With over 10,000 units sold in Malaysia after its debut in early 2015 and the waiting list stretching beyond the six-month mark, does the Honda HR-V deserve the title above?

Known as the Honda Vezel in Japan, the HR-V is based on an extended platform from the third-generation Honda Jazz. The is also not Honda’s first attempt at introducing the HR-V, in fact the first iteration of the HR-V was a weird mashup between the Hummer and a platypus.

QUICK FACTS

Name Honda HR-V 1.8L (Grade S) Honda HR-V 1.8L (Grade E) Honda HR-V 1.8L (Grade V)
Segment B-Segment Compact Crossover
Engine  1,799cc; inline 4-cylinder SOHC i-VTEC
Transmission Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)
Max Power  140 hp @ 6,500 rpm
Max Torque  172 Nm @ 4,300 rpm
Price (OTR with insurance) RM101,500 RM111,100 RM121,500

While many subcompact crossovers like the Ford EcoSport and Peugeot 2008 have failed to grasp the market, the HR-V was introduced at the right time, and boy does it pay. Malaysians who have eagerly waited for the HR-V reminds me of the Honda Cub (aka, the EX5) of yore, where decades ago Honda’s ingenious two-wheels mobility solution generated a tremendous demand in the West.

Over here, we tested the Grade V HR-V, which you may see was pitted face-to-face with the handsome looking Mazda CX-3.

EXTERIOR

The HR-V’s aesthetics strike a fine balance between the larger CR-V and the smaller Jazz supermini, resulting in a handsome looking compact crossover that will appeal to most buyers. The front’s bold design is more alluring when combined with the LED headlights with LED DRLs, while the sporty looking hidden rear door handles give it that alluring coupe-esque silhouette.2016-Honda-HRV (23)

Also included in this review unit is the “Tough Advance Package”, which for RM3,700 gives you bumper guards, extended side sills, and some chrome garnish under the foglamp. Not sure if these give the HR-V some ruggedness to it, but my kind advice is to spend that money elsewhere.

I would say the overall package will be sweeter should Honda Malaysia equip the HR-V with 17-inch rims for the V-spec, as its puny 16-inch set didn’t do justice to the car’s overall handsome packaging.

INTERIOR

Step inside into the HR-V and you’ll be greeted by an all-black interior with piano black instrument panels, giving the Honda a premium allure for the driver and occupants. The hard plastics blend in well with the interior, not leaving any sense of “cheapness”.2016-Honda-HRV (4)

The gear lever is a tad too small for my liking, but the electronic parking brake is one welcoming feature that wasn’t introduced to the Jazz or City.

Perhaps the most prominent feature found in the cabin is the floating centre console, something we’ve seen in Volvo cars over the past two decades. Underneath the centre console are dual USB sockets, a HDMI input and a 12 volt outlet.

The 7-inch infotainment screen and climate controls are both touch-sensitive and are easy to use, responsive but takes some time to get intuitive. The rear-view camera feeds a visual display onto the screen when reversing, and this proves to be useful no thanks to the slim rear windscreen panel during parking.2016-Honda-HRV (30)

While Honda’s engineering capabilities are unquestionably good, the way they’ve packaged the HR-V deserves some high praise. Riding on Honda’s “Man Maximum, Machine Minimum” philosophy, the HR-V is by far the roomiest crossover in its class. The versatile Magic Seats from the Jazz makes it even better. Just like the Jazz and City, the HR-V’s fuel tank is positioned underneath the driver’s seat, freeing more cargo space for a total of 437 litres. When rear seats are folded flat, this will expand to a cavernous 1,032 litres.

PERFORMANCE

The HR-V is powered by Honda’s tried and tested 140 hp R18A 1.8-litre four cylinder engine that have been in existence since the eighth-generation Civic. Luckily for us, we won’t be getting the 1.5-litre lump used to power a 1.2 tonne crossover in Japan.2016-Honda-HRV (21)

Sharing the similar Honda EarthDreams CVT (with seven virtual ratios) with the Jazz, the HR-V’s powertrain does its job adequately. Just like most modern Hondas, an Econ mode is available, allowing the car to extract more km/litre, a useful feature to use in all occasions.

THE DRIVE

Being a crossover, the HR-V has already established itself as the practical car as opposed to the CX-3’s more sporty credentials. Firstly, the CVT here is one of the better CVT gearboxes I have sampled, if only acceleration is not rushed. The omission of paddle shifters dampen things a little, especially during overtaking.

The HR-V’s ride is pliable, translating to a rather comfortable experience while cruising on the highways. Predictability and fun to drive factors are two things I would not associate the HR-V with, although we have to say that the refinement is decent enough. The HR-V’s quest for more space and lower cost means that rear axle management is overseen by a torsion beam setup, which explains the harsher ride quality for rear occupants.

No thanks to our poor road conditions, the HR-V’s choppy ride became apparent, causing discomfort occupants inside. The comfort-based dampers aren’t as promising as they sound, but the omission of 17-inch wheels in Malaysia proves to be quite the blessing in disguise.

IS THIS THE CAR FOR YOU?

Let’s be clear. Honda didn’t cheekily name this compact crossover as the Highly Recommended Vehicle. However, the “R” could very well stand for as “Reliable” or “Robust” because well, they make sense after all. Also, we’re talking about a solid Honda car which has brilliant residual values.2016-Honda-HRV (16)

But will this be the vehicle I highly recommend? Well, it’s close by a whisker. The HR-V is indeed solid compact crossover for the small family or urbanites, but the only gripes I have for it are the air con vent’s design and harsh ride. Otherwise, it’s a car that many will be happy living with, until the next best crossover comes along of course.

COMPARISONS

The subcompact crossover segment is decently competitive lately. With the introduction of the hip and sporty Mazda CX-3 (CKD assembly will commence soon), the HR-V is up against a real contender. For this round of comparisons, the HR-V will go head to head against the CX-3 and Europe’s best selling subcompact crossover, the Renault Captur which was just given a price cut to RM117k.

Honda HR-V Mazda CX-3 Renault Captur
ENGINE
Type inline 4-cyl SOHC i-VTEC 4-cylinder direct injection, DOHC 4-cyl turbo, direct injection
Displacement cc 1,799cc 1,998cc 1,197cc
Max Power hp/rpm 140/6,500 154/6,000 118/4,900
Max Torque Nm/rpm 172/4,300 204/2,800 190/2.000
STEERING
Type Electronic Power Steering Electronic Power Steering Electronic Power Steering
DRIVETRAIN
Transmission 7-speed Continuous Variable Transmission (CVT) 6-speed automatic 6-speed Efficient Dual Clutch (EDC)
SUSPENSION
Front MacPherson Strut MacPherson Strut MacPherson Strut
Rear Torsion Beam Torsion Beam Torsion Beam
BRAKES
Front Ventilated Disc Ventilated Disc Ventilated Disc
Rear Solid Disc Solid Disc Drum
TYRE & WHEELS
Tyre 215/60 R16 215/50 R18 205/55 R17
Wheels 16-inch Alloy 18-inch Alloy 17-inch Alloy
DIMENSIONS & WEIGHT
Overall Length mm 4,294mm 4,275mm 4,122mm
Overall Width mm 1,772mm 1,765mm 1,778mm
Overall Height mm 1,605mm 1,535mm 1,567mm
Wheelbase mm 2,610mm 2,570mm 2,606mm
Max Kerb Weight kg 1,249 kg 1,211 kg 1,180 kg
Luggage Capacity (VDA) Litres 437 litres 350 litres 455 litres
FUEL
Tank Capacity Litres 50 litres 48 litres 45 litres
Consumption litres per 100km N\A 6.6 litres 5.4 litres
PERFORMANCE
Max Speed km/h 188 km/h 192 km/h 192 km/h
0 to 100 km/h sec N\A N\A 10.9
Price RM RM121,500.00 (OTR including insurance & GST) RM135,082.99 (OTR including insurance & GST) RM117,200.00 (OTR w/o Insurance & GST)

WILL I BUY IT?

If common sense trumps emotion, then the HR-V would be the one to go for. The HR-V’s overall package meets all the needs in daily motoring shenanigans and does so with flying colours. It’s affordability (priced from RM100k) also makes it a very enticing proposition and should be convincing enough to sway those who are planning to upgrade from a B-Segment to a C.

Despite excelling in many aspects, the Hiroshima-made subcompact would surely make me a happier new-car owner because of its looks and the way it drives.


IMAGE GALLERY


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Travis Chang
Formerly spamming articles about cars and motorsports on this site until the day-job caught up. While the day job remains as exciting as a certain beige sedan, writing about cars could be his closest display of showing passion on cars until he gets either a Bimmer, or an Hachiroku one day...