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Honda HR-V RS 2019 review

EXPERT RATING
7.8
As part of possibly the mildest incremental facelift for a car in recent memory, Honda has added an RS variant to the HR-V range. But is it enough to give the HR-V the edge in a cut-throat segment?

Honda’s HR-V has not exactly had an easy life.

Unlike its big brother, the CR-V, which has stuck around since the very first SUV boom in the late ‘90s, the HR-V small-SUV was actually originally killed off in 2006 thanks to… well… not enough people buying it.

Hard to imagine now, with small SUVs being Australia’s fastest growing car segment. Of course, with the popularity comes the desire for more variants, and everyone seems to want to at least have a semblance of sportiness.

So, as part of possibly the mildest incremental facelift for a car in recent memory, Honda has delivered by adding an RS variant to the HR-V range. But is it enough to give the HR-V the edge in a cut-throat segment? Let’s find out.

Honda HR-V 2019: RS
Safety rating
Engine Type1.8L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.9L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$31,990

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

Honda has given a boost to standard-spec on all HR-Vs for 2019. Our $31,990 RS is a new model grade, which slots between the VTi-S ($27,990) and VTi-LX ($34,590). The RS mainly gets aesthetic upgrades over the VTi-S like the edgy chrome bits and piano-black highlights. 

Value adds include the chunkier, more satisfying steering wheel with better leather on it, paddle-shifters, a ‘Variable Gear Ratio’ steering system claimed to produce a sportier feel, rain-sensing wipers, a passenger wing-mirror that auto-tilts when the car is in reverse, 18-inch alloy wheels (design is exclusive to the RS), leather seats, and privacy glass.

There are a few value adds on the RS, including improved interior trim. There are a few value adds on the RS, including improved interior trim.

These features join the full suite of dusk-sensing forward LED headlights, fog lights and DRLs, rear parking sensors, illuminated vanity mirrors (I never understand how these aren’t standard on every car…), keyless entry and push-button start and Honda’s signature ‘LaneWatch’ blind spot camera which arrive at the VTi-S grade.

One of the biggest let-downs the 2019 HR-V range has to offer is the dreadful 7.0-inch touchscreen. It doesn’t support Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, is an old-style touch interface which is slow to react to inputs, has a crusty GPS system that frequently failed to find a signal, and is just generally terribly laid out. It’s even a victim to glare pretty much constantly. Make it go away.

The multimedia system is the HR-V's biggest let-down. The multimedia system is the HR-V's biggest let-down.

I will say though, the ultra-wide-angle reversing camera was excellent. It allows you to get right up close to objects or parked cars with clinical precision.

Considering the price, the Mazda CX-3 sTouring at $28,740 is slightly better equipped but drastically less practical, the Suzuki Vitara S-Turbo is AWD at $32,990 and has a fun turbo engine, and Hyundai’s $30,500 Kona Active is a value-packed multimedia and safety tour-de-force.

You may also want to consider the safe and stylish but underpowered Toyota C-HR at $28,990.

It’s worth noting, while Auto Emergency Braking is standard across the HR-V range, Honda’s full active ‘ADAS’ safety suite remains only available on the VTi-LX. Hop to the safety section to see if it’s worth the extra cash.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

The RS really stands out as the most eye-grabbing of the HR-V range. It’s a good thing too, because hardly anything has changed from last year’s car.

While some of the extra $4000 over the VTi-S goes purely into styling touches, they make a huge difference when you add them all up. It even has slightly more imposing dimensions, as the bodykit juts out a little longer and wider over the other variants.

The plethora of small changes to the HR-V's exterior add up to an impressive looking package. The plethora of small changes to the HR-V's exterior add up to an impressive looking package.

I’m a fan of Honda’s wacky alloy wheel designs, the 18-inch ones on the RS included, and you have to appreciate the hidden doorhandles on the rear doors. It helps the HR-V maintain a coupe-style silhouette.

Our test car's ‘Phoenix Orange’ colour suits the sporty theme, and all the colours are free on the RS, even the premium ones which will set you back $575 on other variants.

I'm a fan of the 'Phoenix Orange' colour and 18-inch alloys on the RS. I'm a fan of the 'Phoenix Orange' colour and 18-inch alloys on the RS.

Inside things are mostly good, too. At the RS level arrives some plush faux-leather seats, a chunkier leather steering wheel and vastly improved leather door inserts over the VTi and VTi-S. There are piano black surfaces and some chrome trim thrown about the place which are mostly tasteful in their application.

I'm a fan of the almost ‘80s-style air vents that cut across the passenger’s side of the dash. They suit the theme of the car, as well as supplying more than adequate air flow to the cabin.

The cabin design is generally slick, modern and appealing. The cabin design is generally slick, modern and appealing.

Of course, a blight on the whole interior is the cheap-looking touchscreen that ruins the otherwise immersive cockpit. To make matters worse, the USB and AUX inputs come out the front of it, so you have to contend with unsecured cables all over the place while they are in use.

Oh, and there is no volume dial, so that’s best controlled through the steering wheel… Even the C-HR’s pretty average media system manages to have dials.

There are no dials anywhere. Why... There are no dials anywhere. Why...

It seems at odds with the slick, properly integrated touch-based air con control unit below it. But again, no dials for fan speed or temperature… Why?

How practical is the space inside?   9/10

Ah, now this is where the HR-V really shines. Thankfully, unlike the Civic RS, the HR-V RS loses nothing in the practicality stakes to the other variants in the range.

What you really need to know about though, is those ‘Magic Seats’. Want to carry tall but thin objects? Grab the handle under the rear seats and pull them up (Honda always seem to show pot plants, but Matt Campbell points out pushbikes as a better example). You can even use one of the seats while the other two are folded away.

The 'Magic Seat' system is awesome. The 'Magic Seat' system is awesome.

The rear seats can also be folded fully flat boosting boot space to a ridiculous 1462 litres, or if you needed to carry a long object like a ladder Honda points out how you can make the front passenger seat almost flat as well.

The system is smart and practical, and so few vehicles have something like it (Skoda has a similar flexible back seat arrangement called ‘VarioFlex’, but it’s the only other one that springs to mind).

The boot is massive in any configuration. The boot is massive in any configuration.

As for front passengers in normal operations, there are some pockets in the doors and a centre console box which both border on too small as well as a glove box and a large stowage area underneath the dash.

There's also an odd set of deep cupholders in the centre console with a button-operated divider mechanism to help locate something like a take-away coffee that would otherwise disappear into it. It’s kind of neat, but I managed to get my keys jammed in the mechanism, due either to my chimp-like interaction with it, or the likelihood that it’s way over-engineered for a cupholder. You decide.

Without the rear seats folded down, the HR-V offers up 437 litres (VDA) of boot space which is massive. It’s one of- if not the biggest boots in the segment.

The seats fold flat, revealing enough room to move furniture around. The seats fold flat, revealing enough room to move furniture around.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   7/10

This year’s Honda HR-V powers on with the previous car’s 1.8-litre naturally aspirated  petrol engine.

The 1.8-litre non-turbo engine isn't particularly powerful or fun, but feels about right in the HR-V. The 1.8-litre non-turbo engine isn't particularly powerful or fun, but feels about right in the HR-V.

It produces 105kW/172Nm which doesn’t sound like much but is far from the least powerful in its class. It is bested by Mazda’s CX-3 which has a larger 2.0-litre engine (110kW/195Nm), or something like Suzuki’s fun-packed turbocharged 1.4-litre Vitara (103kW/220Nm), but is way better than the breathless 1.2-litre turbo in Toyota’s C-HR (85kW/180Nm).

The engine drives the front wheels only (there’s no AWD on the HR-V) via a Constantly Variable Transmission (CVT), which I somehow didn’t hate. More on that in the driving section.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

The HR-V is claimed to consume 6.7 litres of regular-grade 91 unleaded per 100km. That’s higher than most competitor claims, and in reality, it’s higher still.

After my week of mixed freeway and suburban driving, I scored 9.0L/100km. The RS was a bit fun to drive, though, so that might have added to the total.

For a real-world comparison, I scored 8.0L/100km in both the C-HR Koba and Suzuki Vitara S-Turbo. 

All HR-Vs have a 50-litre fuel tank.

What's it like to drive?   8/10

The HR-V has never been bad to drive, but the subtle tweaks on the new RS grade elevate it a little from the rest of the range. Honda has given the RS its own suspension tune, as well as the ‘Variable Gear Ratio’ steering which add up for an engaging experience.

The suspension is stiffer than the rest of the HR-V line-up, but it suits the car well. It does an admirable job of recovering from bumps quickly, while not letting the larger potholes ruin the cabin ambiance too much. And despite the firm set-up, the RS doesn’t become too busy over frequent ruts or bumps.

The engine isn’t exactly hair-raising, but is about right for a car this size and weight. And I was surprised to find the CVT didn’t ruin the experience. I usually decry CVT’s as rubber bands on cones which suck the joy out of driving, but the re-worked unit in the HR-V is one of the best I’ve ever used.

There was hardly any of the usual rubbery response in the accelerator pedal, the seven steps that are programmed onto it behave more or less like a real-deal torque converter, and it backs off nicely without lingering for too long around the high-rev range. You can still hear a bit of a droning noise at higher revs, however.

The steering was nice and immersive and is reactive to the speed at which you are travelling, presenting a true upgrade over the VTi-S. Without being particularly powerful or innovative, the HR-V was pretty enjoyable to drive.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   7/10

All HR-Vs now have AEB as standard, and all variants maintain their maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating awarded in 2015.

It should be noted that in the case of the RS, the AEB is low speed only, and will not stop for you at speeds faster than 32km/h. You’ll also miss out on 'Forward Collision Warning', 'Lane Departure Warning' and auto-dimming high-beams which form part of the ‘ADAS’ suite on the top-spec VTi-LX.

Not available on any HR-V is active cruise control, ‘Blind Spot Monitoring’ (BSM) or ‘Lane Keep Assist’ (LKAS).

The Toyota C-HR is far better equipped with these items out of the box and the Nissan Qashqai, Hyundai Kona and Mazda CX-3 have most of those active safety items available. at the least as an option.

The RS does score the strange but welcome ‘LaneWatch’ blind spot camera which serves as a kind of stand-in for blind spot monitoring on the left-hand side of the car. When you indicate it hijacks the multimedia screen with a video feed from a fish eye lens underneath the left-hand wing-mirror. It’s off-putting at first, but useful when you adjust to it.

Honda's 'LaneWatch' tech is a nice addition. Honda's 'LaneWatch' tech is a nice addition.

All HR-Vs score the excellent reversing camera, two ISOFIX child seat mounting points on the outer rear seats and a space-saver spare.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   9/10

Honda offers a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which is among the best in class. It matches the Mazda CX-3’s and Hyundai Kona’s five-year plans while blowing the C-HR and Vitara out of the water with their outated three-year/100,000km offerings.

Servicing is at 12 month/10,000km intervals, and services will set you back an average of $296, which is relatively cheap.

Verdict

The RS not only looks the business in Honda’s HR-V line-up but unlike its Civic cousin, has some additions which genuinely add a bit of driver engagement to the mix. Even its CVT isn't hateful.

In terms of cabin practicality, it is near unbeatable in this segment, and the whole package is only truly let down by the awful muiltimedia offering. 

A smidge more on the active safety front wouldn’t go awry either, but the HR-V RS is certainly worth your consideration in the busy small SUV crowd.

Could the new RS turn you into a Honda HR-V fan? Tell us what you think in the comments below

Pricing Guides

$29,790
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$24,990
Highest Price
$34,590

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
+LUXE 1.8L, ULP, CVT AUTO $29,990 2019 Honda HR-V 2019 +LUXE Pricing and Specs
50 YEARS EDITION 1.8L, ULP, CVT AUTO $26,590 2019 Honda HR-V 2019 50 YEARS EDITION Pricing and Specs
LUXE 1.8L, ULP, CVT AUTO $29,990 2019 Honda HR-V 2019 LUXE Pricing and Specs
RS 1.8L, ULP, CVT AUTO $31,990 2019 Honda HR-V 2019 RS Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.8
Price and features7
Design8
Practicality9
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption7
Driving8
Safety7
Ownership9
Tom White
Journalist

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