This is the all new Honda HR-V, and it’s got a much more difficult job on its hands than any HR-V before it. You see, when the first HR-V came out in 1999, it didn’t really need to compete for attention. Its unconventional styling stood out a mile, and back then SUV rivals were still fairly few and far between. The nameplate was rested for a few years until the MK2 came out in 2015. And although the SUV revolution had gathered some serious pace at that point, it didn’t have the dominance that it does today. Fast forward to 2021, and the small SUV sector accounts for about a quarter of all the new cars we buy in the UK, meaning that manufacturers are falling over themselves to present us with new models to tempt us to part with our hard earned cash. And that means that the MK3 HR-V has more rivals to compete with than ever before. The question is, does the new HR-V have what it takes to stand out in such a
crowded marketplace? I trust that you’re already subscribed to the CarGurus UK YouTube channel. Why wouldn’t you be? But in case you’re not, then there is your link. You know what to do in terms of standing out visually, it’s a little bit tricky for the HR-V because in such a crowded marketplace, there isn’t much that hasn’t been done before. The blended in body coloured grille is similar to the one found on the Peugeot 3008, while the sloping coupe like roofline has also been used on the Renault Arkana, amongst many others. However, just in isolation, you have to say that the HR-V is a smart looking car in its own right and it has all the important style boxes ticked. But does it have all the important practicality boxes ticked? After all, most SUVs are used as family cars open up the boot and you’ll find that 319 litre load space got to be honest. That is a bit small for the class. Bear in mind as well that if you go for the range topping version, your boot is a little bit smaller. Still, because you have a stereo subwoofer that takes up this little gap here. That’s not the full story, though, because you got this nice low, load lip to make loading heavy items easier and you’ve got this little bit of underfloor storage. You’ve also got split folding rear seats. And because the seat bases cantilever down beneath the backrest as they drop, you get a perfectly flat and level load area. And if that weren’t nifty enough, check this out. Not only can you easily raise this seat up like so, but you can also lift up the base lock in place like that and you got this enormous space to carry all sorts of tall items. Now that is a genius. Bit of design when this space is needed for people rather than stuff. You’ll find yourself treated to absolutely shed loads of legroom, so you got lots of space to stretch out. However, things aren’t correspondingly generous when it comes to headroom because this low slung roofline does eat into your space a bit. So if you’re six foot plus like me, then you will find your hair or what’s left of it. In my case, rubbing against the headlining.
Headroom is an even shorter supply. If you’re made to sit in the middle seat due to the steeply raised cushion, you have to sit on. It’s a bit hard and narrow as well, but at least the floor in front of you is almost flat. As you’d expect, there is all the space you could want up front, and the HR-V does give you that nice lofty SUV driving position that a lot of buyers will absolutely love. You’ve got lots of adjustment for your seat, but although there is rake and reach adjustment on the steering, you might wish that the wheel came a little bit further towards you in terms of quality. It’s a bit of a mixed bag. The design is smart and some of the materials and finishes are really, really nice. But there are some areas where you expect to find soft touch surfaces, but your fingertips are met with harder, less tactile ones. The top of the dashboard being a prime example where you can’t fault the HR-V though, is on the amount of equipment provided as standard. Even the entry level model gets climate control, heated front seats, automatic lights and wipers, adaptive cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, and a reversing camera. You also get this infotainment system, complete with nine inch touch screen navigation, DAB Bluetooth, Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay. Now, infotainment was a serious area of weakness for the previous HR-V because the user interface was nothing short of dreadful. Happily, Honda’s latest system is much better, with more logical menus, a clearly marked menu button, better graphics and quicker responses. The first important thing to know about the HR-V driving experience is the all examples have exactly the same self-charging hybrid powertrain. It combines a 1.5 litre petrol engine with two electric motors to give you around 130 horsepower and about 52 miles per gallon. Now, the hybrid system in this car works a little bit differently, so those of most other hybrids, the vast majority of the time that the petrol engine is running is merely generating electricity to top up the batteries, and it’s the electric motors that are actually driving the wheels. Although the petrol engine can drive the wheels directly when high speeds or maximum power are needed, you might think that that would equate to a quiet, serene driving experience. But unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Yes, you can roll around on electric only power at low speeds for periods of time. And when the petrol engine does fire up to replenish the battery, it does so fairly smoothly. However, if you find yourself needing to give the accelerator anything more than the lightest brush of pressure, which you often will because performance is very limited. If you don’t, then you’ll find that the engine revs absolutely shoot towards the red light, causing one heck of a racket and loads of vibrations through the main controls. The engine also drones away noisily when you’re trying to maintain motorway cruising speeds, and it’s also joined by a fair amount of road noise. That’s a bit of a shame, really, because in a lot of other ways, the HR-V is a nice, relaxing way to get around.
There is a slight patter to the ride at low urban speeds, but the suspension is actually really good at absorbing bigger bumps and potholes, and it feels settled and civilised on the motorway. That suppleness, along with the weight of all that hybrid equipment, means that this isn’t a car that likes to change direction in too much of a hurry. It’s much better to take things slow and steady. That said, there is a lot of grip to call upon, so things feel nice and secure. The steering has a nice, satisfying, meaty weight to it, although it can feel a little bit slow to react. There is a lot to like about the HR-V not least its comfort, its quality, its generous equipment and its fiendishly clever rear seats. But although it hits the mark in a lot of areas, there are just as many in which it misses, most notably performance, refinement and practicality. Overall, it is a very decent car, one that’s worthy of your consideration. And if you’ve got your heart set on the Honda, then it’ll cost you a very similar amount to most of its key rivals. For most buyers, however, we think that there are better all rounders available elsewhere on the market. We’d love to know what you think about the Honda HR-V