should be on the turbo models) and smoked and clear lens for the rear combi LED lamps. It has only one paddle shift called a Deceleration Selector Paddle that is located to the right of the steering column. It allows you to select the level of deceleration, especially when driving downhill; the higher the level of deceleration, the lower the road speed.

Unlike the other models, the HR-V hybrid only has a single tailpipe that is tucked out of the way. To maintain its environmentally friendly stance, the Honda logo has a blue ring to stamp its status. Being the apex model, the HR-V e:HEV RS hybrid also draws top ringgit with RM140,800 on the road without insurance.

1.5L Turbocharged V

The HR-V is the third Honda model in the Malaysian market to come with a turbo variant and the market is more than ready to embrace it, going by the bookings received. The higher power output is an obvious draw. The 1.5-litre (1498cc) VTEC turbo punches out 133kW (181PS) at 6000rpm and 240Nm from a low 1700rpm and plateaus till 4500rpm; similar to that delivered by the engine in the Civic. The previous HR-V 1.8-litre engine delivers 105kW (142PS) at 6500rpm and 172Nm at 4300rpm.

It might have more weight to shoulder than the Civic but the drive in the SUV turbo from Kuantan to Dungun revealed a brisk pace that was as good as that of the sedan. Firstly, we welcomed the more conventional form of driving that we were used to; no engine whine to charge up the battery when we step on the accelerator.

We could feel the engine’s early peak torque coming into play as we moved off easily and quickly. And when we had the opportunity to overtake, the combination of the strong torque and quick build-up of turbo power made passing other vehicles a rapid and confident move.

Honda says the HR-V turbo has a top speed similar to the Civic at 200km/h and accelerates just about as quick from 0 to 100km/h at 8.8 seconds (the HR-V Turbo E is marginally quicker at 8.7 seconds because it is 23kg lighter). Being a turbocharged model, it is also thirstier but still respectable at an average 15.4km/l (6.5L/100km).

The HR-V turbo cruised just as quietly on trunk roads and the good suspension dynamics allowed us to take the tight corners that came along with ease and confidence. We believed it would do even better in the Genting Hill climb with the strong power-torque combination and the more conventional CVT driving the front wheels.

We noted, however, that the suspension tuning on the HR-V turbo appeared to be stiffer sprung, probably to handle the higher speed that it could take corners with. This was noted when going over speedbumps, potholes and rumble strips; it had a firmer feel that we experienced mainly as a rear seat passenger.

Outwardly, there is little to discern the HR-V turbo from the hybrid model except for the badges and large Honda logo in front and rear; there are no blue rings in the latter. The attractive part is the dual chrome tailpipes that are exclusive to the turbo models.

Like the hybrid model, we could settle comfortably to the eight-way power-adjustable leather seat and leather-wrapped steering wheel. There are steering wheel paddles for manual gearshifts when we felt like it although we didn’t have an auto front wiper function that is standard to the hybrid. Likewise, the tailgate opening is a manual affair; no electronic assistance as in the hybrid.

Nevertheless, the HR-V turbo V remains a well-endowed SUV in the level of specification and safety features. As such, it is the second most pricey HR-V at RM134,800 on the road without insurance.

While we might choose the HR-V turbo for the power, the HR-V hybrid is also a tempting option for its excellent urban fuel economy. Thus, the choice is yours – power or fuel economy. If you drive frequently in urban conditions, the hybrid option is definitely the better one as it is practical and more cost efficient (lower fuel bills) for your needs.