The Honda HR-V RS is an impressive little SUV.
It sits second from the top of the HR-V lineup, with sporting aspirations. Those aspirations pertain more to the likely users than the car itself though.
Let me explain: HR-V, like most SUVs, is a lifestyle vehicle. It allows its owner the freedom to throw his stuff in the back without having to be too precious about what that stuff is doing to his prized possession.
The Honda HR-V has the added advantage of having flexible seating making the cargo hold even more useful.
Although the market segment is positively lousy with offerings, Honda’s SUVs sells very well and is number 2 in the segment. What’s their secret?
In August 2018, HR-V got loads of tasty goodies that add both convenience and safety.
Lighting is LED all round, with tail lights having a “guide-style” effect. Lights come on automatically when they’re needed too.
18” wheels feature a complex 5-hole design which look vaguely like propellers.
The smart concealed rear door handles sit vertically behind the window line keeping the rear door handle-free. It looks good and ads to a look and feel of a high-set coupe.
A shark fin aerial cover looks good, and from the side, gives the profile a nifty little feature on an otherwise featureless roof. There are inbuilt roof rails too.
An integrated spoiler protrudes out over the rear hatch to help keep some of the sun off your hopping.
Black highlights include dark chrome on the grille and door handles, and a rather daring piano black body kit. Along with the darkened rear windows, RS tries to look menacing, but only manages to look slightly naughty.
Cabin ambience is both spacious and relaxed, yet efficient and comfortable.
Seats are “leather-appointed” which means a mix of leathers from a cow, and from a laboratory. Apart from the cabin tech, the seats are the best feature, and could easily go unnoticed.
Unlike most cars, HR-V seating is so flexible, that they have actual “modes”, believe it or not.
Rear seats folded down gives you a generous Utility Mode. Manipulating the rear seats again will give you either a Tall Mode allowing full floor to ceiling use of space, or Long Mode which does what it says on the box.
By far, the most mind-bogglingly useful mode, is Refresh Mode. By taking the headrests out and pushing the back seats back, the front seats recline all the way. A really tired driver might manage a quick power nap.
Honda claims their clever little HR-V will take 2 mountain bikes in Tall Mode, as long as the front wheels are thrown in the boot. The bikes will sit on the floor behind the front seats. I like this a lot.
Moving back into the front, we see the multi-level console. Behind and below the front level hides a place for USB and power outlets. It is a little fiddly to use but it keeps your nooks and crannies neat and tidy and phone cords out of the way.
In fact, the dash and console looks like a modern piece of high-end sporting gear.
A large 7” LCD is a clever drop-in unit with fixed controls for major functions. There are the ubiquitous steering wheel controls of course, and although are not touch buttons like Civic, are easy to use.
I like the easy layout keep oft-used controls front and centre. Separation of individual buttons will mean you don’t try and answer your phone unless you actually want to. It is so easy to touch close-set controls by mistake.
Magic seats are by far the most useful thing about HR-V. Here are a few other things I like.
- USB behind console
- 7” screen
- AM/FM (no DAB+)
- Auto wipers/lights
- Smart entry/start
- Video playback via HDMI
Drive and Engine
Power from the 105kw/172Nm four-cylinder engine is modest but more than adequate. It is delivered to the front wheels though an updated CVT.
Old CVTs had your poor engine screaming for mercy during frisky acceleration.
Honda’s CVT senses the need for speed and moves through a series of preset ratios like a regular automatic. Otherwise the occupants are unaware of what the engine is doing.
You get better fuel consumption with a CVT because the revs only increase when power is needed. When cruising, revs barely hover above.
Honda made HR-V quieter but it was already pretty good in the noise department. Frankly, I didn’t notice the difference.
We set HR-V some simple tasks. A few airports runs, some shopping, and a quick trip to the beach saw us tackle fairly ordinary road surfaces.
I like the way HR-V corners. For a tallish car, it sits reasonably flat.
Macpherson struts can give a tactile sense of road feel up front, but I’ve been somewhat less satisfied with torsion bar rear ends. They can skip in rutted corners. Despite the torsion bar, HR-V stays planted even when pushed.
The real strength of an HR-V sized SUV is the convenience of cargo space without being so huge that you can’t park it.
Steering is very light. Electric steering is better for so many reasons, not the least being that it doesn’t run off a belt.
It only uses power when the wheels change direction. More importantly it allows for fancy active lane keeping and nifty automated parking.
- Hill start assist
- Electronic brake-force Distribution
- Lane Watch
- Traction control
Lane watch is Honda’s answer to blind spot monitor. A camera mounted in the left-hand rear-view mirror keeps an eye on the lane beside you. It operates with the left indicator, or by button on the end of the indicator stalk.
Just like the reversing camera, a large image comes up on the entre dash. It is handy but since it only does the curb-side lane so could still use a monitor for the driver’s side.
I’d like to see the electric parking brake come on automatically when the car is switched off. This feature is invaluable and means you will have to work really hard to run yourself down in your own driveway when opening your gate.
- Looks cute
- Spacious interior with magic seats
- Well equipped
Not So Good Bits
- Some plastics too hard
- Would like a turbo
- No manual option
After a week doing what an owner might do, I loved HR-V for the quiet, smooth ride. It feels remarkably like Honda hatches to drive, and I like that.
HR-V is nippy and neat.
There are plenty of cubby holes to match the equally clever seats. RS is the sportier trim level, but still manages a premium feel far in excess of the price.
Honda says the HR-V is the most complete small SUV on the market. It has the right style, right price, and a five year warranty.
Facts and Figures: 2019 Honda HR-V RS
- Engine: 1.8L four-cylinder petrol producing 105kW/172Nm
- Transmission: CVT
- Warranty: 5 years/ unlimited km
- Safety: Five stars tested 2015
- Origin: Thailand
- Price: from $31,990