If you’re looking for a new compact SUV, you’re already spoilt for choice – so is there room for the latest Honda HR-V?
Well, Honda is on a roll. The futuristic all-electric Honda e city car is a revelation, and the new Jazz is a supermini transformed.
Now magic dust has been sprinkled on the HR-V. The third-generation model is a bold, hybrid-only “coupe-crossover” up against formidable rivals including the Renault Captur, Nissan Juke and Toyota Yaris Cross.
Priced from £27,960, it combines a 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine with two electric motors, producing 129bhp. Uniquely, at low speeds the battery pack and main electric motor drive the front wheels directly. At higher speeds the petrol motor kicks in.
Unlike its dowdy predecessor, the new self-charging hybrid HR-V has real kerb appeal.
A pair of slim headlights and an impressive body-coloured grille form the new HR-Vs face. It also looks more purposeful thanks to big wheels, an extra 10mm of ground clearance than before, rugged plastic cladding and roof rails. It even comes equipped with hill descent control.
There’s a high seating position inside the HR-V, which is generally spacious and comfortable. It also has a quality feel thanks to the soft-touch surfaces used, while the doors close with a satisfying clunk.
Unlike some of its rivals, there’s plenty of space in the back for passengers. However, the boot is a slightly disappointing 319 litres (expanding to 1,305 litres with the rear seats flipped), but there is a nice wide opening.
Of course, the HR-V also benefits from Honda “magic seats” which can fold flat or flip up like a cinema seat, enabling large items (like bikes) to be stored centrally in the car without compromising boot space.
Up front there’s a 7.0-inch digital driver display behind the steering wheel and a 9.0-inch central touchscreen for the infotainment system, which has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring as standard.
The modern dashboard is less cluttered cabin than before, and mercifully hasn’t dispensed with too many buttons, switched and dials.
The ‘e:HEV’ (Honda-speak for the self-charging hybrid engine) starts off in electric mode and you get a choice of three driving modes: Econ, Normal and Sport.
Econ is fine for cruising, but a little gutless on flowing country roads, so you’ll probably spend most of your time in Normal with the occasional “blast” in Sport.
The HR-V is generally refined and the transition between combustion and electric power is pretty seamless, but if you’re too heavy with your right foot, the downside of its CVT automatic transmission rears its ugly head and the revs sky-rocket.
To Honda’s credit, it doesn’t take long for the din to settle down again, but it’s a reminder that you should drive smoothly for an enjoyable HR-V driving experience.
Even with that proviso, the HR-V does feel swifter than the official figures suggest. For the record, it can “sprint” to 62mph in 10.6 seconds before maxing out at 107mph.
On the road there’s a little body lean in more challenging corners, but overall it handles well. It feels substantial, safe and secure. Add excellent visibility and light steering and it’s a doddle to drive in town.
Grip is surprisingly good too, while the brakes are more progressive than many hybrids. Sadly, there’s no four-wheel drive version available.
Honda claims CO2 emission levels are as low as 122g/km, while fuel economy of up to 52mpg is possible. In fact, we found 50-60mpg is very realistic when the HR-V is driven sensibly.
All three trim levels come with Honda’s impressive ‘Sensing’ suite of safety technology as standard, featuring road departure mitigation, traffic sign recognition, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, automatic headlights and autonomous emergency braking (AEB).
Regenerative braking (which returns much of the energy otherwise lost from braking and coasting back into the battery while you’re driving) is also on offer. Simply select ‘B’ mode on the transmission or use the paddles behind the steering wheel. The system is especially satisfying on downhill stretches of road.
Verdict: The all-new Honda HR-V e:HEV is a welcome addition to the busy compact SUV sector, offering a winning blend of style, safety, comfort, economy and practicality combined with generous equipment levels and the brand’s reputation for reliability.