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Honda HR-V 2015 review

EXPERT RATING
6

Honda's mini-SUV revives a badge and relies on a winning — but cheaper — formula.

More than 1000 people voted for the Honda HR-V last month.

Their first preference in showrooms reflects both the success of the mini-SUV class and the acceptance of the born-again Honda tiddler.

I say born again because there was an HR-V from 1999 to 2006, although it would not have remotely qualified for The Tick. It was small outside, even tighter inside, underpowered and underdone.

This new one is a fresh idea, based on the all-new Jazz, and aimed at filling the gap that's emerged below today's CR-V.

So it's a youthful newcomer that is virtually the same size as the original CR-V, which was introduced as a high-riding Civic in the early days of the SUV takeover. It's aimed straight at first-time new-car buyers, people in their 20s, and older drivers who are downsizing to something that treads lightly and is easy on their hips and legs.

My first impression is not great

The starting price is $24,990, it comes with a 1.8-litre petrol engine, the cabin is quite roomy, it has good boot space for the class and it has that "H" badge that has won so many people for so many years.

It drives well enough, has some classy stuff including a seven-inch multimedia touchscreen, and each of the four models gets a standard reversing camera.

My time with the HR-V comes as I'm cycling through the newest mini-SUV arrivals, including the Renault Captur and Mazda CX-3. So it comes into crisp focus from the get-go.

And my first impression is not great. Why? Because of the cover over the luggage space.

I find a flimsy piece of fabric where other companies have some sort of cardboard and it rings alarm bells. This is cost cutting of the worst kind and the cover is not even strong enough to support a single bag of groceries.

This discovery sends me looking for more and I discover cheap plastics, seat covering that looks flimsy and poorly stitched, and seat padding that is less than supportive.

That's all fine on a Jazz from $14,990, but the HR-V costs another $10,000 — at least — and it's up against classy rivals led by the CX-3.

There is plenty of room in the cabin, and it's quiet and relaxed at freeway speeds

But I park the early prejudice and find I like the way the HR-V drives. It's nicely spritely despite a CVT auto that never wants to work with me, there is plenty of room in the cabin, and it's quiet and relaxed at freeway speeds.

The ride is a bit bouncy but the fuel economy is good on standard fuel.

The warranty is much improved from Honda's earlier package, and there is a capped-price service package for five years, but the yearly service interval at 10,000km does not match some rivals. We're tipping good resale figures from Glass's Guide.

On the safety front, I like the camera, the parking radar and the rest of the basic package, so I'm fairly certain it will hit Honda's five-star ANCAP target. But I am driving a heavily loaded VTi-L and that means a bottom line of, gulp, $32,990.

The multimedia system has a huge display, and the basic boot space of 437L is among the best in class. Honda says folding the back seats opens up 1032L, sufficiently open to carry a pair of mountain bikes.

That's good news for weekend escapers and also young families who have to haul prams and the rest of a baby-support package.

Yet, despite all the good things about the HR-V, I keep coming back to its rivals and asking which one I would choose. Would I prefer the funky looks and the cabin comfort of the Renault Captur, or would I go for the CX-3 that sets the class benchmark?

Or would I go instead for a Nissan Qashqai or a Subaru XV (that one is a no) or any of the other mini-SUVs?

The HR-V is a lineball call

You see, the HR-V is good, but it's not great. I like the drive, apart from the annoying CVT, and I really like the space. But I can't get past the cheapoid work around the cabin and the feeling that Honda could and should have done better on a car that costs $10,000 more than the one on which it is based.

Verdict

The HR-V is a lineball call. It's selling well, it's a good size with plenty of space and flexibility and it gets along pretty nicely.

But would I recommend it over the Mazda CX-3? And can I excuse the pitiful luggage cover?

It's no and no, and that means no Tick.

Pricing Guides

$21,873
Based on 194 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$16,880
Highest Price
$26,995

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
VTi 1.8L, ULP, CVT AUTO $16,880 – 22,990 2015 Honda HR-V 2015 VTi Pricing and Specs
VTi-L 1.8L, ULP, CVT AUTO $20,290 – 26,995 2015 Honda HR-V 2015 VTi-L Pricing and Specs
VTi-L (Adas) 1.8L, ULP, CVT AUTO $18,370 – 23,320 2015 Honda HR-V 2015 VTi-L (Adas) Pricing and Specs
VTi-S 1.8L, ULP, CVT AUTO $17,787 – 24,588 2015 Honda HR-V 2015 VTi-S Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
6
Pricing Guide

$39

Lowest price, based on 196 car listings in the last 6 months

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