2015 Honda HR-V VTi review
Isaac Bober’s 2015 Honda HR-V VTi review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and rating.
In a nutshell: Honda’s new small SUV is based on the Jazz. It looks nice and swoopy, is good to drive and very practical. But is it better than a jazz?
THE HONDA HR-V IS BACK. First launched in Australia back in 1999 and selling until 2001 more than 5000 Australians snapped up the compact SUV, many of which can still be seen running around today. And with the SUV segments easily the best-performing of the new car market in Australia, it would seem Honda’s returned at just the right time.
This new Honda HR-V is based on the Honda Jazz and while some vehicles in this compact SUV segment offer all-wheel drive somewhere in their line-up, the new HR-V makes do with front-wheel drive only. Now, on the face of it that seems fine, but when you add, say, the Subaru XV with permanent all-wheel drive onto your shopping list, well, choices become harder to make…
That said, the HR-V, like the Jazz on which it’s based, gets a centrally-located fuel tank which allows the use of Honda’s clever ‘magic seats’ system which make for a hugely spacious and versatile rear seat with around 18 different seating configurations. You can even fold the rear seats completely flat which liberates 1032 litres of storage space (437 litres with the rear seats in place).
The boot opening is both wide and tall and the boot floor itself is quite low, meaning it’s easy to get awkward shaped objects into and out of the HR-V. There’s a cargo blind too, to keep prying eyes off whatever it is you’re carrying in the boot.
We’ll stay with the inside of the HR-V. Climb into the back and taller passengers will have to duck their heads to avoid bumping it on the door frame and the rear wheel arch intrudes a touch, but the hip point is quite high so you can slip in quite easily. And once in the back there’s plenty of room; fitting two child seats (one a booster and the other a conventional child seat) wasn’t a problem and both kids had plenty of leg room.
In the front, it’s nice and easy to climb into the HR-V, but taller adults might feel a little cheated by the seats which are a bit short and don’t offer a huge amount of under-thigh support. That said, they’re comfortable enough for shorter trips, but on longer journeys I did find myself squirming in the seat to ease the strain on my thighs.
There’s decent forwards vision, although the slabby rear does require you to ‘shoulder check’ when changing lanes to ensure there aren’t any cars lurking in your blind spot. From behind the steering wheel, the HR-V doesn’t feel particularly tall (there’s 170mm of ground clearance) and, so, on more than one occasion I found myself wondering why you’d go for this over a Jazz, especially when you consider without all-wheel drive it’s not that much more practical than the Jazz. Hmm.
The dash layout feels nice and modern with all HR-V variants getting a seven-inch touchscreen that can display map information but doesn’t… nope, you’ve got to sync your phone and download the Honda-approved navigation app ($39) and then it’ll display map information. Oh, but only if you’ve got an iPhone. Hmmm.
The cabin feels nice, modern, practical and hard wearing, but it certainly doesn’t feel ‘premium’ as some reviewers have suggested. We’re testing the entry-level HR-V VTi variant (from $24,990+ORC) and it gets things like CD and radio, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, reversing camera, climate control air-conditioning, cloth trim and one-touch up and down for driver and passenger windows, although the omission of a dedicated sat-nav function is a little bemusing, even at this price point.
There’s only one engine that serves all the variants, and that is a 1.8-litre SOHC i-VTEC in-line four-cylinder petrol engine that serves up 105kW at 6000rpm and 172Nm of torque at 4300rpm. This is mated to a CVT (the VTi-L variant gets steering wheel mounted paddles) and fuel consumption is a claimed 6.6L/100km in the VTi and 6.9L/100km in both VTi-S and VTi-L variants – in our week of testing we couldn’t better 7.1L/100km which is more than acceptable.
In typical Honda fashion, the numbers don’t tell the full story when it comes to the HR-V and it’s a whole lot perkier than its power and torque figures would suggest. That said, the CVT isn’t the best of the breed; it’s slow to respond at times and is overly revvy at others. It becomes confused by part throttle applications and while it smooths out above 60km/h, it can be a little clumsy below that. Some outlets have claimed the HR-V is lacking for oomph, it’s not, it’s just that you have to drive around the CVT (something you don’t have to do with Subaru which really has nailed this type of transmission).
The ride and handling, though, is a standout in the class. Honda’s suspension boffins have always been amongst the best in the business at tuning small, front-drivers to ride and handle and the HR-V is absolutely no exception. It’s supple without being floppy and firm without being hard, meaning it’s just about just right.
Out HR-V VTi ran on 16-inch alloys and no doubt they helped with the ride, although I can’t imagine the 17s would make it much firmer… What was frustrating, though, was the amount of road and wind noise at highway speed. Sure, the HR-V is only a small car, but it’s design would have been optimised in a wind tunnel and the wing mirrors aren’t overly huge. I found I had to run the stereo at a higher volume than I normally would to hear it over the road and wind noise; at around town speeds, this was less of an issue.
The steering is excellent, if the steering wheel is a little slippery feeling in the hands. Nice and direct with just enough weight and feel, the steering and ride shows that Honda is one of the best when it comes to tuning its tiddler cars to satisfy ‘drivers’. The brakes, however, I felt were a little abrupt in their action with little progression in the pedal.
The HR-V gets a five-star ANCAP crash safety rating, six airbags, ABS, EBD, brake assist, stability and traction controls and reversing camera. As you move up the range, Honda adds things like autonomous emergency braking, a camera that monitors the left-hand lane when the indicator is activated, forward collision warning and more.