While upfront sticker prices for EVs still make them expensive, the fuel-efficient HR-V is quietly stealing sales — after the manufacturer claimed its 47-litre tank could travel as far as 800 kilometres, or 16.9km per litre.
This third-generation HR-V is larger than its predecessor with a longer wheelbase and a wider stance. Its fresh styling incorporates a bold new grille, LED headlights, a longer hood and sleek coupe-like lines featuring a roof that drops towards the rear and capped by a trick set of LED wraparound tail lights.
Carried over from the previous model are Honda’s innovative “magic seats”, which comprise a highly adaptable back row. These fold flat after engineers found an extra 30mm of space by moving the fuel tank closer to the front.
It means the rear seatbacks can be folded to let the base slip down to the floor. Equally, the base can flip upwards, cinema-style, to create a remarkably tall load space, which can accommodate larger items such as a bicycle or furniture when braving a home move.
The 1.5-litre, four-cylinder engine operates without fuss, but it does hold a whiny constant rev at speed, owing to the CVT transmission. This is a common trait in all CVT-equipped cars, but a necessary trade-off to benefit from its efficiency.
From inside, visibility and the positioning of all the various controls are better than average in this class, with exceptional leg room in the rear, though the sloping roof cuts into rear headroom.
The National’s test drive on a hot afternoon delivers two welcome surprises by way of the air-conditioning and the sunroof. Tweaks to the air vents, by making them L-shaped, diverts air away from the face and sends it around the cabin, creating an overall drop in temperature without the freezing knuckles or dry-eye you can get on long runs. Similarly, the new panoramic sunroof cuts infra-red radiation, making the cabin cooler on hot days.
The interior feels fresh and modern, but Honda has nevertheless decided to retain physical buttons, switches and dials for most of the major controls, which is helpful. The centre console features a new eight-inch colour touchscreen display with large icons, and includes Apply CarPlay and Android Auto. For the driver, a 4.2-inch TFT display replaces the old gauges in high-definition colour and prompts you with all the essential information that’s also customisable from the steering wheel.
The interior also has one front USB port and another for the smartphone interface, which is standard across all grades, while there are two rear USB ports on the top line EX model.
This latest HR-V introduces a new suite of safety features for LX and EX models. Called Honda Sensing, it uses a camera in the windscreen to look ahead, which, when combined with software advances and a more powerful processor, is capable of quickly and accurately identifying other vehicles even in the dark.
In this suite are collision avoidance, adaptive cruise control, lane assistance, lane departure assist and lead car departure functions. The collision avoidance alerts the driver of a potential collision, reduces speed to minimise impact and detects oncoming vehicles, as well as bicycles and pedestrians, when turning at night. Lead car departure lets the driver know with an audio and visual alert when the car in front has moved off at traffic lights.
The steering is light, as expected, but also geared so it doesn’t feel nervous despite a bit of inertia tipping the car into corners. However, it’s not as dramatic as you’d expect for a tall-bodied car. While this is not strictly a “driver’s car”, the HR-V remains nicely composed when pushed, it grips well and absorbs the speed bumps and potholes on country roads well.
The 2022 HR-V is a nice reinvention of a model that’s been around for more than 20 years, gradually growing in size, practicality and luxury while underpinning the Honda range with edgy styling and some neat package ideas and interior ergonomics.
Our market is one of the few not to get the hybrid version. This is probably a good thing as the added weight of an electric motor in addition to the petrol engine, would upset the nicely balanced chassis, while the extra kilos of the e-motor and battery would offset any economy gains at low speeds.