Let the battle of the crossovers begin as Honda's HR-V saunters into the fray
Is there room for one more compact crossover? Honda thinks so
According to Jane Austen, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. That may or may not still be the case but these days most men and women, it seems, in want of a car will opt for a crossover, such is the demand for these small compact SUVs. Today's modern equivalent of Austen's fledgling families desire a car that sits between an SUV and an MPV, with coupe qualities thrown in.
Honda may have pioneered the concept of the small sports utility vehicle (SUV), when the original HR-V model was launched in 1998, but it was Nissan that changed the way we think about family motoring with its Qashqai. Designed to appeal to young families unimpressed by the typical mini-MPV, the HR-V will plug the gap in their range between the Jazz and CR-V.
Bigger than the Nissan Juke but smaller than the Qashqai, the wide front end and sleek lines will undoubtedly turn heads, while touches such as the hidden rear door handles beautifully enhance the coupe look.
Inside, it is understated and stylish and overall the visibility is good, thanks to the raised height. However, it is little difficult to know where the corners of the car are, so parking aids are a must.
The HR-V is also loaded up with much of the technology drivers have come to expect, including a seven-inch Honda Connect touchscreen that gives fast and easy access to internet-based services including web browsing, real-time traffic, news and weather, social media and internet music stations. It is fitted as standard on grades above entry level.
Clever details increase the usable space inside, including the fuel tank, which is in the centre of the vehicle beneath the front seats, allowing for a flat floor and greater legroom for rear-seat passengers. In addition, the versatile 'magic seats' offer the ability to carry long, tall, or wide items in numerous configurations.
The HR-V also has the largest boot in its class, with 453-litre capacity and 1,026 litres with the rear seats folded away.
On sale in Ireland from September, the HR-V will have a choice of two engines: a 130 bhp 1.5-litre i-VTEC petrol or a 120 bhp 1.6-litre i-DTEC diesel. Average fuel economy is impressive and the petrol model returns 5.6 litres per 100 or 50.4 mpg with CO2 emissions of 130g/km, so it's €270 a year to tax.
The frugal diesel returns 4.0 per 100km or 70.8mpg and incurs €190 road tax as CO2 emissions are 104g/km. The petrol will also be offered with a new Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) automatic version - but unlike rivals, the HR-V is only available in front-wheel drive. At the launch, we had an opportunity to test both the petrol and the diesel versions. On the road, the diesel is the more impressive of the two; it feels faster and the extra torque is a big plus. It's also quieter. Whereas the petrol has a harsh and raucous engine note, the diesel, while not by any means refined, is a lot more pleasant on the ear. Both are reasonably good to drive and what they lack in performance they more than compensate for in comfort.
Prices for the petrol HR-V start at €23,995, with the diesel from €25,995. Three Trim Grades will be available from launch, the SE, ES and EX, and all are generously equipped and include a good spread of safety features.
The HR-V faces stiff competition from a growing army of very talented rivals, such as the Citroen C4 Cactus, Fiat 500X and Nissan Juke. On the road, it is not the most exciting new entrant, but the use of space inside is clever and it is well equipped, stylish with excellent practicality, making the Honda HR-V a very interesting new addition. The crossover battle begins anew.