First Drive: Honda HR-V RS, Variable Gear Ratio makes all the difference

Since its debut in Malaysia, the Honda HR-V has become the undisputed leader in the B-segment crossover segment, selling more than its main rivals like the Mazda CX-3, Renault Captur and Subaru XV.

Honda’s exceptional interior packaging, unrivalled boot space of 437 litres and typical Honda drivability earned the hearts of many consumers. Honda Malaysia even gave the pre-facelift HR-V a final send-off with the limited edition HR-V Mugen, showing the model’s significance to the number 1 non-national carmaker in Malaysia.

But competition is slowly catching up and buyers in the segment are now more demanding than ever. The refreshed CX-3, for example, has its price slashed but gains useful features like Blind Spot Monitoring and rear armrest. The XV has clawed back by being the only car in the segment to offer all-wheel-drive and its Achilles heel (bland interior) has finally been rectified in the new-generation model. Things are not in the favour of the HR-V then.

Honda Malaysia aims to keep the competition at bay with the refreshed HR-V that was previewed to the media recently. To make things even sweeter, the company has arranged a (very) short test drive for us to have a taste of what’s to come with the new HR-V.

The variant we sampled was the range-topping HR-V RS that comes with all the bells and whistles as well as this variant exclusive Passion Red Pearl paint job. Before diving into the initial driving impressions, the company’s representatives had highlighted key mechanical advantages that the RS has over the outgoing V-Grade HR-V.

These include larger 18-inch alloy wheels (previously 17-inch) wrapped in 225/50 profile Continental UltraContact 6 (UC6) tyres and a Variable Gear Ratio (VGR) steering rack. These combined are said to give the HR-V RS a more composed ride and handling. But did it do the trick?

Short answer, yes. The VGR technology works by varying the steering ratio according to speed and steering input to give the car a more responsive steering while reducing the steering angle needed to make a turn. When driven back-to-back with the pre-facelift model, the difference is stark and much welcomed.

On the VGR equipped HR-V, the crossover is noticeably more agile and accurate at the slalom course with the car responding more directly to your inputs. The HR-V RS was very much more composed than the outgoing model when changing directions, attributing to the VGR and wider tyres.

We would imagine highway cruising in the new HR-V to be more pliant as a result of the sharper steering and having more feedback of the front wheels. Another benefit from the larger wheel option and wider tyres is the improved braking distance thanks to the larger contact patch of the wheels and tarmac.

An observation when navigating through the test course is that ride quality did not suffer despite the larger alloys fitted here on the RS variant. Although the 17-inch items on the lower variants would be easier on the wallet when it comes to replacing them.

Another welcome addition to the HR-V is the Honda LaneWatch that transmits a live feed to the infotainment screen via a camera mounted on the passenger side mirrors when the left signal is activated, giving you a clear view of your blind spot. Unfortunately, this is only equipped on the most expensive HR-V RS variant.

Honda Malaysia has kept the interior of the facelifted HR-V under embargo but as a reference, the Japan Domestic Market HR-V spots an interior like so:

Honda Vezel Hybrid interior Japan

Elsewhere, things are the same as before with the same 1.8-litre four-cylinder i-VTEC engine and CVT combination that channels 140 hp and 172 Nm of torque to the front wheels, six-airbags, ABS, Vehicle Stability Assist, Multi-Angle Rear-View Camera, Hill Start Assist and Emergency Stop Signal.

Again, the short seat time was insufficient for us to draw more in-depth findings on the car but as you call tell, initial impressions are highly positive. The official launch of the facelifted Honda HR-V is just around the corner so be sure to keep your eyes peeled on our website and social media sites for the latest update.


Honda HR-V RS First Drive

Honda HR-V RS

Honda HR-V Facelift


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