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2016 Honda HR-V – Road Test – the CX3 challenger has arrived

2016 Honda HR-V – Road Test – the CX3 challenger has arrived

Now that the launch of the HRV has died down, it seemed a good time for Autoclique to grab one for review.  The HRV was a late comer after that current darling of the small SUV world, the Mazda CX3. Could the HRV be a match for the baby Mazda?

There are a few different models to choose from in the 2WD-only HRV range: HRV-S, HRV-X and HRV-L. After those ‘base’ models, you get the Sport versions: HRV-Sport, HRV-Sport X, and the HRV-Sport +.

On any model you get a 7” touchscreen display with reversing camera, alloy wheels, Hill Start Assist, an electric park brake, Automatic Brake Hold, aux and USB inputs, Bluetooth connectivity, steering wheel mounted controls for audio, phone and cruise control. Six airbags are standard across the range, along with climate control AC.

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The HRV doesn’t have any SatNav, but it does have the ability to use an iPhone app called Sygic, which you can hook into the car’s touchscreen. Essentially you are using your iPhone app to give the car SatNav. An interesting way of doing it.

The Sport models also add City Brake Assist, a Lane Watch Camera (LWC), 17” or 18” wheels, an auto-dimming rear view mirror, full leather interior, dual-zone AC, LED headlights, front fog lights, LED DRLs and auto headlights, auto up/down on all windows, and auto-reverse tilt-down on the exterior mirrors.

It doesn’t stop there. Sport models also get push button start/stop with proximity key, front and rear parking sensors, an integrated security alarm, heated front seats, auto wipers and the ability to open or close all the windows from the key fob. One surprising omission is that there’s no electric adjustment for the driver’s seat, or any sort of lumbar adjustment. Weird.

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However the Sport models do seem to be the sweet spot of the HRV range.

If you want to get an idea of just how many features the HRV has, just sit down one night to read the 600-page manual – and yes, it was all in English.

All models are fitted with the Earth Dreams 1.8 litre DOHC, 16-valve i-VTEC engine which puts out 105Kw of power @6500 rpm and 172Nm of torque at 4300rpm.  CVT transmission is standard across the range.

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First Impressions

On seeing the new HRV, memories of the early HRV quickly disappeared – thankfully. It may just be me, but the early HRVs looked like a wedge of cheese, and not in a tasty way. Not so the 2015 model.

While there is nothing in the design of the HRV body that really stands out from the rest, it’s still pleasing to the eye and some of the detailing helps give it a little bit of difference to the rest of the pack. I love the rear-door handles (memories of the Holden Barina Spark and Hyundai Veloster right there) and the body line sweeping up to them. The overall shape is nicely proportioned.

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The rear of the car is probably for me the most non-interesting part, it just looks like another small SUV.

Call it a mini-CRV and you aren’t too far wrong. Similar family features and in fact when I went to pick the HRV up, it was next to a CRV. The resemblance is obvious. Not that that’s bad for the HRV – comparing the boot between them sees not too much difference in size (556 litres for the CRV compared to 437 for the HRV).

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The test HRV was in Morpho Blue, which suited it nicely. I am so thankful it wasn’t grey or silver (my pet hate). It certainly stood out from all the grey cars on the road, and since it’s a completely new design (aside from the CRV influence) it does have a fresh look to it.

Our test HRV is the top-spec Sport model. The Sport has a huge panoramic tilt/slide sunroof, so entering the car with the electric blind open makes for a light and airy experience. This is in contrast to the mostly black interior. But while the interior is all black, it doesn’t feel that dark – even with the sunroof blind shut.

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The jury is still out on the ‘High Deck Centre Console’. Your eyes are drawn to this pretty quickly as it’s quite prominent, sitting so high. The Sport model’s console is finished in Piano Black which does look cool, and gives the interior a fighter-plane style to it. A win for most guys right there. As you can imagine though the Piano Black finish shows up fingerprints very quickly. The other problem here is that the height of the console blocks easy access to the items that are down and behind the console, namely two USB ports, an HDMI port and a 12V power outlet. Okay you aren’t going to be using these all the time, but when you want to use them it’s going to be a lean in on the floor and poke around situation. This isn’t to say I don’t like the console. It reminds me of an early Jaguar XJ6 – a very stylish feature and certainly something that is out of the ordinary.

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I do have to mention the build quality – it’s excellent. The stitching on the leather seats, the leather padded arm rests on the doors, as well as the tops of the doors is superb. In fact looking over the car, the overall build quality is fantastic – and I guess what people have come to expect from a Honda.

What’s it like to live with?

The more I drove the HRV, the more I liked it. As a city car, it’s got great pick-up from start and the CTV transmission is generally unobtrusive and well behaved. The paddle shifters on the Sport model are a welcome feature.  Like the Jazz, these are perfectly positioned and work really well. It becomes second nature to use them for engine braking.

Rear visibility with that fat C pillar is not the HRV’s best feature, but it’s mitigated a bit with the Lane Watch Camera (LWC), which is mounted on the underneath of the passenger’s mirror. Interestingly, you can leave the LWC on all the time while driving. Most systems turn this (or any) camera off once you hit around 5km/h, but on the Sport it just stays on if you want it to. Seems weird at first but quite handy to see what the traffic in the left lane or just on the left side of the road is doing. You can switch it off anytime by pressing a button on the end of the indicator stalk.

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A nice touch with the LWC is that when you flick your left indicator on, the monitor changes quickly to the LWC so you can see what’s in the left lane (if you are on the motorway), or on the footpath – as well as checking your mirrors and over your shoulder, of course.

Speaking of cameras, the reversing camera has three different angles to choose from – wide, normal or close up. I left it on the wide angle but the close up (‘top down’) one is great for really squeezing into a parking spot. The quality of the reversing camera was superb – super crisp. In fact it made the LWC output look really pixelated in comparison.

I was given a brief overview of the car when I picked it up, and was shown the electric park brake and Automatic Brake Hold (ABH). We are used to electric park brakes now, but ABH? At first I thought it was a gimmick I just wouldn’t use – until I used it, then it was one of those, ‘why don’t all cars do this?” moments. The electric park brake acts like most – perhaps excepting that it releases automatically when you press the gas pedal.

ABH works a little differently. Once you press the button, the next time you come to a complete stop, all four brakes are applied so you can take your foot off the brake pedal. Good for minimising or even stopping front-end damage if someone rear-ends you. As soon as you touch the gas pedal, the brakes release. It sounds a little strange but works brilliantly and I used it all the time. It means no moving your foot from the brake to the gas, no holding the brake pedal – just touch gas pedal and go. It works in when the car is in reverse as well. It’s almost like Hill Start Assist (that the HRV has as well) but is designed for around town use, where you are stopping frequently. A great feature and I hope it makes it to other models.

Along with ABH and the electric park brake, the brakes overall are just fine – they pull you up quickly with no dramas. In saying that, it’s hard to find a car with bad brakes these days, but the Honda is right up there with brake feel and progressiveness of braking.

The HRV is fitted with Honda’s ‘Magic Seats’ which means you can get large and tall items in the rear seat area, by lifting the rear seats completely upright. They achieve this by putting the gas tank under the front passenger’s seat. It’s a good system that’s been proven for a while now, and is here to stay (I hope).

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In fact the interior space on the HRV is bloody good. Legroom front and rear is above average for the class, and as mentioned the boot is more than reasonable. For the overall shortness of the car, the design has really worked in this department.

The dashboard is pretty standard, rev counter, speedo and digital display that you can change. The speedo has Honda’s economy system where it has a green glow around the outside when you are driving economically, and this turns to white (as in, “the whites of his eyes!”) if you are giving it the beans.

I did appreciate the Sport model’s auto up and down for all the windows, and that you can open or close all of the windows and sunroof from the key fob. I remember this in a Mondeo company car I had and it was excellent on a hot day to be able to open them all from a distance to let that hot air out. And of course if you forget to put a window up after you’ve got out – just do it from the key fob. Simple.

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The HRV doesn’t come with SatNav, but you have the option of using the Sygic app if you have an iPhone. Luckily I had both already. I searched the manual trying to find out how to get the maps to appear on the screen, but couldn’t find any mention of Sygic at all. I gave up searching and just drove – then I heard the directions. It turns out all you get is the turn-by-turn directions coming over the stereo speakers. This isn’t the end of the world but for some reason I was expecting a better integration with the HRV, so I could use the maps to set a destination etc.  Something to keep in mind if you are used to built-in SatNav and it’s something you want to have.

One day the HRV and I went for a ride on my Favourite Handling Road. It coped reasonably well when being given a bit of boot. Typical front wheel drive understeer eventually, but safe and predictable springs to mind as an overall critique. Sure, it didn’t have the level grip the Forester I drove on the same road late last year had, but it was just fine, and for 95% of purchasers it’s likely they won’t push their HRV like that anyway.

The steering was just fine when the car was pushed, although feedback was a little lacking. Certainly the brakes made up for this, pulling up quickly and confidently when trying out a panic stop. The CVT didn’t like it as much when being pushed, but moving the trans into manual mode and using the paddle shifters only solved that problem. The 1.8-litre  i-VTEC engine, while good overall, did seem to have a bit of a hole between 2,000 and 4,000rpm. It’s quick off the mark, then has a sort of a dead spot, then hits 4,000rpm and starts to sing. You don’t really notice it in normal driving.

During my week of normal, everyday driving in the HRV I averaged 9.4l/100kms, with the manufacturer giving a combined rating of 6.9. That’s a fair difference, but not unexpected. It’s been a fair while since my real-world driving has been the same as the stated combined average, for any car.

What do we think?

Would the HRV be a car I’d own? Yes. Super easy to drive, some excellent driver aids, peppy performance, excellent built quality, fantastic interior room all around and Magic Seats. What’s not to like? A few small niggles, but I enjoyed my week with it. Honda have a great car in the HRV.

Can the HRV take on the CX3? I believe so, but the problem is getting people to include the HRV in their list of cars to look at when buying. There’s a long list of players in this segment all wanting a slice of the small-SUV pie.

I do believe that we are getting to the point now where cars are just so good, it’s hard to give them less than a 4.0 rating. There are exceptions to this (the Chery I drove late last year springs instantly to mind) but many manufacturers are pumping out models with excellent driveability and safety features, great build quality as well as a list of comfort features that’s hard to believe. That’s my take on it anyway.

I have to give the HRV a 4.0 Chevron rating. There is nothing it does wrong, and it sure has a lot going for it. For me to give it 4.5 Chevrons it would have to be pretty special, and for five it would have to be amazing.

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The Good and the Bad

ProsCons
  • Build quality
  • Equipment levels
  • Automatic Brake Hold
  • Interior space
  • Magic seats
  • Lane Watch Camera
  • A bit of a nondescript design in places
  • Poor Man’s SatNav
  • So much competition!

What it’s up against

Brand / ModelEnginePower

Kw

0-100Km/hFuel L/100km

(combined rating)

Price Highest to Lowest
Kia Sportage SXL Urban Wagon 5dr SportShift 6sp 2.0i 2WD2.0 litre, 4-cyl, DOHC VVT1229.68.4$40,995
Mitsubishi ASX VRX Wagon 5dr CVT 6sp 2WD2.0 litre, 4-cyl, DOHC VVT1129.67.4$40,590
Honda HRV Sport 2WD1.8 litre, 4-cyl, DOHC i-VTEC10510.56.9$39,990
Nissan Qashqai ST-L Hatchback 5dr Xtronic CVT 2WD2.0 litre, 4-cyl, DOHC VVT10610.96.9$39,990
Hyundai IX35 6speed 2WD2.0 litre, 4-cyl, DOHC VVT1229.88.4$39,990
Subaru Forester  2.5i Wagon 5dr Lineartronc SLT AWD CVT (base model)2.5 litre, 4-cyl, DOHC1269.98.1$39,990
Mazda CX3 Limited Wagon 5dr Sports Auto 6sp 2WD2.0 litre, 4-cyl, DOHC VVT10910.66.1$38,595
Toyota Rav GX Wagon 5dr CVT 7sp 2WD2.0 litre, 4-cyl, DOHC VVT10711.17.0$37,490
Ford Kuga Ambiente EcoBoost Wagon 5dr SelectShift 6sp 2WD1.5 litre, 4-cyl, DOHC VVT turbo13410.07.0$36,990
Holden Cruze CDX Sport Wagon 5dr Spts Auto 6sp 2WD1.8 litre, 4-cyl, DOHC10411.17.4$35,990
Peugeot 2008 Allure Wagon 5dr Sports Auto 4sp 1.6i 2WD1.5 litre, 4-cyl, DOHC8811.26.5$34,990

 

Vehicle Type5-door small SUV
Starting Price$32,990
Tested Price$39,990
Engine1.8 litre, 4-cyl, DOHC i-VTEC
TransmissionCVT
0 – 100 kph10.5 seconds
Kerb Weight1317 Kg
Length x Width x Height4294x1772x1605
Cargo Capacity437/1492
Fuel Tank50 Litres
ANCAP Safety Ratings5 Star
Warranty5-year, unlimited kilometres

 

Exterior photos: Kate Alvrez

How an earth to start this? I've been car/bike/truck crazy since I was a teen. Like John, I had the obligatory Countach poster on the wall. I guess I'm more officially into classic cars than anything else - I currently have a '65 Sunbeam Tiger that left the factory the same day as I left the hospital as a newborn with my mother. How could I not buy that car? Recently my wife and I drove across the USA in a brand-new Dodge Challenger, and then shipped it home. You can read more on www.usa2nz.co.nz I'm also an Observer for the Institute of Advanced Motorists - trying to do my bit to make our roads safer.

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