Why we’re running it: To see if Honda’s hybrid-only mini-SUV can be an efficient long-distance commuter car
Life with an HR-V: Month 1
Welcoming the HR-V to the fleet – 2 March 2022
Well, this is a result. Put the aggressively muscular Civic Type R and adorable E electric supermini to one side and I wouldn’t have pegged Honda as a particularly style-oriented brand, yet the HR-V crossover I’ve just taken delivery of is actually something of a looker.
It’s certainly a major departure from the previous model, which to me seemed to appeal mainly to an older generation of customers – albeit not quite to the degree of the old Jazz.
Not even the HR-V Sport and its 180bhp VTEC powerplant seemed to do much to change its image. But this new generation? This Honda HR-V is unrecognisable from the car it replaces, with a lower roofline, widened haunches and an elongated bonnet that conspire to give it real road presence – even in our arrival’s optional Meteoroid Grey paint, which can be a little anonymous in a crowded car park. The slightly sloping rear end gives the car a bit of a Polestar 2 vibe, too, which can only be a good thing.
Inside, it’s a similar story, with a spacious layout and modern styling, although not quite to the same tech-led minimalist standard as the Honda E. There are perhaps a few too many beeps and bongs for my liking, which spoil the mood somewhat with their tinny quality, but the driving position, exterior visibility and perceived quality of materials make it an otherwise pleasant place to spend time.
Things have also changed under the bonnet, with Honda ditching diesel engines altogether and selling the HR-V as a hybrid only. The e:HEV powertrain combines a 1.5-litre petrol four-pot with an electric motor for a combined 129bhp and 187lb ft, but either power source can drive the vehicle in isolation.
Our road testers tell me that when driven sensibly, it does a good impression of an EV, right down to the fine-grain control over regenerative braking available via paddles on the steering wheel.
On motorways, the petrol engine takes over for maximum efficiency, but the system blends the two power sources on intermediate routes. Given that I can clock up the miles at an impressive rate travelling between photoshoots, I’m hopeful that the overall economy figures will match Honda’s claims – and that the noise created by the e-CVT gearbox’s penchant for revs won’t prove irritating over long distances.
I’m also looking forward to running a hybrid that doesn’t require plugging in. Although the public charging infrastructure has improved greatly around my corner of the south-west, my typical workday rarely afforded me the time to top up the Cupra Formentor PHEV that I ran previously.
Our HR-V is in top-tier Advance Style trim, with no added extras bar the £550 paint, as it’s equipped very generously as standard. A powered tailgate, parking sensors with a reversing camera, adaptive cruise control and wireless smartphone charging are all welcome inclusions, and the heating for the seats and steering wheel has already proved its worth after a recent series of long outdoor photoshoots.
So far, I’ve found the 9.0in touchscreen easy to navigate and responsive to use, to the point that plugging in my phone and swapping to Apple CarPlay hasn’t become the first thing I do every time I get behind the wheel. It’s also a relief to have actual physical dials for the heating controls, which I find much less distracting than on-screen icons.
The active safety systems seem to err on the side of caution, sounding the alarm whenever an object gets within the general vicinity of the car. But I’ve noticed that with other new cars, too, so the Honda doesn’t feel too jumpy in this respect.
Given that I rarely leave the house with anything less than three flight cases stuffed with camera equipment, I wasn’t sure if a compact crossover like the HR-V would manage to swallow it all, but Honda’s rear ‘Magic Seats’ really do help with stowing luggage. They can fold down for a flat load area, or fold up like a set of cinema seats, meaning there’s even room for a pair of mountain bikes when I’m not travelling for work. The plastic boot liner also helps keep mess to a minimum.
First impressions? The HR-V has so far been perfectly pleasant to drive. It feels a little softer through the corners than the Formentor, but that was an undeniably sportier proposition, and I actually prefer the Honda’s more relaxed nature. The steering is light, but it can be rewarding on the right roads, which I wasn’t expecting.
I’ve largely stuck to the Eco driving mode and let the car decide how best to use the hybrid system, which has so far delivered 48mpg, but it’s early days. We will see if I can improve on that figure as the months roll on.
How much Luc likes the HR-V will almost certainly depend on how he drives it. In Sport mode, the e-CVT loudly holds high revs but doesn’t deliver the acceleration to match, which makes it feel slower than it is. With a light foot and the electric motor doing much of the work, it should be much more relaxing.
Honda HR-V E:HEV Advance Style specification
Specs: Price New £32,310 Price as tested £32,760 Options Meteoroid Grey paint £550
Test Data: Engine 4 cyls, 1498cc, petrol, plus 2 electric motors Power 129bhp at 6000-6400rpm Torque 187lb ft Kerb weight 1380kg Top speed 106mph 0-62mph 10.7sec Fuel economy 52.0mpg CO2 122g/km Faults None Expenses None