If you arrive late to a party, you better make a spectacular entrance. Honda is very late to the ‘compact crossover’ party, but it’s new HR-V does indeed make an impressive entrance.
Honda asserts it invented the compact crossover when it launched the original HR-V in 1999, though Nissan would dispute that. It was always a niche player and disappeared in 2006, four years before Nissan launched the Juke and established the sector firmly in the mainstream.
Since then, every other car manufacturer has been playing catch up and there are now 17 cars that can reasonably by called a compact crossover, with maybe as many as ten more set to follow in the next few years.
In such a crowded market, each contender has to stand out. Does the Honda?
It certainly looks good, coupe-alike window-line and concealed rear door handles disguising the large surfaces. Inside, the centre console is set conspicuously high, putting the controls within easy reach and cocooning the driver in what is a vast interior.
Really, it’s amazing how much space has been squeezed into a relatively short, 4.3-metre long footprint. The 453-litre boot beats not only everything of a similar size, it’s more generous than the bigger Nissan Qashqai.
There’s an immense amount of room in the back seats. There’s more legroom than my (huge) Peugeot 406, enough shoulder room for a couple of rugby prop-forwards and headroom to wear several hats. Space at the front is equally as generous.
The dashboard is simply laid out, the seven-inch touchscreen is responsive and easy to navigate (the satnav graphics are dated). The touch-control climate control system is borderline brilliant. Mid-spec SE models come with everything you need: rain sensing wipers, front and rear parking sensors, six-speaker stereo and Android-based infotainment.
On the bigger 17-inch wheels, ride quality is decidedly gritty over rough surfaces (a damper calibration issue), but otherwise it’s extremely comfortable. The chassis doesn’t encourage enthusiastic cornering and the steering is almost totally feel-free. But neither does it fall over in bends, staying impressively flat and only giving in to mild understeer if entry speed is over-ambitious. Honda has pulled its usual trick, making the HR-V just engaging enough to drive – not fun, but not boring either.
There’s a 1.5 i-VTEC petrol engine (I tried it with the optional CVT automatic gearbox, which is best avoided), but you really want the impressive 1.6 i-DTEC diesel. Innocuous figures of 118bhp and 221lb/ft belie a strong mid-range; it’s only when the revs drop really low in a high gear that it struggles. Fortunately, the six-speed manual ‘box is one of the best I’ve used in a while. The motor grumbles under load, but settles down at a cruise.
Most impressive though, driven in typically unsympathetic motoring journalist style, the diesel returned 50mpg all day long. With more consideration it might actually get somewhere near the claimed 68.9mpg.
Late the HR-V may be (to Europe, it went on sale in Japan and North America 18 months ago), but that just means Honda has had the time to perfect it. It’s easily the best all-rounder in the class.
The HR-V goes on sale in late August. Prices start at £17,995, with PCP finance deals from £149 per month. Honda expects to sell 5,000 – 6,000 per year, partly limited by supply from the factory in Mexico.
Honda HR-V 1.6 i-DTEC SE Navi
Engine: 1.6-litre 4-cylinder turbo diesel
Transmission: 6-speed manual; front-wheel-drive
Power/Torque: 118bhp; 221lb/ft
Economy/Emissions: 68.9mpg; 108g/km
0-62mph: 10.2 seconds
Top speed: 119mph
For more information click here
By Only Motors