Honda HR-V hybrid review
Despite disappointing boot space and economy, the HR-V's styling, cabin and infotainment make it a strong alternative to the Toyota Yaris Cross and other compact SUVs
- Build quality
- eCVT transmission
- Boot space
|Car type||Fuel economy||CO2 emissions||0-62mph|
The compact SUV class is one of the most popular right now, with everyone from Audi to Toyota looking to get a slice of the action. The new Honda HR-V, available exclusively with the company's 'e:HEV' petrol-electric hybrid drivetrain, is the latest rival to the likes of the Toyota Yaris Cross and Hyundai Kona Hybrid, as well as the all-important Nissan Juke – the car that kickstarted the compact SUV craze in the UK.
In terms of styling, the latest HR-V certainly stands out from its rivals; with a coupe-like roofline and minimalistic design all round, it’s a welcome departure from the sometimes overly-complicated looks of some of Honda’s previous models. However, to our eyes, the large front grille does look awkward from some angles.
The redesign of the HR-V’s cabin is equally as comprehensive. The dashboard gets a simple, modern layout and boasts high-quality, physical switchgear for the climate control and other functions. Cabin quality is strong throughout; it’s not the most luxurious interior, but it certainly feels built to last.
Up front you also get a new nine-inch infotainment touchscreen that’s sharp and responsive. The only downside of the system is that the sub-menus are quite cluttered, but otherwise, the simple tile interface is clear and easy to use on the move. You also get Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay as standard.
The black cloth and leather trim of our test car did make the ambience in the rear a bit gloomy. However, the HR-V gets a 35mm increase in rear legroom over the previous generation car, meaning even taller passengers are greeted by a good amount of knee room when they get in the back.
There’s also a decent amount of headroom; despite lowering the HR-V’s roofline by 20mm and increasing ground clearance, the battery for the Honda’s hybrid powertrain has been fitted below the boot, as opposed to underneath the rear seats like on some rivals.
However, that does mean the battery eats into the HR-V’s boot, resulting in just 319 litres of load space. In comparison, not only is that a 32% reduction over the previous HR-V, it’s also 103 litres less than the Nissan Juke, and the 78 litres down on hybrid-only Toyota Yaris Cross.
Not to be outdone, though, Honda's famous 'Magic Seats' have made their way from the Jazz supermini, offering the ability to flip the rear seat bases up to load larger items in the rear footwell. Alternatively, you can fold the rear seats into the floor of the car, which opens up 1,289 litres of load capacity.
The new HR-V joins the Jazz supermini, CR-V SUV and next-generation Civic hatchback in Honda’s range of hybrid-only cars. That means, regardless of what trim you select, all models feature a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine paired with two compact electric motors that combine to produce 129bhp and 253Nm of torque. That’s enough for 0-62mph in 10.6 seconds; power is sent to the front wheels only through an eCVT automatic transmission.
Like the other hybrids in its class, the HR-V actively switches between petrol and electric power, or a combination of the two depending on the driving situation. So, at lower speeds, the HR-V silently glides along on electricity and makes the car feel quite refined. You’ll notice very little outside noise in the cabin, and without any vibrations or noise coming from the petrol engine, driving around town is relaxing.
The HR-V’s steering is also light and quick – ideal in tighter driving situations or during low-speed manoeuvres. It’s also accurate enough that you can easily place the car on the road, which is a bonus. The ride in the HR-V is on the firmer side of things and the car does fidget over bumps, but the compact SUV is generally comfortable and remains composed on uneven surfaces. Push on through tighter corners and you will experience some body roll, but it’s well contained and there’s a good amount of grip on offer.
The brakes are reassuring, too; the pedal feels firm and consistent through its travel, which is a quality that’s sometimes lacking in similarly electrified cars. As a full-hybrid, the HR-V doesn’t recharge using a plug, but instead by the engine or via regenerative braking. Paddles on the steering wheel allow you to adjust the strength of the regenerative braking, while selecting B mode for the transmission significantly increases the braking effect felt when you lift off the accelerator.
Refinement does take a hit at higher speeds when the combustion engine kicks in; the transition from electric to hybrid power is relatively smooth, but put your foot down and the HR-V’s gearbox sends the revs soaring. The petrol engine also has to work harder when overtaking or on steep inclines due to the lack of power – 129bhp isn’t an awful lot in a car of this size, especially given the heavy hybrid system on board, too.
But, being a bit more gentle with the throttle will go towards reducing some of that strain on the engine. Out on the motorway, the HR-V remains fairly quiet, despite some tyre and wind noise creeping in.
The HR-V also fell short in terms of efficiency during our time with it: after a 71-mile drive, which consisted of city driving, motorways and twisting B-roads, we averaged 44.8mpg. That’s quite a bit below the 52.3mpg Honda claims, and especially disappointing when you consider the Toyota Yaris Cross effortlessly cracked 60mpg when we tested it. The HR-V does at least boast CO2 emissions of just 122g/km, which is a definite improvement over the previous model, and on par with its rivals from Hyundai, Renault and Toyota.
The new HR-V is available in three trim levels: Elegance, Advance and Advance Style, with prices starting from £26,960. Entry-level cars come equipped with 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, heated front seats, a nine-inch infotainment touchscreen and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity. Step up to Advance trim and the HR-V gets a powered tailgate with kick sensor, heated steering wheel and a synthetic leather and fabric interior. Meanwhile, top-of-the-range Advance Style features a premium audio system, two-tone exterior paint and orange detailing around the cabin.
Ultimately, the new HR-V’s e:HEV powertrain doesn't do the car any favours, with the Honda falling behind its rivals when it comes to fuel economy, and even refinement. Plus the limited boot space that comes as a result of hybrid components underneath will play into plenty of people’s buying decisions.
However, there’s still a lot to like about the new HR-V from its styling and cabin design to the solid build quality and amount of interior space, all of which make for a pleasant compact SUV package.