The facts about the hottest rides in town
Where reliability and residual value are paramount, Honda shines like no other. And a recent change in design language has also made its vehicles quite desirable. The latest vehicle in their range to receive a makeover is the Honda HR-V. The sub-compact crossover, which competes with the Toyota C-HR, Kia Seltos and Volkswagen T-Roc, isn’t just a cheaper and smaller version of the CR-V. It should – as the name HR-V or “Hi-rider Revolutionary Vehicle” suggests – embody radical ideas.
We were allowed to drive the top-of-the-range EX variant, painted in Brilliant Sporty Blue (not shown here), and wrote down some critical impressions that may be relevant to your purchasing decisions.
Styling & Aesthetics
The previous generation HR-V was a portly but smart-looking vehicle that stayed true to its ‘revolutionary’ theme. The all-new 2022 YM has a more traditional shape but carries a certain level 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 apron has an imposing presence with its black 3D grill and the squinting eyes, ie retracted lights. While the base model gets halogens, the mid-range and full-range get powerful LEDs to illuminate the road. It gets plastic wheel arches and a new set of 5-spoke 17-inch alloys with a gunmetal finish that add to the overall aesthetic. However, an 18-inch wheel option for the top spec would have been nice. The rear design is minimalist with a strip of light that stretches widthwise from lamp to lamp, and it seems to bear some resemblance to the current CR-V. And I like that they hid the unique tailpipe, which gives it an electric car vibe.
With the HR-V Honda they have achieved what they set out to do. The 2022 YM is a stylish crossover that visually increases its size while maintaining some distinction on the road. And I’m happy to report that more than a few people have taken a second look, which says a lot about a vehicle that doesn’t have a luxury badge. It could easily sport Maserati’s trident emblem or Audi’s rings, and people wouldn’t scoff. Bold colors like blue and red also go quite well with it.
The HR-V isn’t “hi-rider” like a Toyota Fortuner, but its doorways are high enough to make it easier to get in and out, especially for the elderly and those with sports injuries. Inside, it’s typical Honda stuff, with quality parts coming together in a well-built and rattle-free package. And the new 2-tone black and ivory interior with aluminum inserts adds understated appeal. There are small touches in the trim and switchgear that make it feel like a premium vehicle, like the funky air conditioning vent mechanism and knurled knobs (as seen in a Bentley). Luckily, they haven’t neglected usability either, as evidenced by easy access to the central danger button and USB ports. The 8-inch infotainment screen, which was previously embedded in the instrument panel, sits on it like a standing tablet. And from the driver’s perspective, all-round visibility is good and the vehicle’s vital signs – available via the color screen and analogue gauges – are clear and legible. Most drivers will also find the 3-spoke steering wheel sporty-looking and comfortable, thanks to decent adjustability for rake and reach.
In terms of accommodation, 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’s plenty of room in the back for 2 adults, but three is cramped. However, rear passengers get 2 used USB ports to charge your devices and rear air conditioning vents. So it’s not that bad back there. The bottom two trims get cloth seats, which may be a more appropriate option, especially for Middle Eastern summers.
drive & performance
The HR-V is priced for a demographic that demands the most for the buck in terms of fuel economy. With that in mind, Honda has given it a traditional but proven 1.5-litre i-VTEC DOHC 4-cylinder engine that delivers a claimed fuel economy of 18.4 km/L – an improvement over the old one. On the road, thanks to the relatively light body and the CVT, it will reach values close to 13 and 14 km/l.
As far as performance and drivability go, the story isn’t quite the same. According to the data sheet, the 4-pot motor generates a maximum torque of 145 Nm and 119 hp peak power. This helps him trot around town with relative ease. But when it’s time to merge into freeway traffic and you step on the accelerator hard, all you hear is the loud roar of the engine and acceleration, which is painfully slow, especially with four people on board. And for this reason, the available ECON mode also seems superfluous. It’s plain and simple. The HR-V, which Honda itself calls “revolutionary,” could use a turbocharged engine or a hybrid powertrain. At the very least they should offer customers a larger displacement option like a 1.8-litre like they have in other markets.
Go on! The CVT also features paddle shifters and, to my surprise, in manual mode it shifts gear ratios with the quickness of dual-clutch transmissions we see in sports cars. Loved using it but some power to exploit would have doubled the fun.
Almost as capable are the ventilated discs (front) and solid discs (rear) that rewind the speedometer needle well at all legal speeds, and the chassis dynamics (combined with its compactness) make it easy to steer around corners and give it the maneuverability that is required in narrow shopping malls.
Practicality & Features
Despite its compactness, they made good use of the space overall. The magic seats are a real treat. You can fold the rear seat up leaving so much floor space to store your items like potted plants or long items, maybe even a bike. The trunk offers just over 300 liters of space, which is just enough for a large stroller and a few shopping bags. And the 60:40 split rear seat folds down for more space.
Maybe it was an isolated incident, but radio reception didn’t seem clear on 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 via cable. The rear camera view could also be clearer.
And there’s a host of active and passive safety features you’d expect from modern modern vehicles, like side and curtain airbags, ISOFIX rear mounts for child seats, Emergency Stop System (ESS) and so on and so on.
The Honda HR-V is all new for 2022. It’s a stylish crossover that’s ideal for a new car buyer or a family of four who prioritize essential features like build quality and fuel economy. Our main criticism is the engine. While the 1.5-litre engine is said to be reliable, it’s underpowered for Dubai’s highways. And the lack of a more powerful motor option doesn’t help either. If Honda could address that and a few other minor issues, they’d smack it out of the park like they usually do with cars in the family like the Accord, CR-V and Civic. And based on value for money, the mid-range LX seems like the best bet.