Master stroke is what I would describe the product planners at Honda have done when they plan the HR-V. The global automotive industry is so competitive that every players have to create a new market or segment and dominate it for a long period of time. That is what Honda has done with the HR-V and they have not done it half-heartedly. Based on the advance Jazz / City platform the engineers at Honda recognize that raising the ground clearance and stretching it would not be complete to satisfy the demanding market.
Honda has also equipped the HR-V with a 1.8 liter engine to give the car a heart that matches the build of the car. Hats off to the team at Honda for taking the effort to have the 1.8 liter heart in the HRV as we have seen many manufacturers adopt the same engine / platform combination when they create new variant from the existing platform. The result of these painstakingly efforts is positive review by the media, good market response, long waiting period, high profit for the company and good staff morale.
But is all the hype about the HR-V justified or is it just a flash in the pan due to a need for a compact SUV in this category? We drove a year old HRV with more than 30,000km on the clock to find out if the love affair for the compact SUV is genuine.
The design has not aged a bit since its introduction about 2 years ago. It of course will not turn heads anymore as you will surely encounter at least another 1 or 2 HR-V within the first 1km of drive. Yes it is that popular especially in the Klang Valley.
The 1.8 liter i-VTEC engine in the HR-V is what it is really all about. The drive off the line is responsive. But equipped with a CVT transmission without the manual selection of pre-set gears, this car is built for sensible driving. I can understand the reason behind the CVT transmission which is for better fuel economy and drivability, especially in city driving. Driving mainly in city traffic environment, the HR-V achieves an amazing 12.7km/l. This truly surprised me as I was predicting a range of 10-11km/l based on cars of this dimension and engine size.
The ride over local road condition which can be described as ‘wanting’, the HR-V can be a little busy. I thought the tyre pressure was wrongly set but it was not. I guess the short wheelbase and a firm suspension which is necessary for an SUV to prevent excessive body roll is the reason behind this.
With a combination of the powerful 1.8 liter i-VTEC engine and a solid chassis, I somehow sense the feeling the car is urging me to challenge other ‘give way to me’ drivers on the road. Must have been the ‘The Power of Dreams’ in me giving me this sensation. But sensibility is the order of the day. This car is after all an SUV with low rolling resistance tyre and a CVT transmission. I should not contribute to the number of hooligans on the road and be made infamous by social media.
I am glad the engineers did not take the easy route and just reuse the Jazz / City dashboard in the HR-V. Not that the Jazz / City dashboard is not pretty or functional but the HR-V’s dashboard is special especially floating section of the gear lever. This lend the car a modern impression. The large compartment under the gear lever is very useful for storing various items like house keys, access cards, smartphones, packet of biscuits, smart tag and many more. My complain here is the location of usb port. As they are located quite deep in this compartment, it requires a long usb cable if you wish to charge your phone and want to place it on the upper section of the center console. Cost cutting measures by phone maker have brought about shorter usb cables nowadays.
A setting I found very appropriate in the HRV is the switch for the headlight. It is set in auto mode only. This would ensure the car is lighted up when needed as I always user come across ghost driver at late evening. There were some discussion amongst the passenger in front and the back about the long horizontal air-cond louver on the dashboard. The front passenger say the air-cond is blowing into his face and the rear passenger say the front passenger is blocking the air. Luckily the air-cond in this car is very effective in cooling the interior of the car quickly to ease of a potential face off between the front and rear passenger.
At the end of the day, we also fell in love in the HR-V. More than 10,000 consumer can’t be wrong especially when they put their hard earn money on their choice of vehicle.
Text and images: Celica GT4