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Honda HR-V 1.6 i-DTEC EX

Click to view picture gallery“If the trade barriers come down
  across the Channel (and even if they
  don’t), it’s good to know that there
  are plenty of fine ‘home-grown’ cars
  to buy here in the UK — such as the
  built-in-Great Britain Honda HR-V...”

COMPACT CROSSOVERS ARE A BIG HIT with UK buyers and Honda's boldly-sculpted five-seater has much to recommend it, starting with a pair of fine four-cylinder powerplants from Honda's Earth Dreams Technology series that are designed to maximise both engine performance and fuel efficiency.

A 1.5-litre petrol and a 1.6-litre turbodiesel ensure that whatever fuel you favour there's a HR-V with an engine to suit. We've been driving the 1.6 turbodiesel with a six-speed manual gearbox although if it's an automatic transmission you're wanting then it's the 1.5-litre petrol version you'll have to be driving (as an alternative to a six-speed manual 'box it also offers a CVT with a 'multi-gear' feel that simulates seven speeds).

Officially the HR-V is
thrifty with fuel,
  returning 68.9mpg
in the Combined Cycle.
But before you scoff,
note that during our
week’s testing —
and it
was a pretty hard driven
week —
we recorded
a real-life 58.4mpg...”
Honda's 1,597cc diesel unit pumps out 118bhp backed by a muscular 221lb ft of torque on call from 2,000rpm. That's more than enough to get it off the line and to 62mph in a crisp 10.5 seconds, and on to a top speed of 119mph.

Officially it's thrifty with fuel, returning 68.9mpg in the Combined Cycle. But before you scoff, note that our week's average — and it was a pretty hard driven week — saw a recorded 58.4mpg. Few would quibble with that but for those of you with more helium in your right foot — feel free to shoot for the 68.9mpg. And if you press the green ECON button you could just do it…

With a distinctly coupe-esque turn to its sculpted SUV lines, the HR-V is a smart-looking filly — but not so compact that it can't accommodate up to five. Swing open a front door and you'll find a welcoming and airy cabin — made even lighter by a unique-in-class tilt-and-slide panoramic glass roof.

The soft-feel leather-upholstered height-adjustable seats are as comfortably well-padded as they look (as, too, are the multi-tilt headrests), with generous bolstering to the backrest that holds you in place when you up the pace and which is always agreeably supportive. The cabin ambiance is unquestionably 'premium' but there's nothing showy — the only thing on show is good taste. The fascia design is clean and clutter-free, with a crisp-resolution, seven-inch touchscreen at its heart — angled towards the driver.

Immediately below the screen is a touch-sensitive climate control panel; the centre tunnel rises to meet it and the higher section houses the stubby gear lever, putting it perfectly to hand for accurate, no-stretch gear-changing.

Aft of the gearlever is an electric park brake (with auto hold), followed by a multi-use open bin that, if you prefer, becomes a twin-cup-, can- or bottle-holder; behind that is a sliding armrest. As they say: a place for everything and everything in its place — all of which boosts the A1 driving position.

There's a broad range of functions accessible via the central touchscreen. First up is the award-winning Garmin SatNav — not only is this fully integrated with Honda's Connect infotainment and connectivity system but comes with pre-loaded maps, allowing navigation without mobile data reception.

“The soft leather-
upholstered seats are
as comfortably well-
padded as they look,
with generous bolstering
to the backrest that
holds you in place when
you up the pace.
The cabin ambiance is
but theres
nothing showy

the only thing on display
is good taste...”
The spoken turn-by-turn directions are foolproof and supplemented by photo-real junction views that make it a doddle to get into the correct lane in good time. Naturally there's also real-time traffic avoidance, speed limit indications, sign-view, 3D building and terrain views, and Eco Routing. On top of that you get free map updates for four years — a benefit unique to Honda.

Running on Android, this latest version of Honda's Connect is smartphone-intuitive to operate via the touchscreen thanks to its 'pinch, swipe and tap' interface combined with colour-coded icons, and gives fast access to internet-based services.

Apps that aren't already pre-installed are easily downloadable from the Honda App Centre; one ready to go from the very first time you switch on is the 'Aha' app which connects you to thousands of audio stations spanning music, news, and audio books as well as social media feeds and location-based services.

The touchscreen also displays trip information along with images from the rear-view parking camera plus options for synching with smartphones, WiFi, Bluetooth, HDMI, and MirrorLink (which 'mirrors' the screen of a connected compatible device, allowing it to be operated through the HR-V's touchscreen). Making the most of your sounds is a six-speaker, 180-watt audio system.

There's a distinct and friendly 'wraparound' feel to the cockpit, particularly from the driver's seat. Dead ahead of him or her is a hooded three-dial instrument binnacle; its central speedometer is flanked to the left by a smaller rev-counter and to the right there's a trip display. Graphics are the time-proven white-on-black. Less traditional is the speedo's backlighting which changes colour from white through to green during fuel-efficient driving. Also easily reachable close to the gear stick is the red Start/Stop engine button.

Your front seat passenger will no doubt comment on the 'wide flow' air outlet with three adjustable air vents across their side of the fascia — they'll also be sure to appreciate the high volume air flow it provides. The driver gets a vent either side of the sporty three-spoke, leather-wrapped, hi-gloss-black-embellished steering wheel. Both will enjoy the hot or cold output that reaches them, very efficiently managed by a two-zone climate control system.

Kit-wise, the top-trim EX is fully loaded with smart entry and start, leather interior, one-shot-op panoramic glass roof, two-stage heated seats, rear privacy glass, auto-dimming rearview mirror, rearview camera, SatNav, climate control, on-demand powerfold (and heated) door mirrors, auto lights and wipes, front and rear parking sensors, Honda's Connect (infotainment system with six speakers, CD player, 7-inch touchscreen, DAB, internet radio, Aha app, Internet browsing, 2 x USB jacks, and 2 x HDMI jacks), Magic Seat system, cruise control with speed limiter, power windows, multifunction steering wheel, Bluetooth hands-free, tyre pressure monitoring, LED headlights and daytime running lights, 17-inch alloys, eight airbags, and Honda's Driver Assistance Safety Pack.

“Once seated in the back
you’ll appreciate the
two-setting backrest
angle along with the
generous personal space:
with a fist of headroom
and ample knee- and leg-
room, it’s a restful spot
to occupy, especially
when travelling long
Part of the HR-V's 'trick' of appearing to be a coupe is not just down to the sporty glasshouse, but also the long side rear windows and the rear door handles artfully sited — hidden, almost — in the window frames where they meet the C-pillars. Operating them is easy; and on the other side of the generously-sized doors is a roomy rear cabin.

Once seated you'll appreciate the two-setting backrest angle along with the generous personal space with a fist of headroom and ample knee- and leg-room for some chilled-out lounging; you sit high and comfortable, and it's a restful spot to occupy, particularly when travelling long distances. When two adults aren't sharing the comfy drop-down centre armrest there's more than enough room for three pairs of feet side-by-side.

Now you see them, now you don't — the HR-V's Magic Seat system is an extremely handy feature that offers numerous configurations from the 60:40 split rear seats to maximise the people/load carrying layout. Using the three modes is child's play: in Utility mode the rear seatbacks fold forward as the seat bases lowers into the rear passenger footwell, creating a 1,845mm-long flat floor.

In Tall mode the rear seat base flips up and is locked in a vertical position against the backrest to create a cargo space with a floor-to-ceiling height of 1,240mm for carrying tall objects behind the front seats. Long mode sees the front passenger seatback folded down to a horizontal position while the rear backrest folds forward, forming a 'tunnel' that will accommodate items as long as 2,445mm.

Not only does the HR-V serve willingly as a people-carrier but whenever you need to haul some cargo it's equally accommodating — lift the wide tailgate and you'll be faced with an impressive 470 litres of space for luggage; fold down the rear seats and this transforms into a 1,553-litre loadbay with a seamless and level floor. Loading is made easier by the low loading height (650mm) plus there's some extra storage space under the lidded boot floor panel — alternately, you can fold it up to create a deeper boot.

The 1.6 is an agreeably responsive unit — but then it's a Honda, and Honda knows how to do engines. It responds quickly to your right foot, revving cleanly. And with a strong 221lb ft of torque, it always seems to have more than enough power to do as it's asked — and willingly.

“The 1.6 turbodiesel is an
agreeably responsive
unit — but then it’s a
Honda and Honda knows
how to do engines.
It responds quickly to
your right foot, revving
cleanly. And with 118bhp
and a strong 221lb ft of
torque it always has
more than enough power
to do as it’s asked
— and willingly...”
On motorways it cruises along contentedly, and there's always ample in reserve for overtaking slower traffic without needing to change down.

Like all crossovers, a big part of the HR-V's appeal is the higher seating position and consequently higher eye-line (100mm higher, in fact, than the average car). Additionally you also enjoy a wide field of vision, making it oh-so-easy to place on the road. Parking and reversing is hassle-free thanks to audible nose and tail sensors and a rear-looking camera.

There's a nicely planted stance about the HR-V that suggests a reassuring drive. And that's exactly what you get — it rides well on its new suspension and the adaptive electric power-assisted steering delivers clean turn-in plus it's weighty enough for some press-on driving.

With a lower centre of gravity, decent grip and well-controlled body lean, the handling is more than capable when you need to press on — if you want to up the ante with all-wheel drive then you'll need to step up to the HR-V's big brother, the CR-V. That said, the front-wheel drive HR-V is more than competent. The all-disc brakes also do a fine job, delivering powerful and stable stopping.

Naturally there are a number of safety and handling aids to bolster the HR-V's dynamics including Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability Assist and Hill Start Assist.

And when it comes to keeping its driver and passengers safe the HR-V is well-prepped: every model in the line-up from the entry-level S comes with Honda's City-Brake Active System that uses laser radar technology to scan the road ahead at speeds below 20mph; if a risk of collision is detected it automatically pre-brakes as well as audibly and visually warning the driver, followed, if the driver doesn't react, by full autonomous braking to bring the car to a stop.

SE, SE Navi and the range-topping EX also get Honda's Advanced Driver Assist System, which uses radar sensors, plus forward- and rear-facing cameras. This comprehensive suite of active safety technologies includes: Forward Collision Warning (at 9mph and above it recognises the vehicle directly ahead, warning if there's a collision risk; the driver can adjust the warning distance or even turn it off).

Next up is Traffic Sign Recognition which detects and recognises road signs displaying speed limits and 'No Overtaking' information and displays them in the instrument binnacle.

There’s a nicely planted
stance about the HR-V
that suggests a
reassuring drive.
And that
s exactly what
you get — with a lower
centre of gravity, decent
grip and well-controlled
body lean, the handling
is more than capable
when you need to
press on...”
Also included is the innovative Intelligent Speed Limiter which combines the Adjustable Speed Limiter (this regulates the HR-V's maximum speed as set by the driver) with the Traffic Sign Recognition system.

With the Intelligent Speed Limiter activated, the maximum speed of the vehicle is automatically determined by the prevailing legal speed limit detected by the Traffic Sign Recognition system so when the car passes a sign for a lower speed limit, it will gently and automatically slow, through a reduction in power, to a maximum speed that does not exceed the speed limit.
And, regardless of the accelerator input by the driver, it will not exceed this limit.

When the signs show a higher limit, it will allow the driver to accelerate until the vehicle reaches the new maximum permitted speed, at which point it will prevent the vehicle from exceeding the new speed limit. You can switch this off but certainly in built-up areas or places where speed limits keep changing illogically (as they sometimes do to trap the unwary), it's a good idea to have it working to keep your licence clean.

Two more useful 'assists' are the self-explanatory Lane Departure Warning and High Beam Support — above 25mph this switches High Beam headlights on or off automatically depending on oncoming or preceding vehicles (even bicycles) and background environmental brightness.

Stylishly outfitted with real kerb appeal, near-60mpg real-life fuel consumption, and with multiple and ingenious people and load-carrying solutions, the easy and very agreeable to drive HR-V's 'magic' is more than just in its seats. ~ MotorBar

Honda HR-V 1.6 i-DTEC EX | £26,055
Maximum speed: 119mph | 0-62mph: 10.5 seconds | Test Average: 58.4mpg
Power: 118bhp | Torque: 221lb ft | CO2: 108g/km