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Honda HR-V VTi-L 2017 review: long term

Peter Anderson is spending three months living with Honda's small-SUV contender to discover its charms, faults and whether it makes the grade in this very competitive end of the market.

January 23, 2016

Yes, yes, we've heard all the HR-V gags. The old one was a duffer and was rightly sent to the back paddock long ago. It seems the only originals that have survived long-term are the Mountain Dew-coloured ones, reminding us of their wretchedness.

This HR-V could hardly be more different. Based on the handy Jazz hatch, it competes with the smaller Mazda CX-3 and the bigger Nissan Qashqai, with the ageing Mitsubishi ASX still performing well in the sales race at least.

We reckon the HR-V is the best of that category for a number of reasons. The first is the gigantic interior. Upon delivery, the car was quickly put to work as a subject for a CarsGuide Torquing Heads video which saw it spend a week on Nikki Cousins' driveway. That meant her three kids were in and out, with trips to sporting events, end-of-year concerts - her life is a social whirl. The HR-V swallowed everything, including her vast quantity of hair rollers which keep turning up under my feet during heavy braking.

The week after that, the HR-V also shared my driveway with its nemesis, the Qashqai. The HR-V has a bigger boot, more rear legroom and a more thoughtful approach to the SUV idea, which is saying something, because the Nissan is a good car. A go-karting excursion from Sydney to Wollongong and back saw the HR-V chosen because three teenagers - two of them decidedly lanky - said they had way more room in the Honda than in the Nissan.

We reckon the pick of the range is the entry-level VTi at a lip-smacking $24,990. Yes, it's more expensive than a base model CX-3 Neo, but it's better specced and you can fit people over five feet tall in the back as well as put things in the 437 litre boot (the CX-3's is a tiny 264 litres).

Which kind of makes it hard to explain how I ended up with the VTi-L, but who's arguing when it brings leather interior, a whopping sunroof and LED headlights for $33,340 (again, cheaper than the top-spec Qashqai and CX-3)?

The VTi-L is really a mid-grade VTi-S Plus, with mostly convenience or cosmetic-related extras. All the VTi is missing is AEB. If it had that, it would be even more popular.

Our VTi-L has one option, the Morpho Blue pearlescent paint and it really is the best colour to have. It doesn't have ADAS, a safety pack that adds forward collision warning, lane departure warning and high beam support for $1100. The base VTi-L safety package is impressive with auto emergency braking and rear parking sensors along with all the usual ABS, stability control and airbags for a maximum five star ANCAP safety rating.

As if to reinforce the idea the base model is best, the VTi-L shares the same seven-inch touch screen (great hardware, ordinary software), the same 105kW/172Nm 1.8-litre naturally aspirated petrol four cylinder, driving the front wheels through the same continuously variable auto transmission.

I'll be reporting back monthly with my family's impressions of the car, how it drives and how good it is to live with.

2017 Honda HR-V VTi-L

Acquired: December 2016
Distance travelled this month: 742
Odometer: 7227
Average fuel consumption for December: 7.7L/100km (trip computer)

February 13, 2017

The first month of the new year was a big one for our HR-V. It passed its first 2017 challenge - a trip to Flower Power for a tall pair of ficus standards - with flying colours. After a very short period of head-scratching, we deployed two of the VTi-L's standard features. The first was the devilishly clever magic seats (standard across the entire range), which not only fold down but also fold up. The rear seats float over the floor and a quick flick of the forearm sees them fold up out of the way giving you a floor-to-ceiling load area that is taller than the boot's.

We threw down a couple of plastic bags to protect the carpet but realised that it wasn't quite tall enough to get away without some impromptu topiary. That's where the sunroof came to our rescue. We were able to angle the plants forward slightly and they were now safe from harm. Sure, my wife and I looked like a pair of Dr Seuss characters out for a Sunday afternoon drive, complete with green hair poking out the sunroof, but it was for the plants. Just for a giggle, we switched on Eco mode, the little green leaf that shows up in the dashboard reminding us we had our precious cargo aboard.

  • 2017 Honda HR-V VTi-L storage capacity. 2017 Honda HR-V VTi-L storage capacity.
  • 2017 Honda HR-V VTi-L storage capacity. 2017 Honda HR-V VTi-L storage capacity.

A couple of weeks later the seats were back down in their rightful place and we packed the car for a quick trip to Canberra. I'm not entirely sure why we went to our nation's capital - we saw two exhibitions with items from places we have already been (Versailles and the British Museum), but it was a tremendous excuse to stretch the Honda's legs.

As we left we noted a fuel average of 7.7L/100km on the dash, switched the car to Eco mode (as en experiment, obviously) and bombed down the Hume. For the most part, the cabin was reasonably quiet - it's not silent, not by any stretch - but on those awful concrete sections the tyres were zinging so loudly that the stereo wasn't enough to drown it all out, so we hunkered down and lived with it.

Pottering around Canberra it was back to its usual quiet, amenable self, coping with a severe heatwave without so much as a sigh, the air-conditioning continuing to impress. Even though there aren't any vents in the back, the cabin always cooled quickly in the 42-degree heat, but the leather seats stung on first contact. Mr 14 lounged happily in the roomy back seat

The trip back was only slightly more eventful. The tyres were noisy against the concrete (again) but a stiff crosswind meant closer concentration was required to keep the Honda in the lane. It was never terrifying or worrisome, but it's clear that these are not tyres that like the freeway too much and the tall body catches the wind. The tyres are easily fixed when the time comes to replace them, so it's definitely not a dealbreaker and given the car's likely role as an urban warrior - where it excels - unlikely to trouble most owners.

So with Eco mode still engaged, we rolled into our driveway after almost 700km travelled, checked the average and...7.7L/100km. Hmmm. Perhaps it will work better around the city...

2017 Honda HR-V VTi-L

Acquired: December 2016
Distance travelled this month: 1567
Odometer: 7952
Average fuel consumption for January: 7.7L/100km (trip computer)

March 14, 2017

Honda's HR-V is the best at what it does. I didn't need three months to tell me that, but it certainly reinforced in my mind that there's nothing that comes close to its all-round excellence as a mini SUV.

The point of these things is that they're replacing the humble hatchback but need to do the same things, just at a slightly higher altitude. The HR-V is based on the Jazz which is tiny on the outside but huge on the inside. In its journey to SUV-land, the Jazz's unique selling points were slightly rearranged but Honda's engineers delivered by far the most flexible interior in the class, with the biggest boot and a colossal amount of head and leg room for rear seat occupants.

Front seat passengers are well catered for too, with lots of head and leg room and plenty of places to put everything. In fact, there doesn't seem to be a single millilitre of wasted space in here. The only real letdown in the interior was the media system. There's not much to it and it feels old and crusty, with one of more infuriating and dodgy smartphone app integrations. It required far too many hops, skips and jumps (and cables) to work and at $35,000, sat nav shouldn't require your phone. 

If it does, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is the way to do it, not having to download and pay for a sat nav app nobody has ever heard of. With any luck, the Civic's media system will make its way to the HR-V which will fix that particular problem.

I also remained impressed with the Honda CVT auto. When coupled with the modest outputs of the 1.8-litre, single-overhead cam engine, it makes the most of what it's got. Real-world fuel economy is also the best of the segment, never breaching the north side of 8L/100km in my sometimes unsympathetic hands. 

Out on the road its good ride was always appreciated, particularly at the end of a long day or during a long trip. For some reason, Honda saw fit to overstuff the front passenger seat but get the driver's seat just right. Lumbar support isn't included, so you're stuck with what you've got. Rear seat passengers were happy on all trip lengths, with room to luxuriate and a comfortable, airy back seat. Also, the cover for the full-length sunroof was made of blackout material and not the irritating perforated material some Euros think is a great idea. It really isn't.

On the safety front, the HR-V VTi-L is standard with AEB as well as the usual complement of braking and airbag systems. The LaneWatch camera hangs off the passenger-side rear vision mirror and activates when you hit the left turn indicator. It's great around town, keeping an eye on your inside, but at night it dazzles you.

We said goodbye to the HR-V and will miss that terrifically clever interior, especially as we embark on minor renovations to garden and house. It really does move a lot of stuff. And it does it all without fuss or distractions because it is entirely dependable and low-key. It may not have the headline good looks of the CX-3 or bargain-basement appeal of the ASX but it does everything commendably well and, critically, does what it's supposed to. And if you plump for the VTi-S, it's probably the pick of the bunch.

2017 Honda HR-V VTi-L

Acquired: December 2016
Distance travelled this month: 456
Odometer: 8408
Average fuel consumption for February: 7.7L/100km (trip computer)

Has Peter's real-world experience swayed your thinking in your mini-SUV reckoning? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Click here to see more 2017 Honda HR-V VTi-L pricing and spec info.

Pricing guides

Based on 93 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
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Range and Specs

LE 1.8L, ULP, CVT AUTO $22,490 – 25,990 2017 Honda HR-V 2017 LE Pricing and Specs
VTi 1.8L, ULP, CVT AUTO $17,950 – 24,990 2017 Honda HR-V 2017 VTi Pricing and Specs
VTi-L 1.8L, ULP, CVT AUTO $19,999 – 30,880 2017 Honda HR-V 2017 VTi-L Pricing and Specs
VTi-L (Adas) 1.8L, ULP, CVT AUTO $22,660 – 27,940 2017 Honda HR-V 2017 VTi-L (Adas) Pricing and Specs
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist