When it comes to work-life balance, the struggle will always be real. But thanks to Honda, this equilibrium--at least of the motoring kind--can be achieved with the new (and returning) HR-V. In this review, we try to see if this crossover can combine the toughness of an SUV, the sensation of a coupe, and the functionality of a minivan.
At first look, this modern HR-V will make you think twice if this car is really a Honda. The belligerent lines covering the body from the fascia all the way to the rump are somewhat different from what we’ve gotten used to seeing from the brand. The aggressive streaks also impart the impression that the HR-V is bigger than it actually is. But damn, this is probably--in my opinion--the sexiest car Honda has produced outside of the NSX. I particularly like how the sculptured character lines on the flanks draw you to the “hidden” door handles on the C-pillars.
The optional Mugen bodykit on our test unit here further exemplifies the HR-V’s stylish demeanor. It has 18-inch Mugen alloy wheels that look outrageous at first, yet grow on you over time. However, the front, rear and side under-spoilers kind of defeat the purpose of the car’s increased ride height, because you now have ground clearance similar to that of a typical sedan.
Upon opening the door, you are greeted by an illuminated HR-V emblem on the side step that invites you to sit in its driver-centric coupe-like interior. The absence of physical buttons gives the car a modern minimalist appeal that is elegant to look at. The matte- and glossy-black materials make it a bit dark inside, but the quality and the layout are more upmarket than anything else in its class. It has a seven-inch touchscreen multimedia display that’s a bit laggy at times, but it’s still one of the easiest systems to navigate in the market.
The front seats are quite comfortable and easily hold your bum. The rear seats tumble down and fold with a quick pull of the latch. When these seats are folded, the HR-V can provide you with a generous and perfectly flat boot space of about 1,665L.
But the HR-V is not perfect. The comfort of the seats made me wonder why there’s no six- or eight-way power-seat adjustment on them. The smart entry system lets me enter and operate the vehicle without having to take the keys out of my pocket, but it didn’t lock the doors automatically when I walked away. The beautiful floating center console hid most of the ports from easy access. They’re not deal-breakers, but they’re a legit discomfort given the considerable cost of the HR-V.
Under the hood is a 1.8-liter i-VTEC gasoline engine good for 139hp and 174Nm--just enough to pull the car’s 1,269kg body. The HR-V never really wowed me in terms of power and performance. It felt fast driving around the city, but you wish it had that punchy and energetic feel of bigger SUVs once you took it out of the metro. It’s frustrating given the HR-V’s sporty look and coupe-like cabin.
Then again, it’s a crossover, not an SUV, and definitely not a sports car. For those who need real-world capabilities, the HR-V’s i-VTEC engine excels in just about any situation you throw at it. It will get you from point A to B in a brisk manner, regardless of what’s inside your cabin. Combine that with a fuel economy of about 11km/L (8km/L without the Econ mode), and you know you have yourself a very capable work transporter or kid-hauler.
RIDE AND HANDLING
Despite our bad experience with the third-generation CR-V, the HR-V was surprisingly nice to drive. It’s solid and provides a planted feeling on the road--a definite improvement compared to its bigger and older sibling. At times, I found my big head bobbing like a bobblehead at low speeds, but I couldn’t tell if that was the car’s suspension or our potholed roads. The car also has minimal wind and road noise entering the cabin, while retaining Honda’s good visibility thanks to the large windshield.
Even after spending several hours stuck in traffic, I still found the seats comfortable with plenty of hip room and support. Just don’t expect that same support when you hit corners at an abrupt pace. Remember that this is still a crossover.
All vehicles that roll out of Honda’s plants are built with safety in mind, so you can pretty much expect this with the HR-V. Personally, I find some of the on-board safety tech a bit distracting, especially the multiview reversing camera. Nothing still beats an attentive and engaged driver.
Certain features I appreciated were the electric parking brake (EPB) and the auto brake hold (ABH). The EPB works like your typical handbrake with the push of a button. The ingenious part is that you don’t actually have to depress the button to release it. Do it by simply stepping on the accelerator--it’ll work as long as you have your seatbelt on. The ABH provides convenience for your legs whenever you’re stuck in traffic. When activated, the HR-V automatically remains stopped even when you release your foot from the brake pedal. Freedom! Features like cruise control and paddle shifters are also present for your driving pleasure.
At P1.5 million, this Mugen HR-V is definitely not cheap. Yes, you can find a real SUV that will provide extreme toughness whenever you take it off the road. You can find a coupe that will offer you superior sensation whenever you hit the expressway. You can find a minivan that can pack more people and cargo. But when you’re trying to find balance in your life, the HR-V eases the burden by offering itself as a capable jack of all trades.
Not as good to drive as I had hoped, but the design and the space more than make up for it. In situations where you need a little bit of everything, the HR-V becomes a sensible and practical choice.
SPECS: HONDA HR-V 1.8 EL MUGEN CVT
Engine: 1.8-liter SOHC i-VTEC gasoline
Power: 139hp @ 6,500rpm
Torque: 174Nm @ 4,300rpm
Drive layout: FWD
Photos by Adelbert de Jesus