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Driven: High-riding Honda HR-V here at last

It's back: After a 13-year absence, the HR-V name returns to the Honda line-up, with the Jazz-based crossover in dealerships now.

Honda upsizes successful Jazz value and space formula for re-born HR-V

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Honda logo10 Feb 2015

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

HONDA has dropped the final piece of its three-pronged light-car attack in place with the return of the HR-V compact SUV to its Australian line-up.

Aimed squarely at established players such as the Holden Trax and Nissan Juke, as well as the just introduced Renault Captur and imminent Mazda CX-3, the HR-V joins the closely related Jazz hatch and City sedan in boosting the company’s presence in the sub C-segment end of the new-car market.

Like its five-door Jazz cousin, the HR-V brings the practicality of a low flat floor area when the rear-seat backrests are folded down, to give it a unique selling feature in a burgeoning compact SUV class.

As reported in January, Honda has priced and specified the base VTi fiercely at $24,990, plus on-road costs, with its standard continuously variable transmission (CVT) and reversing camera, undercutting the Renault Captur Expression TCe 120 DCT equivalent by $1000.

The French SUV, however, tops the Thai-built HR-V with satellite navigation, rear parking sensors and two extra years of warranty and roadside assistance inclusive.

Only the auto versions of the Juke ST, the Ford EcoSport Ambiente and Suzuki S-Cross GL are cheaper, but all suffer a significant power and torque deficit when lined up against the Honda. Mazda is yet to confirm pricing for its highly anticipated CX-3.

The HR-V’s single-drivetrain offering is Honda’s long-lived 1.8-litre single-cam 16-valve i-VTEC four-cylinder petrol engine, delivering 105kW at 6500rpm and 172Nm at 4300rpm.

Unlike the CX-3, there is no manual gearbox, all-wheel drive or turbo-diesel alternatives in the HR-V's front-drive CVT layout, however the vast majority of buyers in the compact SUV class tend to favour FWD petrol autos.

A new-generation transmission introduced in the Jazz last August, the Earth Dreams CVT, features a Sport mode with seven computer-controlled stepped ratios for a more natural auto transmission feel.

The HR-V introduces a number of Honda firsts, including an electric park brake, forward collision and lane-departure warnings (which, with automatic high-beam control, falls under the ADAS acronym in Honda-speak) on the top-line VTi-L variant, and an autonomous emergency braking system known as City-Brake Active from the $27,990 VTi-S mid-ranger up.

Based on Honda’s B-segment light-car platform, the compact SUV’s designers and engineers wanted to combine the “expansive interior” concept of the Jazz and its famous Magic Seats – possible due to the relocation of the fuel tank beneath the front rather than rear seats – with subtle coupe lines, to create a sleeker silhouette.

Hence the hidden rear door handles and the tapering rear profile window-line that, along with the prominent side swage line upsweep and flared wheel arches, hide the basic boxy shape. That boxy shape brings practicality benefits, however, such as a large and low loading floor with a sizeable tailgate aperture and lip height of only 650mm, and enough cabin width and height for the Magic Seats to maximise their 18 different configuration capability. Dimensionally, the Honda is right in the sub-compact SUV sweet spot, measuring in at 4294mm long (298mm more than Jazz), 1772mm wide (+28mm) and 1605mm high (+81mm), while sitting on a 2610mm wheelbase (+80mm). Ground clearance is 170mm (+35mm).

A compact torsion beam rear suspension design has helped with the HR-V’s cabin packaging, while the front end features the ubiquitous MacPherson strut layout.

Honda says it has worked hard to quell noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) properties with specially developed mounts, bushes and sound-deadening tech, backed up by a mechanical adaptive damper technology that changes its internal settings according to driving and road conditions.

The inner-frame structure is said to be lightweight yet highly rigid, there has been much work in relation to floor strength, and the body employs an effective degree of high tensile steel. Substantial aerodynamic testing with an emphasis on smooth under-floor airflow properties was also carried out.

The result of all this, it is claimed, is that the HR-V meets or exceeds Honda’s internal targets for comfort, refinement and quietness, while maintaining a connected dynamic attitude, enhanced by a newly revamped electric rack and pinion steering set-up. The turning circle, by the way, is 10.6 metres in diameter.

Along with the aforementioned CVT, reversing camera and electric park brake, the VTi also includes cruise control, power windows, a seven-inch colour touchscreen multimedia system with Bluetooth telephony and audio streaming, climate control air-conditioning, 16-inch alloy wheels wearing 215/60R16 tyres, and LED tail-lights.

The Vti-S carries a $3000 premium and adds City Brake Active and blind spot monitoring tech, keyless entry with push-button start, rain-sensing wipers, LED auto headlights, daytime running lights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, roof rails, front fog-lights, and 17-inch alloys wrapped around 215/55R17 rubber.

The flagship $32,990 HR-V VTi-L includes paddle shifters, leather upholstery, parking sensors all round, a panoramic sunroof, heated front seats, rear centre armrest, privacy glass, dual-zone climate control and chrome door handles as standard. Another $1000 ushers in ADAS safety tech.

All three variants feature six airbags, ISOFIX rear child seat latches, emergency stop signalling, hill-start assist, stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution and a tyre deflation warning system.

Towing capacity is rated at 800kg with brakes and 500kg without, while the spare wheel is a space-saver item.

Honda’s capped-price servicing is included as part of a three-year 100,000km warranty.

Honda HR-V pricing*
VTi (a)$24,990
VTi-S (a)$27,990
VTi-L (a)$32,990
VTi-L with ADAS (a)$33,990
*Excludes on-road costs.

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