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Subaru Outback


Honda HR-V

Summary

Subaru Outback

It never used to be like this. Families used to choose a station wagon or estate car because that body style was the smartest choice. Maybe not the most desirable choice, but wagons were, and always have been, pragmatic.  

And then SUVs came on the scene. People thought they needed these stylised hatchbacks to sit higher in traffic and live out their “weekend warrior” image. Oh, those “active lifestyle” types. And in recent times, SUVs have become the go-to – accounting for half of all new vehicle sales in 2020.

But the Subaru Outback 2021 is here to stand up to those wannabe SUVs, with its own take on the up-high recipe. Admittedly it’s not like the Subaru Outback approach to the SUV formula is new – this is the sixth generation version of the venerable high-riding wagon, but this new model is apparently more SUV than ever. Subaru Australia even calls it a “true blue, mud in its blood all-wheel drive SUV”. 

So does it have what it takes to stand out in the crowd? Let’s dive a little deeper and find out.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.5L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.3L/100km
Seating5 seats

Honda HR-V

The changes aren't dramatic for the Honda HR-V 2019 model. In fact, you could look at it and not even know this is an updated, facelifted model.

But there are a few nips and tucks here and there that freshen up the appeal of the Japanese brand's small SUV, which first went on sale in Australia back in 2015.

It still has practicality on its side, and the value equation remains reasonably strong, especially on lower-grade models. And now, with some additional range-wide safety gear and a sporty looking RS model, there's arguably more to like than ever before.

Safety rating
Engine Type1.8L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.6L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Subaru Outback7.9/10

The sixth-generation, 2021 Subaru Outback has incrementally improved the large wagon-slash-SUV, with a number of important steps forward including better safety tech, a more powerful engine and smarter cabin. A turbo or hybrid powertrain would sweeten the deal even further.

I don’t know that you’d really need anything other than the base model Outback AWD, which seems like a truly great value offering. It’d be our pick of the range.


Honda HR-V7.9/10

There are some positive changes to the updated 2019 Honda HR-V. The city AEB system on all models is a welcome addition, and personally, I'm absolutely sold on the look of the RS model, plus the additional effort that has been put in by Honda for this version makes it the most appealing example.

All in all, the Honda HR-V remains a favourite in the small SUV segment - admittedly one with limited choices in terms of drivetrains, and without all-wheel drive - but it possesses other strengths that make it pretty darn appealing.

Design

Subaru Outback7/10

It’s an all-new car. It doesn’t necessarily look like it, and in fact – to my eye – it’s not as attractive as the fifth-generation model, which was an expert in being inoffensive, where this model has a few more design-lead changes that might divide opinions.

You won’t mistake it for anything other than an Outback, as it has that typical rugged high-riding wagon look that we’ve come to expect from it. But it’s almost like this is a facelift rather than an all-new car.

Like, literally – the features have all been cinched back at the front, and the wheel-arches have been tweaked so they stand more at attention… it literally looks like an age-denying citizen’s approach at looking younger. A bit too much Botox? Tell us what you think the comments below.

But there are still smart design highlights, like the roof rails with integrated roof racks that are stowable/deployable in the base and top models, while the mid-spec model has a fixed roof rack system. 

The fact all models have LED lighting all-around is nice, while the 18-inch wheels… well, none of them are to my taste. To me, they just aren’t as youthful as some of the other elements of the car are trying to elucidate.

And the rear-end treatment? Well, that’s the only spot where you’re most likely to confuse it with another car… and that doppelganger would be a Forester.

On the inside there are some really nice design changes, though. Check out the interior pictures below.


Honda HR-V8/10

Can't tell the differences? There are a few, with new grille and headlight and tail-light finishes across the range, plus a new front bumper design. Elsewhere, it's hard to pick this as a facelifted model.

There is no denying the RS grade looks the best of this bunch, with its bigger 18-inch wheels and darkened chrome exterior styling highlights, along with the piano black body kit around the lower edges of the car and body-colour rear spoiler, all combining to create a cohesive and smart looking little SUV. The design of the exterior is really well considered.

That's not to say the other models don't live up to the RS, but it's certainly the standout. The entry-level VTi still looks like an 'affordable' model, with its yellow halogen lights and less appealing wheel choice.

The VTi-S and VTi-LX are harder to separate, but there are some design highlights to split them: the wheels are the same size (17-inch) but the VTi-S ones look a little tamer, and it gets body-colour door handles; the VTi-LX has chrome handles and a more attractive wheel design.

The exterior size of the HR-V hasn't changed, apart from the RS model, which is a little longer and a little wider due to its body kit. The measurements are: 4348mm long (RS: 4360mm) on a 2610mm wheelbase, 1772mm wide (RS: 1790mm) and 1605mm tall. It's hardly hard to get into, with ground clearance of 170mm, but for the concerned parents out there you can option side steps for the rear doors.

As you can see from the interior photos, the changes haven't been huge inside, and there are no differences to the interior dimensions. But the practicality - whether you choose a low-spec version with cloth trim or a flagship model with leather - is just about as good as you can expect in this segment.

Practicality

Subaru Outback9/10

Subaru has taken some pretty big steps when it comes to changing the interior of the Outback, with the most prominent change being front and centre of the cabin – that huge new 11.6-inch touchscreen media system.

It’s a really interesting looking piece of technology, and like the existing media screen in the Outback, is crisp, colourful and offers quick response times. It’s something that takes a little bit of getting used to – the fan controls are digital, for instance, but there are buttons either side of the screen for temperature control – but once you’ve spent some time with it, you’d be surprised just how intuitive it all is.

The Apple CarPlay worked a treat, connecting up without hassle. And while it isn’t wireless CarPlay, we haven’t yet tested a car with that tech that’s worked as it should… so, yay for cables!

There are two USB ports below the screen, and two additional charging ports in the back seat centre section as well. That’s good, but there’s no wireless charging pad at all, which isn’t great.

And while the big screen has done away with the multiple screen layout and the huge number of buttons in the old car, the new one still has a number of buttons on the steering wheel, which are easy to learn too. I had some trouble acclimating to the blinker stalk, with the one-touch indicator trigger seemingly being a bit too hard to activate at times. It’s a quiet “ticker”, too, so there were a few times when I was driving with my indicator on for ages without realising it.

Storage is mostly really well considered in the Outback, with bottle holders and storage sleeves in all four doors, plus a pair of cup holders between the front seats (they are a little large if you prefer a small takeaway coffee), and in the back there’s a fold-down centre armrest with cupholders, too.

The front also has a small storage section below the media screen (not quite large enough for a large-format smartphone), plus there’s a covered centre console bin, and the dashboard design may have been inspired by the RAV4, as there’s a neat little rubberised shelf in front of the passenger where you could put a phone or wallet. 

In terms of space for occupants, taller people will be fine in the front or the rear. I’m 182cm or 6’0” tall, and I managed to find a comfortable driving position, and was able to sit behind it with ample knee room, toe room and head space, too. The width is great, too, with plenty of room across the cabin. Three of me could easily fit side by side, but if you have children you’ll be happy to know there are two ISOFIX and three top-tether points for baby seats.

The back seat occupants should be kept happy as there are directional vents in all grades, while the top two specs score rear outboard seat heating, too. Nice.

There are some other nice inclusions for rear seat occupants, including recline adjust for the backrests of the seats, and the seatbelts are set in such a way that they should never get in the way when you lower the back seats down (60:40 split fold, actuated by triggers in the boot area).

Speaking of the boot space, there’s plenty. The new Outback offers 522 litres (VDA) or cargo capacity, with is 10L more than before. Plus, as mentioned, the seats fold flat to allow 1267L of luggage capacity. 

Equivalent mid-size SUVs priced close to the Outback can’t match it for practicality, and the cabin’s look and feel is greatly improved over the previous model. It’s a very nice place to spend time.


Honda HR-V9/10

The Honda HR-V has cabin size on its side. 

If you've never sat in one, you will probably be surprised when you do. There's a lot of room, both in the front and the back, and with the driver's seat set in my position (I'm 182cm tall), I had enough space to sit behind that spot.

There's good rear legroom and reasonable width to the cabin, but headroom could be a little better, particularly in the range-topping model with the big panoramic sunroof.

Being a Honda, the storage game is on point. There are cup holders up front, door pockets with bottle holders in each of the doors, and decent loose item storage, too.

Honda's 'Magic Seats' - fitted to all HR-V models - allow the rear seat area to double as a storage space. As you can see from the images, the base of the back seat can be flipped up, which allows you access to a huge space to store long items. You can fit pushbikes in there. Trust me. Or you can lower the seat bases down, and then drop the rear seat backs for a huge boot.

The boot space on offer in the HR-V is terrific for the class, with 437 litres of luggage capacity with the rear seats in place, with the boot dimensions expanding to 1462L with the back seats folded flat. The ridiculous floppy mesh cargo cover remains, but you can option a hard tonneau cover for the boot if you want, and there's a cargo liner available, too.

There's a space-saver spare tyre under the boot floor.

Only the VTi model misses out on roof rails, so if you want to fit a roof rack you might need to consider that.

Price and features

Subaru Outback9/10

The Subaru Outback range remains a value-focused option for customers out there who want a lot of car for their money. 

It still starts under forty grand in sixth-generation guise, though prices have gone up somewhat compared to the old model, which Subaru says is justified by additional equipment and safety technology.

All models have the same powertrain, so it’s purely gear and goodies that separates the three variants: the entry-level Outback AWD ($39,990), mid-range AWD Sport ($44,490) and top-spec AWD Touring ($47,490). Those prices are MSRP/list pricing, before on-road costs.

Now, here’s a rundown of the range.

The base model AWD comes with 18-inch alloy wheels and a full size alloy spare, roof rails with stowable roof rack cross bars, LED headlights, LED foglights, push-button start, keyless entry, electric park brake, rain-sensing wipers, heated and power-folding side mirrors, fabric seat trim, leather steering wheel, paddle-shifters, electric adjustment for the front seats, rear seats with manual recline, and a 60:40 split-fold rear seat with boot release levers.

The AWD entry-level car – and both the variants above – have a new 11.6-inch touchscreen media screen in portrait layout, which incorporates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring tech. There are six speakers standard, as well as four USB ports (2x front, 2x rear).

The next model up the range is the AWD Sport, which – like the Forester Sport model – gets a number of aesthetic changes to help split it from its stablemates.

They include model-specific dark 18-inch wheels, black exterior trim changes, fixed roof rails, a power tailgate, water repellent interior trim with green stitching, heated front and outboard rear seats, sports pedals, light-sensing headlights (auto on/off) and it gets sat nav as part of the media screen, too. This grade scores a front view and side view monitor for parking/low speed driving, too.

The top-end AWD Touring has a few luxury-focused extras over the other grades, including an electric sunroof, Nappa leather interior trim, a heated steering wheel, auto dipping passenger side door mirror, memory settings for driver’s seat, satin finish door mirrors, silver highlight roof rails (with stowable crossbars), and gloss-finish wheels. 

The interior also upgrades the stereo in this grade to a nine-speaker harman/kardon setup with subwoofer and single CD player. All grades have DAB+ digital radio too.

All grades have an array of safety technology, including a driver monitoring system that will warn you to keep your eyes on the road and monitor for signs of drowsiness, and in the top-spec model includes face recognition that can adjust the seat and side mirrors for you.

All models come with a reversing camera, Subaru’s EyeSight forward facing camera system that incorporates AEB, lane keeping, adaptive cruise control and more. There are full details on the safety systems and their operability in the section below.

Things missing from any grade of Outback? It would have been nice to have a wireless phone charger, and there are no traditional parking sensors, either.

Overall though, there’s a lot to like across multiple grades, here.

If you’re interested in colours (or colors if you prefer), then you might be intrigued to know there are nine colours available. Two can’t be had on the AWD Sport grade - Storm Grey Metallic and Crimson Red Pearl – but it can be had in any of the remaining colours, as can the other trim levels: Crystal White Pearl, Magnetite Grey Metallic, Ice Silver Metallic, Crystal Black Silica, Dark Blue Pearl, and the new Autumn Green Metallic and Brilliant Bronze Metallic.

The best news? None of the colour choices will cost you any extra money!


Honda HR-V7/10

So, you want to compare Honda HR-V models? You want to know what you get if you buy the top of the range model vs one of the entry grades? You've come to the right place.

Kicking off the price list is the value-focused VTi, which lists at $24,990 (RRP - that's the price before on-road costs, not a driveaway price). The next model up in the range is the VTi-S, listing at $27,990. Then there's the new RS model, at $31,990. How much is a top-spec HR-V? That'll be the VTi-LX, at $34,590.

Now we're done with the price guide, let's run through what each model is fitted with.

The entry-level VTi model is attractively priced, and scores some points on specifications, too.

Standard features include a 7.0-inch touch screen with in-built satellite navigation system (sat nav, GPS - whatever you want to call it) with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and USB connectivity. Sadly, no model comes with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, so you'll just have to sync your iPhone or other smartphone by USB or Bluetooth.

The media screen doubles as a display for the reversing camera. There's cruise control, single-zone climate control air conditioning, and the VTi has projector halogen headlights with LED daytime running lights. You don't even get HID lights on the base spec, which is disappointing.

Step two in HR-V trim levels is the VTi-S, which sees the addition of keyless entry (smart key) and push-button start, auto on/off LED headlights, LED 'optical style' tail-lights, rear parking sensors, 17-inch alloy wheels, and Honda's 'LaneWatch' side camera system. This version gets roof rails, too, which the base grade misses out on.

The interior of the VTi-S model moves up to chrome and piano black finishes, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and leather-bound gear-knob, and the passenger's side vanity mirror is illuminated. Plus you get an extra pair of 12-volt plugs (one in the back seat, one in the rear), and a second map pocket in the back (the VTi has only one).

RS models are the sportiest looking versions in the range, and they get a different steering and suspension tune to live up to the look.

Beyond the stylish model-specific 18-inch alloy wheels, the RS gets piano black exterior trim for its body kit, including a lower front spoiler, side skirts, rear spoiler and wheel arches, plus smoked chrome look front and rear elements. This version also has dark chrome front door handles, auto-tilt passenger side mirror, black mirror covers, and additional sound deadening over the lower grades.

The RS also comes with leather seats (well, leather-appointed seats, as Honda puts it) which have been redesigned in this spec and the model above, plus the front seats are heated. It also adds rear tinted windows, auto wipers, alloy sports pedals, and a "smooth sports leather-wrapped steering wheel" with paddleshifters.

At the upper end of this model comparison is the VTi-LX, which builds on the equipment of the models below, with additions such as electric driver's seat adjustment, a panoramic sunroof, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, electric folding side mirrors, chrome exterior door handles, auto up/down windows for all doors, LED interior lights, dual-zone climate control, and front parking sensors.

As before, VTi-LX models have the more comprehensive safety suite, including high-speed auto emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning (not active lane assist) and auto high-beam lights (but still no blind spot monitor). We'll run through the rest of the safety technology in the safety section below.

However, the VTi-LX drops back to a 17-inch wheel instead of rolling on 18s like the RS, and it doesn't get the sports leather steering wheel.

While the multimedia system covers off most infotainment needs, there's no DVD player or CD player, and no DAB digital radio, either. The sound system is identical between all four models, with six speakers (no subwoofer).

And if you're wondering about things like a power tailgate or heated steering wheel, the HR-V range doesn't quite go that far in terms of luxury.

Accessories-wise, customers have a range of options to choose from - and it goes well beyond floor mats. There are roof racks, black 18-inch alloy wheels or two-tone silver/chrome rims, a hard tonneau cargo area cover, a ow bar and bike attachment, bonnet protector and even a camping tent. Other ones that might appeal include a rear and front metal-look garnish (the latter is hardly a bull bar or nudge bar - if you want one of those, you might need to shop the aftermarket).

How many seats in the Honda HR-V? Five, and they're very practical!

Oh, what about colours (or colors, depending on where you're reading this!)? Well, there are seven on offer: the new hero colour is 'Phoenix Orange', but there are the usual suspects like 'White Orchid', 'Lunar Silver', 'Modern Steel' (grey), 'Ruse Black', 'Brilliant Sporty Blue', and 'Passion Red'.

Every one of those paint options will cost you $575 more, with only 'Taffeta White' non-metallic paint coming at no cost (RS models aren't available in that colour, but the paint cost is factored in to the list price).

Oh, and this time around there is no purple colour, and the green that looks so appealing on the Japanese market 'Honda Vezel' still isn't offered in Australia.

Engine & trans

Subaru Outback7/10

The engine in all Subaru Outback 2021 models is a “90 per cent new” 2.5-litre four-cylinder “boxer” horizontally opposed petrol engine.

The motor produces 138kW of power (at 5800rpm) and 245Nm of torque (from 3400-4600rpm). Those are modest increases – 7 per cent more power and 4.2 per cent more torque – compared with the old Outback. 

It is only available with a “refined” Lineartronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) automatic, but all grades come with paddle-shifters as standard, so you can take matters in to your own hands – Subaru says there’s an “eight-speed manual mode”.

Towing capacity for the Outback range is 750kg for an unbraked trailer and 2000kg for a braked trailer, with a 200kg down weight for the tow bar. You can option a towbar as a genuine accessory.

Now, the elephant – or elephants – in the Outback are that it doesn’t launch with a hybrid powertrain, which means it’s falling behind the class leaders (yes, we’re talking about the likes of the Toyota RAV4, but even the Forester has a hybrid powertrain option!).

And the old diesel engine has been axed, plus there’s no six-cylinder petrol variant as there was in the previous model.

Plus while other markets get a four-cylinder turbo engine (a 2.4L with 194kW and 375Nm), we don’t have that option here. So, it’s naturally aspirated 4-cyl petrol power, or bust.


Honda HR-V7/10

There are no changes to the engine specs of the drivetrain on offer in the updated HR-V.

The engine size and specifications go unchanged for the 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, remaining at 105kW of power (at 6500rpm) and 172Nm of torque (at 4300rpm). So, it's no horsepower hero - and there's no turbo engine in sight, which is a shame.

The motor is only available with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) - and there is no manual transmission option, as much as we'd like to see a version with a clutch in the RS spec. The CVT has been updated with 'stepped ratios' to "enhance the sporty feel" and provide "more responsive acceleration".

The HR-V sold in Australia remains a 4x2 (front-wheel drive) model only - there are some markets that get an AWD / 4x4 model, but we miss out. Likewise, there's no diesel version, and you can rule out LPG, too.

Does fuel tank size matter to you? The fuel tank capacity of the HR-V is 50 litres. And if you're curious about the kerb weight, the number for the VTi is 1269kg, the VTi-S is 1274kg, the RS is 1294kg and the VTi-LX is 1319kg.

You may want to reconsider fitting a towbar, because the towing capacity ratings of the HR-V are minuscule: 500kg for an un-braked trailer, 800kg for a braked trailer.

You may want to check out our Honda HR-V problems page if you have concerns about automatic gearbox problems and suspension issues, and be sure to consult your owner's manual for information on oil type, capacity and consumption and the correct battery you'll need. Timing belt or chain? It's a chain.

Fuel consumption

Subaru Outback7/10

The official combined cycle fuel consumption figure – that’s the claimed fuel economy the brand reckons you should achieve across a mix of driving – is stated at 7.3 litres per 100 kilometres.

That’s pretty good, and it’s aided by the engine’s start-stop technology that even has a readout that tells you how many millilitres of fuel you’re saving when it’s active. I like that.

In our real world testing we saw a return – at the pump – of 8.8L/100km across highway, urban, back road and traffic jam testing. That’s not bad, but in similar driving in a Toyota RAV4 hybrid I’ve seen economy of about 5.5L/100km.

We assume Subaru Australia will add a hybrid version of the Outback at some point (like it has with the XV Hybrid and Forester Hybrid), but at this point in time, the petrol engine is your only choice.

Fuel tank capacity is 63 litres, and it can take 91RON regular unleaded.


Honda HR-V7/10

Fuel economy for the models in the range is dependent on which variant you choose.

For instance, the VTi model has claimed consumption of 6.6 litres per 100km (so, the fuel consumption km/L figure is 15.1). The RS model claims 6.7L/100km (14.9km/L), while the VTi-S and VTi-LX models claim 6.9L/100km (14.5km/L).

So you can expect fuel mileage to vary slightly between models, but all versions have an 'econ mode' if you want to keep the consumption down. The HR-V can run on 91RON regular unleaded petrol.

Driving

Subaru Outback8/10

If you’ve driven a previous-generation Subaru Outback, you’re not going to feel like this is unfamiliar territory.

That’s because this version, well, it sticks to the formula. Even if you’ve driven the new Forester, it might feel pretty familiar.

Much of that comes down to the engine and transmission. The 2.5L four-cylinder boxer is a strong engine, but not a punchy one. It offers good response and smooth power delivery for the most part, and it will push you back in your seat if you plant your foot, but not in the same way a petrol-electric hybrid or a turbocharged four-cylinder might.

And while there is still some Subaru “boxer” rumble from under the bonnet, it’s largely a pretty hushed place to be when you’re driving it in normal circumstances. If you accelerate hard you’ll hear the engine more, and that’s down to the behaviour of the CVT automatic.

Some people will hate it because it’s a CVT, but Subaru does a pretty good job with these transmissions, and in the Outback it’s as inoffensive as they come. And yes, there is a manual mode with paddle shifters if you want to take matters into your own hands, but for the most part, you shouldn’t really need to.

The steering is direct and offers good weighting and response, pivoting pretty well in corners while also allowing you to turn the car easily when you’re parking. There’s not much feel to the steering, but that’s not what this car is about, and thankfully the trademark Subaru visibility from the driver’s seat means it is easier to park than some other SUVs out there. 

The ride is mostly good, with a supple character that is more about comfort than anything else. It’s a little more softly sprung and a touch underdamped than some people might like, meaning it can be a little wobbly or jittery depending on the road, but I think it’s the right balance for the intent of the car – a family wagon / SUV that has some potential off-road chops.

It is all-wheel drive after all, and there is Subaru’s X-Mode system – with snow/dirt and deep snow/mud modes – that should be helpful if you find yourself off the beaten path. I did some light gravel track driving in the Outback, and found its 213mm ground clearance to be plentiful, while the suspension was pretty well sorted.


Honda HR-V8/10

The majority of my launch drive time was spent in the RS model, which is - understandably - the version Honda wanted to show off most.

It's a new nameplate for the HR-V line-up, and it has the most visual differentiation compared to the other versions. But it's also the best to drive, with a more fun-focused edge to it.

In truth, the HR-V has never been that much fun to drive. The RS model changes that - to a degree - with a different steering system to the rest of the range. The new variable ratio set-up feels a bit more like real steering in your hand, as opposed to the standard electric system in the other models, which doesn't feel as natural or progressive.

The RS's unique steering requires less effort at higher speeds, but there's a slight downside: in combination with the bigger 18-inch wheels (with wider tyres than any other model in the range), the RS model has a bigger turning circle (11.0m vs 10.6m - or a radius of 5.5, vs 5.3m).

The suspension of the RS model has also been tweaked - the set-up remains a MacPherson strut front suspension and torsion beam rear suspension, although the RS gets a specific tune to the dampers which Honda claims "deliver a more rewarding drive with flatter cornering, greater control and a more stable ride".

It's a decent improvement, with more agility and control to the vehicle over bumps. We drove the RS and VTi-LX, and in comparing those two models it was clear the RS was the better tune in terms of body control and overall compliance, even if it offered a minor penalty to pay over sharp edges at lower speeds. But the RS's suspension never felt too harsh - which is important for a vehicle like this.

The real question is - why didn't Honda just do the RS suspension tune for all HR-V models? Presumably that suspension set-up would be even more impressive on a smaller wheel with a bigger tyre sidewall...

The performance from the 1.8-litre engine isn't terrific, but it definitely gets the job done. You're not going to win many acceleration races, and it doesn't gather speed with as much urgency as some of its competitors that roll with turbocharged engines.

But the revisions to the CVT have been worthwhile - it feels a little more willing when you plant your foot, and there's less droning from the transmission. Plus RS and VTi-LX models gain additional sound deadening to try and reduce road noise, and these versions get different seats to the lower grade versions, too. They feel a bit more plush, then, and not just because of the leather seat trim.

There is no off road review to be done here. While the numbers suggest the HR-V could cope with some rough terrain, (ground clearance mm: 170mm), the off road capability is limited by the fact it is front-wheel drive only.

Sure, you might be able to fit a set of off-road tyres to the alloy wheels, and yes, that would look pretty cool. But I wouldn't go testing the wading depth in my HR-V, if I were you.

That's fine, though - this is a city-focused SUV, and it nails that task.

Cabin design and practicality is where the HR-V still shines brightest, even if it isn't as up-to-date as it could be. There are little things, like the fact that every model is fitted with a space-saving electronic parking brake, and those 'Magic Seats' that are fitted to all variants, that add to the smartness of the space. Admittedly, to be even more enticing, things like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto would be added, plus a digital speedometer.

But all in all, the updated HR-V is an improvement on what was already a very good small SUV.

Safety

Subaru Outback9/10

There is no ANCAP crash test safety rating as yet for the 2021 Outback range, but it has a lot of the technology and safety goodies that customers shopping for a family SUV or wagon would expect. 

As standard there is Subaru’s EyeSight stereo camera system that reads the road ahead, and it incorporates forward/front autonomous emergency braking (AEB) for vehicles that works between 10km/h and 160km/h. There's also pedestrian AEB (1km/h to 30km/h) and cyclist detection and AEB (60km/h or less), and it has lane keeping technology with emergency lane keep assist that can swerve the car to avoid impacts with cars, people or cyclists (approximately 80km/h or less). Lane departure prevention works from 60km/h to 145km/h.

All grades also get blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, a driver monitor camera that watches the driver and warns them if they’re not paying attention to the road or starting to get drowsy (the top-spec model’s version of this also includes seat and mirror adjustment memory based on your face!), plus there is speed sign recognition, too.

All grades have a reversing camera, while the top two specs have front view and side view cameras, but none have a 360-degree surround view camera. All models also have rear AEB, a system Subaru calls reverse auto braking (RAB) that can halt the car if it detects there’s something behind it when you’re backing up. It also doubles as reversing sensors for all grades, but none have front parking sensors.

And there are other elements to the safety matrix, including Lead Vehicle Start Alert (the cameras tell you when the car in front has driven off) and lane centring (to keep you in the middle of your lane), both of which operate between 0km/h and 145km/h, and there is adaptive high beam lights on all grades, too.

The airbag count for the Outback is eight, with dual front, front side, driver’s knee, passenger centre-front, and full-length curtain coverage.


Honda HR-V8/10

The safety rating of the Honda HR-V remains a maximum five-star ANCAP score, which it was originally awarded in 2015.

The safety features list has been improved for this facelifted model, with the addition of a low-speed auto emergency braking (AEB) system, known as 'City-Brake Active'. It will warn the driver and apply brake force at speeds from five-32km/h.

The best safety package is still reserved for the range-topping model, which gets full forward collision warning and AEB, plus lane departure warning and auto high-beam. You can't option that tech on the other models, either, which is kind of disappointing. Unlike some rivals, you can't get blind-spot monitoring, or rear cross-traffic alert, or adaptive cruise control. So the high-spec model's kit is good, but not great.

There's a reverse camera on all grades, and Honda's 'LaneWatch' camera on the top three specs. The base model can be optioned with rear parking sensors, and those are fitted to the three higher specs as standard, with the top spec model gaining front park assist sensors.

If you need to fit a baby seat, you'll be pleased to know there are two ISOFIX anchor points in the outboard rear seats, plus three top-tether attachments.

All HR-V models have six airbags.

A lot of people search "where is the Honda HRV built?" Well, firstly, it's the HR-V - hyphens are important. And secondly, you might be surprised to learn the answer is not Japan, it's Thailand.

Ownership

Subaru Outback7/10

Subaru doesn’t go beyond expectations in the mainstream class, with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty now par for the course.

The brand also has shorter maintenance intervals than some, with services scheduled every 12 months or 12,500km (most are 15,000km intervals).

The costs of maintenance aren’t that low, either. After an initial free checkup at one-month, the services cost: $345 (12 months/12,500km); $595 (24 months/25,000km); $351 (36 months/37,500km); $801 (48 months/50,000km); and $358 (60 months/62,500km). That averages out at about $490 per service, which is high. 

If you’re worried about budgeting for that cost every year, you can bundle a service plan into your financing – a smart move, if you ask me. There are two options available: a three-year/37,500km plan and a five-year/62,500km plan. Neither saves you money over pay-as-you-go, but these plans also include three years roadside assist and the option of a free loan car when it comes time to service your own Outback. And if you decide to sell, you can pass that service plan on to the next owner.

 Just make sure you don’t smash the windscreen – the camera system integrated into the glass means a new windshield is a $3000 part!


Honda HR-V9/10

Honda has a strong ownership plan compared to some of its small SUV rivals.

With a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, it's among the best in the class. No need to worry about an extended warranty, like you might if you bought a Toyota C-HR or Suzuki Vitara. No model in this segment has anything better than the warranty that Honda offers.

As for capped price servicing, the plan spans up to 10 years or 100,000km - meaning service intervals of 12 months/10,000km, whichever occurs first. The service costs are pretty well under control, too, with the average capped price service costing $296, before additional consumables.

See our Honda HR-V problems page for issues, complaints, common faults and defects. It should be able to help you gauge the reliability rating of the car.