How Honda's HR-V crossover/SUV blurs the lines on size and space
First drive.. in Lisbon
It is more tall coupé than bulging muscle crossover/SUV. More moderately toned than pumped up. And more neutral than attitudinal.
Honda's sub-compact HR-V is a lot of things really - aren't all these crossovers these days? - and finding differences is the key.
In this case I think they lie in the design of the exterior and the versatility of interior.
The HR-V, whose ancestor Honda claim started the crossover craze all those years ago, will cost from €23,995 when it arrives in Ireland in September. The diesels, far more likely to be in demand, will begin at €25,995.
The hard part is pigeonholing it and frankly it doesn't sit easily in what we think of as small or medium crossovers.
It is not as big as the Nissan Qashqai (8cm shorter), for example. Yet Honda claim it has more interior room. Only when you view both interiors - as I've just done - do you give credence to the claim. There isn't much in it to the naked eye but one takes their word for it.
So that blurs normal lines between segments as it has so much room inside.
It is also a bit of a segment buster on price. Honda have decided not to go the normal entry-level route to get a price of around €20,000 or so. Few people buy those by all accounts. So they start with what would probably be normal second-level trim.
That includes 16ins alloys, climate control, Bluetooth, City-Brake, cruise control, auto lights, CD Radio with 5ins i-MID, remote audio controls and Idle Stop as standard.
Go up another step and you get parking sensors, Honda Connect infotainment system, 17ins alloys, dual-zone climate control, dynamic safety pack, six-speakers and front fogs.
And with top-of-the-range you get leather, panoramic sunroof, Garmin nav, LED headlamps, reversing camera and privacy glass.
There was a surprising amount of cabin room; loads for me, my co-driver and anyone who wished to sit in the back.
Key reasons for that space include moving the petrol tank up under the front seats to leave a higher, flatter floor.
And that, in turn, made the way for themarque's Magic Seat system. It is rather clever and at the risk of repeating myself I'll quickly run through it again because you can mix and match a lot of passengers and luggage demands with it.
Basically there are three modes:
1. Where the rear seatbacks fold forward so you get a big, flat floor.
2. Where the base of the rear seat(s) lifts up and locks parallel with the seat-back so you get huge ground-to-ceiling clearance for a big awkward object.
3. Front-and-rear passenger seatbacks fold forward horizontally. An 8ft ski-board will fit with the front passenger seat down.
And the boot's 453 litres expand to 1,026 when the rear seats are folded away.
As if to emphasise my point about it being an 'all-comers' car they are in the business of taking orders from people who might otherwise opt for a Renault Captur, Skoda Yeti, Audi Q3, Volkswagen Tiguan, Mazda CX-3, Jeep Renegade, Opel Mokka, Hyundai ix35, Toyota RAV-4 etc.
Some of those have 4WD options: the HR-V is front-wheel drive only - and the main models have 6spd manual transmission. The 1.6-litre i-DTEC diesel (120bhp) and a new1.5-litre i-VTEC petrol provide the power. I felt a bit disappointed with both. They were throaty and short of sparkle in the HR-V though the diesel is excellent in other models I've driven.
The diesel manages a claimed 4.0/4.1 litr/100km depending on 16in or 17ins wheels (70.8mpg/68.9mpg) and incurs €190 road tax.
The 1.5 litre i-VTEC petrol develops 130bhp (a claimed 5.6/5.7l/100km, 50.4/49.6mpg, €270/€280 road tax).
You can also get a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) automatic version with the 1.5 litre petrol (130bhp, 5.2/5.4l/100km, 54.3/52/3mpg, €200/€270 road tax depending on wheel size).
There is a lot of demand for automatics such as this, I'm told.
Finally, my impressions of the car varied with the colour; the dark blue dulled its lines, the bright red brought it to life.
I've no doubt the HR-V will appeal to buyers (though I'm reserving judgment on the engines until I get to drive them here) for several reasons.
It is smart, practical, well equipped and demand for such vehicles is only going one way - upwards - for the foreseeable future.