So instead, I got something that is sold in Australia, and is indeed Honda’s second-most popular car - the HR-V small SUV. It’s perfectly suited to my family’s requirements (which consists of my partner, Gemma, and our two small dogs, Joey and Ziggy) and our urban lifestyle (we live in Erskineville in Sydney’s inner-west).
This isn’t just a regular HR-V, though - it’s the RS, which clearly stands for Really Sporty. Although it’s really not that sporty at all.
The RS model is second from the top of the line-up, with a list price of $31,990 plus on-road costs. There are plenty of deals to be done, though, with Honda (and Honda dealers) regularly absorbing the on-road costs and adding additional items like longer warranty cover and roadside assist.
So if you’re interested in the HR-V RS, make sure you shop around. But you might want to know what this spec gets as standard before you sign on the line.
The RS has a unique steering feel thanks to a variable gear ratio steering rack, designed to add a bit more enjoyment and involvement for the driver. It also has model-specific 18-inch wheels - the biggest of any HR-V - and you can further differentiate the RS by its RS badges, dark chrome grille finish and its black lower body kit including wheel-arch surrounds. I like the look of it, and so did almost everyone I showed it to in the first month of my ‘ownership’.
Inside there are leather seats with heating and electric adjustment for the driver, plus single-zone climate control air-con. No rear air-vents for the dogs (or kids if you have them), and that proved an issue given that it was in the 40s during some of our drive time, meaning we had to pump the A/C up front and hope it was reaching the pups, one of which is prone to car sickness.
The media screen is a 7.0-inch unit with sat nav, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and USB/HDMI inputs. And while the six-speaker stereo is stronger than you might think in terms of sound quality, the lack of smartphone mirroring (Apple CarPlay/Android Auto) made for some tense times in our introductory period, as the Bluetooth can drop out at times and the USB connectivity failed multiple times, too.
While it has the RS badge and the pretence of sportiness, it still uses the same 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) automatic - with paddle-shifters, oooooooh - and front-wheel drive. The power outputs are modest, with 105kW and 172Nm available, and fuel use is claimed at 6.7 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle. I look forward to seeing how close I get to that number over my time with the car - and most of its time will be spent around town, because this is an UrbanGuide review, after all.
My first month encompassed some not-so-urban driving, as the HR-V transported our family down south, then out west, for Christmas. Every year this round-trip pilgrimage sees us go from our place to Cooma (to my parents’ place) or Cowra (to my partner’s parents’ place), then to the other parents’ place, then back.
All told, it’s about 1000km of driving in a week or so, and it requires a boot with enough space to handle our stuff, the dogs’ stuff and all the Christmas gifts for the family, too.
Thankfully the Honda’s Magic Seats came in very handy. If you don’t know what they are - you’ll be amazed how much flexibility these rear seats offer. They don’t just fold down like most of the competitors in the segment, they fold completely flat for a big boot, or the base can be lifted up (in a 60:40 fashion) to allow a cavernous space in the second row - great for big boxes or taller items.
The dogs got the broader portion of the back seat, while the shallower side behind the driver was reserved for a box of pressies. The 437-litre boot also fit two dog beds, a large suitcase, a clothes basket full of presents (yes, we’re very generous), and the two of us. Plus some snacks, because it’s a long drive.
After spending about 12 hours in the driver’s seat over that Christmas period (returning with a lighter and more spacious car, might I add!), the HR-V was pretty much as expected - profoundly adequate.
The ride was mostly comfortable apart from some large-wheel-jostling over rougher country roads, while the steering was enjoyable enough. Its engine got along okay at highway pace, and the cruise control - which got a serious work out in our first month - operated reasonably well, which isn’t always the case when you’re driving a car with a CVT. Yes, the transmission can whine up hills, but it never lost momentum when it shouldn’t have, and I never felt as though my licence was under threat during the double demerit duration of the break.
And over that break period, which consisted of mostly higher speed driving, I saw an average of 7.2 litres per 100 kilometres at the pump, while the display was reading 6.8L/100km - so, it's a little optimistic.
After just a few weeks with the HR-V I have already found myself wishing for more safety equipment. There’s a low-speed auto emergency braking (AEB) system, and Honda’s LaneWatch side camera for the passenger side, but no lane-keeping assistance or lane departure warning, no blind spot monitoring or rear cross-traffic alert (which proves oh so handy in the urban environment), plus there’s not even a digital speedometer. It feels old as a result, as so many rivals have so much more tech.
I’m going to add a little bit of tech of my own in the coming weeks - stay tuned as the HR-V will become a HR-VCR with a dash cam to record some of the oddities I see, as well as offer me some warnings that the Honda can’t.
Acquired: December 2019
Distance travelled this month: 1116km
Average fuel consumption for December: 7.2L/100km