Where reliability and residual value are of prime importance, Honda shines like few others. It gets plastic wheel arches and a new set of 6-spoke 17-inch alloys with a gunmetal finish which add to the overall aesthetics. The latest vehicle in their range to get a makeover is the Honda HR-V. The sub-compact crossover, which has the Toyota C-HR, Kia Seltos & Volkswagen T-Roc for rivals, isn’t just a cheaper and smaller version of the CR-V. It is meant to embody radical ideas — of some sort — as the name HR-V or ‘Hi-rider Revolutionary Vehicle’ suggests.
We got to drive the top-spec EX variant, one that came in a ‘Brilliant Sporty Blue’ paint (not pictured here), and have jotted down critical impressions that may be relevant to your car buying decisions.
Styling & aesthetics
The previous gen’ HR-V was a bulbous, but chic-looking vehicle, keeping with its ‘Revolutionary’ theme. The all-new 2022 YM has a more traditional shape but carries a certain degree of sophistication and is expected to continue to appeal to young and first-time car buyers. It has also grown in every physical dimension.
The front fascia has an imposing presence with its black 3D grille and squinting eyes i.e., pulled-back luminaires. All models, the base, mid and top-tier variants get powerful LED headlamps to light up the road. It also gets plastic wheel arches and a new set of 6-spoke. An 18-inch wheel option for the top-spec would have been nice though. The rear design is minimalistic with a light strip running across widthwise from lamp to lamp and it seems to share some resemblance with the current CR-V. And I like that they have hidden away the singular tailpipe, giving it an electric car vibe.
With the HR-V Honda, they have achieved what they have set out to. The 2022 YM is a voguish crossover that magnifies its size visually and maintains a certain distinction on the road. And I’m happy to report that more than a few people took a second glance at it, which says a lot about a vehicle that doesn’t bear a luxury badge. It could easily sport Maserati’s trident emblem or Audi’s rings and people wouldn’t sneer. Also, bold colours like blue and red do suit it rather well.
The HR-V isn’t a ‘Hi-rider’ like a Toyota Fortuner, but its door cavities are high enough to ease exit and entry, especially for senior folk and those with sports injuries. On the inside, it is typical Honda stuff with high-quality parts that come together in a well-built and rattle-free package. And the new 2-tone interior, in black and ivory, with aluminium inserts deliver allure in an understated way. There are little details in the trims and switchgear that make it feel like a premium vehicle too, like the funky a/c vent mechanism and knurled knobs (as seen in a Bentley). Thankfully, they haven’t neglected usability either, as observed from the easy access to the central hazard button and USB ports. The 8-inch infotainment screen that was previously embedded in the dashboard sits atop it like a standing tablet. And from the driver’s point of view, visibility all around is good and the vehicle’s vitals — available through the colour screen and analogue gauges — are clear and legible. Most drivers will also find the 3-spoke steering wheel, sporty looking and comfortable thanks to a decent amount of adjustability for rake and reach.
In terms of accommodations, the leather seats are soft to the touch and have a unique self-design element. Keep in mind that this is a sub-compact CUV meaning, there is plenty of space for 2 adults in the rear, but three is a squeeze. But the rear passengers do get 2 used USB ports, which you can use to charge your devices and rear a/c vents. So, it isn’t bad at all back there. The lower two trims get fabric seats, which may be a more suited option, especially for Middle Eastern summers.
Powertrain & performance
The HR-V is priced for a demographic that demand the most for the buck in terms of fuel economy. Keeping that in mind, the Honda has given it a traditional, but proven 1.5-litre i-VTEC DOHC 4-cylinder engine that returns a claimed fuel economy of 18.4 km/l — an improvement over the old one. On the road, it will achieve numbers close to 13 and 14 km/l, thanks to the relatively lightweight body and the CVT.
As for power and drivability, the story isn’t quite the same. The spec sheet says, the 4-pot produces a max torque of 145 Nm and 119 PS of peak power. This helps it trot about town with relative ease. But when the time comes to merge with highway traffic and you firmly push down the accelerator, all you get is the loud drone of the engine and acceleration that is painfully slow, especially with four people on board. And for this reason, the available ECON mode seems superfluous too. It’s quite plain and simple. HR-V being termed ‘Revolutionary’ by Honda itself, could use a turbocharged engine or hybrid powertrain. At the very least they should provide customers with a larger-displacement option like a 1.8-litre, as they have in other markets.
Moving on! The CVT also comes with paddle shifters and to my surprise, in manual mode, it switches ratios with the quickness of dual-clutch transmissions we see in sportscars. Loved using it, but some power to exploit would have doubled the fun.
Nearly as well performing are the ventilated discs (front) and solid discs (rear) which do a good job in reeling back the speedo needle at all legal speeds and the chassis dynamics (combined with its compactness) make it easy to steer around corners and grants it the maneuverability needed in tight shopping mall lots.
Practicality & features
Despite its compactness, they have made good use of its space overall. The magic seats are a real boon. You can fold the rear seat bottom upwards leaving a lot of floor space to keep your items like potted plants or lengthy items, maybe even a bicycle. The boot offers a little over 300 litres of space, which is just enough for a large stroller and some grocery bags as well. And the 60:40 split rear seat can be dropped down for more room.
Perhaps it was a one-off, but the radio reception seemed to lack clarity in our test car. But songs played via Bluetooth had good fidelity. The HR-V also offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but if I remember correctly, the latter can only be connected using a cable. The rear camera view could be clearer as well.
And there are a host of active and passive safety features that you’d expect of high-quality modern-day vehicles, like side and curtain airbags, ISOFIX points at the rear for child seats, Emergency Stop System (ESS), and so on and so forth.
The Honda HR-V is all new for 2022. It is a fashionable crossover that is ideal for a new car buyer or a family of four that prioritises essential characteristics like build quality and fuel economy. Our main gripe is with the engine. While the 1.5-litre motor is expected to be reliable, it is underpowered for the highways of Dubai. And the lack of a more potent engine option isn’t helping either. If Honda could address this and a few other minor niggles, they’d be hitting it out of the park, as they usually do with cars in the family like the Accord, CR-V and Civic. And based on the feature-to-price ratio, the mid-range LX seems to be the best bet.
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