2016 Honda HR-V VTi-L review
Isaac Bober’s 2016 Honda HR-V VTi-L review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handlings, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: The Jazz-based Honda HR-V reinvents the iconic original.
2016 Honda HR-V VTi-L
Pricing From $33,340+ORC
Warranty 3 years, 100,000km
Safety 5 Star ANCAP
Classification MA (Passenger vehicle)
Engine 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol
Power 105kW at 6500rpm
Torque 172Nm at 4300rpm
Body 4294mm (L); 1772mm (W); 1605mm (H)
Kerb Weight 1347kg
Towing 1790kg (braked)
Spare Space saver
Emissions Euro 5
Fuel Tank 50 litres
Thirst 6.9L/100km (combined)
THE HONDA HR-V is one of those vehicles that deserves a bigger pat on the back than it’s probably received. In a world that seems to have, all of a sudden, gone mad for SUVs, the HR-V wasn’t immediately loved when it lobbed onto the market back in 1999.
Following its bigger brother to market, the CR-V, the HR-V, the design of which still looks cool today, was based on the Honda Logo a tiny little car that wasn’t sold in Australia. Featuring an on-demand all-wheel drive system that activated once the front wheels lost grip (taken straight off the CR-V) the HR-V developed a solid following here and can still be seen on the road now – 5000 were sold here. It went off-sale in 2006.
What is it?
The Honda HR-V you see here revived the long-dormant nameplate in 2014 to plug a gap in Honda’s SUV line-up. While the original HR-V (pictured below) was perhaps a little ahead of the SUV boom, the new one arrived right in the middle of it, and follows the same theme as the original car. Sort of.
This time the HR-V is based on the Jazz, but unlike before there’s a diesel engine available for HR-V, but not here in Australia, the back seat is roomier than the cramped offering in the original car, and there’s no all-wheel drive, no matter the variant.
On-paper this sounds like Honda’s on to a winner. Most SUV buyers opt for a two-wheel drive variant so the lack of all-wheel drive shouldn’t be a huge issue and the fact there’s no diesel in this vehicle shouldn’t be a huge issue either.
Our test car is an HR-V VTi-L which lists from $33,340+ORC.
What do we think of the looks?
While I quite liked the boxy mish-mash of right angles that was the original HR-V this new one bears no resemblance at all to the earlier HR-V. Indeed, it has more in common with a Civic three-door than just about anything else in the Honda line-up.
For a start there’s the corporate ‘solid wing face’ front end that’s shared with the rest of the Honda line-up, while the angles and the C-pillar mounted door handles are taken straight from the Civic three-door. When I first laid eyes on the HR-V in 2015 I wasn’t overly impressed by its looks, but they kind of make sense when you consider that Honda was going for a small car “with the practicality of a minivan”. This time around, though, I didn’t mind the looks… that said, the styling won’t have anyone lusting after the thing. Or will it, let me know by leaving a comment below.
What’s the interior like and how practical is it?
Honda’s major selling point has always been the practicality of its interiors, and the HR-V is no exception. The layout of the dashboard is okay, but not class leading and the materials used look good until you touch them and realise there’s scratchy plastic everywhere. And, while I only had the car for a week, the plastics don’t feel like they’ll age particularly well; maybe someone who’s owned one for a length of time can enlighten me by leaving a comment below…
The seating position is good with enough height to give you that SUV feeling. Indeed, the seat height makes getting in and out easy; you don’t drop down into the car or have to pull yourself up into it, you simply swing into or out of the seat. Very good. And the same sentiment carries over to the driving position which offers good visibility to the front and sides thanks to thin A-pillars and the lowish set dashboard.
There’s reach and rake on the steering wheel and the seat offers plenty of adjustment for both tall and short drivers to get comfortable behind the wheel. My one gripe was the steering wheel rim which felt a little too thin for me – hair you’ve been split.
There are reasonable hidey holes for cups and mobile phones to be stashed – the HR-V offers the same set-up as the Honda Civic in that there’s a little shelf hidden away under the dashboard for your mobile phone… this is where the USB outlets are. The actual centre console is hopeless, though. It’s small and the lid is tricky to use.
Over in the back seats, and this is where the HR-V stands head and shoulders above its key rivals. Like the Jazz, the HR-V gets Honda’s ‘magic seats’ which turn this small car into easily the most practical of its size on the market.
Honda claims there are 18 different configurations to help shape the back end of this car to suit the user and the task at hand. The back seats are split in a 60:40 arrangement and can be folded a number of different ways, including utility mode which sees the seats folded down to offer 1032 litres of storage space; it’s not a totally flat floor despite what Honda’s brochure will likely say… Then there’s tall mode, which sees the base of the seat fold up towards the seat back. And the entire back seat can be folded up like this; we’re not so sure you’d fit a bike in here standing up, but you’d probably go close. Then there’s long mode which is basically just one of the seats folded ‘flat’ with the other one left in place.
Loading the boot is pretty easy given the load lip is only 680mm off the ground while the tail-gate opening is 1180mm wide. Right at the back of the boot are two little wells for storing items you don’t want sliding around. The space-saver spare wheel is under the boot floor.
What’s the infotainment and communications system like?
The best way to describe it is: functional but basic. The touchscreen measures seven-inches which is a good size and affords the usual connectivity options, like Bluetooth or via USB. While there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, the HR-V’s system will, via the Display Audio function mirror your iPhone’s audio display allowing you to swipe through your music. It also includes Siri Eyes Free functionality, but you can’t actually control your phone’s functionality through the Display Audio system.
There’s not sat-nav with this system, not even projected via your phone, although sat-nav is available on the HR-V in other markets, and I think this is a big miss with this car, especially given almost all of its competitors offer sat-nav as standard. At least Honda could look at adding an update in the not-too-distant future that will carry Apple Car Play or Google’s Android Auto connectivity… that said, Android Auto, on some Android phones, via an update will now be able to run via Bluetooth; it’ll be off the phone, though, and not a car’s in-dash screen.
The touch screen sensitivity from the factory is pretty good, meaning you don’t end up in a stabby-fingered rage while using it. In all, though, the system is just okay.
What’s the performance like?
Sadly, the HR-V in Australia isn’t available with the much-praised 1.5-litre turbo-diesel it gets in other markets. Instead, we get Honda’s tried and true 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine which makes 105kW at 6000rpm and 172Nm of torque at 4300rpm. This engine is mated to a CVT that also sees service in the Honda Odyssey and Jazz and, as far as CVTs go it’s pretty good.
The on-paper numbers for the HR-V don’t seem huge, but on-the-road and travelling with one or three (one adult and two kids), saw the HR-V keep up traffic easily and handle the ups and downs of travelling around the Blue Mountains without ever feeling laboured. Indeed, at times, it could even be called nippy. That said, I do think, if the whole family had been on-board with luggage, it wouldn’t have felt quite so sharp.
The brakes are good and progressive in their action. And they tend to get a fair bit of use on longer downhill sections as there’s very little engine braking.
What’s the ride and handling like?
No-one buys a compact SUV expecting race car handling, unless you’re spending your coin on an Audi RS Q3 that is… Indeed, Honda’s approach with the HR-V, with the exception of NSX and Civic Type R, is about practicality and ease of use. And on that count the HR-V performs well.
The steering is light and feel-free, not that that’s a particular issue where this car is concerned, as it makes for a breezy around town companion. However, the trade-off is that the steering rack feels slow, meaning you’ll quite often find yourself winding on a touch more lock than you initially expected.
The ride is okay if a little firm although it becomes noisy as the road surface deteriorates and potholes and other such intrusions do thump through into the cabin. But that tautness to the ride means that if you do push the HR-V a little harder in the corners, working around the ponderous steering, then it can actually become quite fun (well, fun might be slightly too strong a word but you know what I’m getting at… it isn’t boring). There’s plenty of grip, and body roll on change of direction isn’t a huge issue.
Being front-drive only the default setting is for the HR-V to understeer when pushed too hard, but it’ll respond well to the throttle and so a lift is generally all that’s required to turn the nose back in towards the corner. Don’t misunderstand me, though, I’m not suggesting the HR-V is a paragon of handling performance, rather that it’s happy to step slightly outside its comfort zone without going to pieces.
How safe is it?
Interestingly, the HR-V was the first Honda to be released with an electric park brake. And it’s quite clever one, only releasing when the driver has their seatbelt fastened.
The HR-V was awarded a five-star ANCAP rating in 2015 scoring 36.22 out of 37. The HR-V gets the usual traction and stability controls, as well as electronic brakeforce distribution, emergency brake assist, and on our test car, city brake active system which works at speeds between 5-32km/h and is designed to reduce the severity of low speed impacts. In addition, the HR-V we tested also offers Honda’s lane watch system which is making its way throughout the range. This system allows the driver, when the indicator is flicked to the left, or when the button on the end of the indicator stalk is flicked, will show a camera view on the in-dash screen down the left-side of the vehicle.
There are two ISOFIX mounts on the outboard seats and two seatback anchors for top tethers and one for the middle seat which is mounted in the roof. The front seats have pre-tensioning seatbelts while those in the rear are just automatic locking retractors. There are airbags for the driver and passenger and curtain airbags into the back row.
Honda also offers its advanced safety suite for the HR-V which includes forward collision warning, lane departure warning and high beam support but out test VTi-L didn’t feature this pack. The VTi-L ASAS (the active safety pack) adds $1000 to the sticker price which I would suggest is worth it.
Why would you buy it?
If you’re after a compact but spacious SUV that doesn’t need all-wheel drive, then the HR-V should be on your list. It falls down in a few key areas like infotainment, steering and perhaps power but it’s all in all a pretty good little runabout that borrows bits from its Jazz donor but ends up feeling more special.