The Nation's Kingsley Wijayasinha takes Honda's subcompact crossover for a spin and comes away impressed with not only its exterior design and interior, but also its comfortable drive, fuel consumption and performance. Check it out
Over the past few years, Honda has been expanding its vehicle line-up and driving into new segments such as the eco-car and subcompact MPV markets.
The latest offering from the Japanese automaker is the HR-V, a subcompact crossover that is expected to take the market by storm.
The HR-V is priced from Bt890,000 to Bt1.045 million, which may be higher than other vehicles in its segment, such as the Nissan Juke and Ford Ecosport.
The HR-V, sold as the Vezel in Japan, was first launched in 2013 and bagged as many as 100,000 orders from Japanese buyers in the first year. It was then launched in China, and subsequently Thailand, which is the first country to manufacture and sell this model in the Asean region.
While the popularity of compact cars (such as the Civic) is on the decline, buyers are now looking for smaller vehicles with low fuel consumption and high versatility to cater to different lifestyles. This is where the HR-V fits in.
Call it a baby CR-V if you like, but the HR-V, which is developed under Honda’s Global Small Platform like the Jazz and City, isn’t a tiny crossover that doesn’t make sense. It actually makes lots of sense – the smaller body means that it’s lighter and requires less fuel to travel the same distance, and this crossover has as many features as the CR-V does.
In terms of design, the HR-V appears more dynamic than its larger sibling. In fact, the design of the HR-V is top-notch, and is something that I would like to see incorporated in regional models offered by Honda (such as the Mobilio that looks really Malaysian).
The front end is modern and stylish, featuring daytime running lights, while the side profile is highlighted by strong character lines, giving the HR-V a sporty appearance. The rear door handles are also incorporated into the rear window frame, coupe-style. The rear end, meanwhile, features LED tail lights as well as a spoiler and rear windshield wiper.
The top EL trim comes with all the goodies, including panoramic sunroof, 7-inch touchscreen, 3-angle rear-view camera, multi-function steering wheel and six airbags.
The interior of the HR-V is equally sleek and as futuristic as the exterior, with the highlight being the dual-layer console and extra air vents on the front passenger side.
There are two USB ports in addition to HDMI input and a 12-volt power outlet, and the rear multi-utility seats can be adjusted in three different modes to increase the luggage area.
The materials look and feel great, and the craftsmanship is also highly satisfactory. This is an area in which its rivals are unable to compete.
Although it’s a compact crossover, you won’t feel cramped inside the HR-V, and apart from the cabin comfort, it also has the performance to deliver.
The 1.8-litre i-VTEC E85-compatible engine is punchy, developing 141 horsepower and 172Nm, and is mated to a new “Earth Dreams” CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) offering swift response and low fuel consumption. Also offered are shift pedals on the steering wheel with seven speeds to play around with.
The HR-V also comes with an Econ mode that helps minimise fuel consumption as well as “Eco Coaching” – the colour of the fascia illumination will change according to your driving style (the fascia light can be adjusted, with seven colours to choose from).
Driving the HR-V through country roads in Khao Yai was highly entertaining. The acceleration was good, and the steering and suspension performed wonderfully. Unlike in other Honda models sold here that come with super-light steering and soft suspension settings, the HR-V boasts beefy steering and grippy suspension that will surprise Honda fans. It swept into tight corners very well, just like a passenger car, and the steering was communicative, providing the driver a great connection with the vehicle.
You get ABS-governed disc brakes both front and rear, as well as VSA (Vehicle Stability Assist). Extra features like HAS (Hill Start Assist) and Automatic Brake Hold functions help keep the vehicle stationary without having to press on the brake pedal.
Honda plans to sell about 20,000 HR-Vs annually, making it one of its core models here in Thailand.
While its price may be higher than other choices on the market, the HR-V offers a more complete package as well as E85 compatibility, along with a more “premium” feel.
Honda HR-V specs
Engine: 4-cylinder SOHC 16-valve i-VTEC
Bore and stroke: 81.0x87.3mm
Compression ratio: 10.6:1
Max power: 141ps/6,500rpm
Max torque: 172Nm/4,300rpm
Suspension (f/r): McPherson strut, stabiliser/H-shaped torsion beam
Steering: electric rack-and-pinion
Turning circle: 10.6 metres
Brakes (f/r): vented disc/disc
Track (f/r): 1,535/1,540
Ground clearance: 185
Wheels: 17-inch alloys
Tyres: 215/55 R17
Fuel tank capacity: 50 litres
Price: Bt1.045 million
Distributor: Honda Automobile (Thailand)