Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Review: 2015 Honda HR-V 1.8 EL MUGEN

Photos by Ulysses Ang
The urban crossover genre, it seems is the next big thing. Judging by how many carmakers want to get into the act, it’s the newest fashion must-have. A stroll through the Ateneo de Manila campus reveals the unshakable truth: compact sedans and sub-compact hatchbacks are so baduy. They’re probably your dad’s or older sibling’s choice. Today it’s all about crossovers because parking on unpaved lots is so hassle and going through floods during rainy season is so nakaka-burat. And so, Honda’s done the right thing and dived straight into the deep end with the HR-V.

Before going into detail about how it drives, let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way first: this isn’t an EcoSport competitor. I’m saying this based on the feedback on Instagram feedback (complete with hash tags, bro). While Ford has designed its Fiesta-on-stilts as a developing market model, the HR-V is designed first to be sold in Japan, where it’s known as the Vezel over there. Of course, the Jazz-on-stilts found its way there as one of Honda’s best-selling models, increasing the clamors for an international release. And that’s what you see here.

Built in Thailand, the HR-V is more in the Mitsubishi ASX or Subaru XV mold. Some will point out Honda’s use of a non-independent rear suspension and smaller engine as excuses to lump it with the EcoSport, but deins pare, it’s not. After all, based on the seat of the pants experience it’s more than the sum of its parts.

Looking at the HR-V is like staring at a concept car. It may be based off the Jazz, but you can’t tell that by its sheet metal. Like the Jazz, it has Honda’s family look, but woven around its own unique character. It’s well-chiseled from all sides with proportions favoring a larger metal-to-greenhouse ratio. Because of this, it looks youthful and as cliché as it sounds, more dynamic. On the side, it’s got three character lines, two of which intersect creating a focal point to the hidden door handles; which on its own is quirky but unpractical (especially for kids). At the back, the rear dramatically cuts away lending a side profile like that of a Gundam robot. And at each corner resides 215/55R17 (this MUGEN rides on 225/40R18) on-road tires. This removes any off-roading pretentions unless you’re talking about unpaved parking lots. It’s supposed to have a 185-mm ground clearance, which is generous enough, but the front bumper blade does hang precariously low, doesn’t it?

The HR-V’ sci-fi exterior continues inside. It’s almost devoid of physical buttons relying on touch-sensitive ones instead for infotainment and climate control. The gauges have a “floating” motif with a changeable color for the center ring (that doubles at the ECO coaching light). Noticeably, the center tunnel is high, limiting the practicality aspect (not much cubby holes to speak of), but it does give the HR-V a much more intimate driving feel without sacrificing space. There’s a storage bin underneath the gear lever, but it’s not extremely large. A point-and-shoot camera will fit, but that’s about it. Good luck storing your iPod, iPhone, and whatever else conyos need to store. The electric parking brake is nifty and adds a dose of techiness, but that doesn’t free up any additional cubby space. The same is true for those at the back where the door pockets fit bottles and the center one fits only one cup.

While not a leader in storage engineering, the HR-V does have one thing going for it: fit and finish. Compared to everyone else that have interior materials used in pre-school furniture, the HR-V is filled with all sorts of soft touch points. It has a padded leather-like surface across the dash and adds stuff like leather seats, chrome surrounds on the A/C vents, and rather chintzy glowing front speaker surrounds. It’s a very individual choice, this HR-V.

Aside from top-notch materials, the ergonomics is also hard to fault. The sitting position isn’t as high as a traditional crossover, but more akin to a Jazz. As a result, you sit lower with your legs stretched out and your arms in the perfect 9-3 position. Visibility is excellent on all fronts, including the rear, where the tapering roofline didn’t seem to hamper things. The seats, though supportive, lack adjustable lumbar support, drawing irks from those with sensitive backs. Space-wise, it’s what you’d expect: roomy in front, cozy in back. An interesting takeaway is that the rear seats, though abundant in knee room, doesn’t have much shoulder room. This means, four adults in an HR-V is the comfiest you can get during a long drive. Still, you can adjust the seating angle and it comes with three individual headrests. There’s no complaining about the luggage room too, with more than enough space for four overnight bags. And when you do need to stretch storage, the ULT seats can do an origami dance extending the standard 393 liters of storage to 1,665 liters.

Though designed more of an urban dweller’s crossover, it still scores pretty high even for long-distance touring. Overall, it’s not going to smoke the 0-100 km/h figure, but there’s good pull. In slow traffic, there’s punch. The Earth Dreams CVT, with its low-speed torque converter, is quick on its feet and won’t require engaging the paddle shifters. However, this engine-tranny combination doesn’t seem to like indecisive throttle application. Flooring the gas, only to lift off a quarter of the way in, results in a clunking sound (but no sensation). At higher speeds, the CVT needs to keep revs high to build momentum and that will result in a drone-like sound; but it’s capable of achieving very high speeds. When not being pushed to its absolute limit though, NVH isolation is quite good with only tire noise the only noticeable offender. Fuel economy is commendable registering 9.98 km/L in the city and 16.75 km/L on the highway. However, a smaller-than-average 50-liter tank is worrying for those who plan to go the distance with the least amount of refueling.

Surprisingly, despite being fitted with electric power steering, the HR-V gives good feedback from the tiller though a bit weighty in effort. In a straight line, it’ll track straight. At extremely high speeds, and I’m talking about 170-180 km/h here, results in a front-end that’ll start to lighten up and lose sensation. But that’s not surprising. On twisty settings, it’ll require more turns to get it to dance, but once it does, the body is stable. Only in the most extreme cases does the torsion beam axle rear its ugly head causing understeer. In terms of ride, it’s comfortable but firm. Small undulations such as concrete cracks and road dips will travel almost unfiltered into the cabin, but it can tackle larger obstacles very well. Again, this makes it feel almost like a Jazz.

At this point, it’s clear this Honda’s not aiming to please everyone. What it does open is an entirely new market altogether. Honda’s pointing out that its target demographics is quite specific with the HR-V: yuppies with fashionable active lifestyles (their words, not mine). They maybe single or just starting to have a fambam, but aren’t afraid to have fun. Because of that, the CR-V may look too soccer mom for their needs. This is where the HR-V comes in. Not only is it sleeker and much more attractive than its larger sibling, but at least the beauty’s more than just skin deep. It’s well-kitted but pricey (P 1,340,000 for the stock EL and P 1,500,000 for the EL MUGEN). Still, if you frequent 71 Gramercy, you probably won’t care. And it’s not embarrassing to bring a guy or girl home in. It manages to live up to its reputation as an individual yet fun-to-drive choice for people who work hard and party harder.

2015 Honda HR-V EL MUGEN
Ownership 2015 Honda HR-V 1.8 EL MUGEN
Year Introduced 2015
Vehicle Classification Sub-Compact Crossover
The Basics
Body Type 5-door Crossover
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/F
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 1.8
Aspiration Normally Aspirated, i-VTEC
Layout / # of Cylinders I4
BHP @ rpm 141 @ 6,500
Nm @ rpm 172 @ 4,300
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / 93~
Transmission CVT
Cruise Control Yes
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,294
Width (mm) 1,772
Height (mm) 1,605
Wheelbase (mm) 2,610
Curb Weight (kg) 1,269
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Torsion Beam Axle
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Disc
Tires Bridgestone Adrenaline RE002 225/45R18 W (f & r) (as tested)
Dunlop SP Sport Maxx 050 215/55R 17 V (f & r) (stock)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 6
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors Rear, w/ Camera
Exterior Features
Headlights LED
Fog Lamps Yes, Front
Auto Lights No
Auto Wipers No
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjustment Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment Manual
Seating Surface Leather
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 60/40 (ULT)
On-Board Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, w/ Fold
Climate Control Yes
Audio System Stereo
No. of Speakers 6
Steering Wheel Controls Yes


  1. So how would you rank it versus the ASX and XV?

    1. When we were looking around for a new compact suv for the wife a couple of months ago, the only models we considered were the hrv, xv and sportage. Didn't even bother to check out the asx. In the end, we ended up with the hrv, the xv was a very close second, but only because my mom already has one. Having driven and acclimated myself to both cars, if I had to choose one among the two, I'd go with the hrv for mainly 3 reasons: it is more spacious inside, it has more tech toys and it's not something you'd encounter on the road every 10 minutes. Hth

  2. I was expecting this review after the Honda Mobilio review but this came first. Will you do a review of the Honda Mobilio?

  3. If you were to choose between the HR-V E and ASX GSR, which car would you prefer?

    1. I drive an ASX GSR.
      + comfortable quiet drive
      + responds quicky to the press of the accelerator. i rarely used the paddles.
      - steering is too "light."
      - cabin in quite dark unless you use the sunroof.

    2. ASX is older but it looks better than the HR-V.
      HR-V is overstyled.

    3. The base model HR-V looks quite feminine.
      It's gonna appeal to a lot of female car buyers upgrading from a Jazz to a crossover vehicle.

    4. @ GSR OWNER - will the steering get tighter or heavier on high speeds (highway) or is it still with a light feel? I don't mind if the steering is light on low speeds (city driving) but will feel scary during high speeds.

    5. On the highway, it's manageable. It's not too light that you have to make corrections every now and then. The fastest I've driven it is at 120-130 kph.
      You should test drive one to really find out if you'll be comfortable driving it.
      I test drove an Ecosport, an XV before I ended with the ASX.
      The XV was over my budget so I went with the ASX GSR.

    6. asx 2016 better.. check out. http://performancedrive.com.au/2016-mitsubishi-asx-revealed-in-us-spec-outlander-sport-form-1923/

  4. Aside from the price what else do you think is the downside of the HR-V? As it has nice interior and exterior design, space is not the best but at least it is not cramped, engine performance and fuel economy is also good.

  5. Sharp looking exterior aside, it seems like a dreary, badly priced alternative to the Subaru XV (more powerful engine, all-wheel drive, lower price) and Kia Soul (more spacious interior, more comfortable and refined, more powerful engine, lower price). You can get bigger, more powerful and equally sporty CUVs like the RAV4, Tucson, CX-5, etc. for about the same price.

    Good thing the Honda badge still carries some weight as it still has a faux sense of prestige in third world countries. Goes well with the HR-V's handsome looks. Now, if only Nissan can release the Juke here.

    1. +1 on the XV and Soul. The XV recently got a fat 100K price cut putting the base at P1.198M and the TOTL at P1.378M. It has better ground clearance and has superior traction because it's allwheel drive. You also get a truly sporty 2.0L Boxer engine. On the other hand the Soul's TOTL is only P1.070M. You get 18" rims on the TOTL and it's more plush than the HRV. It sounds insane but it's very refined for a crossover/big hatch or whatever you want to call the Soul. Best of all is the delicious 1.6L turbodiesel engine that can smoke its gasoline-fed competitors in a drag race. 320 Nm of torque on a 1.3 ton car makes for very good acceleration.

      +2 for the Juke. But since Nissan in the Philippines has become the DOM's auto brand of choice it's unlikely to ever launch here.

    2. KIA Soul is very nice, but the TOTL is very rare.

  6. Replies
    1. You're kidding right? The Ecosport is so lethargic. Try driving something else other than that one and you'll know what I mean

    2. Obviously he has never driven the Ecosport before. Acceleration is so bad and it drives like crap. Good and cheap car for our flood-prone country but nothing else really.

  7. those conyo lines are killing me. Couldn't stop laughing

    1. I think the author is referring to those typical douchebags found in universities.. Most of them love the Toyobaru twins and WRX though, and not the crossover segment.. Or for the pretentious ones, the ultimate douche car are either a 90's Civic SIR or a piece o' crap red 90's Miata.

    2. The ricer-styled Civics equipped with aftermarket intake and mufflers which make a loud noise are the most obnoxious. They're either college douchebags who got the Civic as a hand-me-down or hampaslupas with no taste who can't even afford a brand new Alto 800 so end up buying a used Civic. They feel their car is fast and "angas" but are actually no match for any modern SUV with a 2.0 or larger engine.

    3. 90's Civic SIRs now belong to the Stone Age and they are very irritating.

    4. I imagine conversations between these ricer douchebags be like: "Bro have you checked out my civic SIR? I lowered it, installed fake TE37's, a momo steering wheel (without airbags of course), DEFI gauges (pretty useless too), and bora muffler. I'm sure I can smoke Evos now."

    5. Smashing ricer-styled Civics with sledgehammers would be the best job for the Honda fanboys!

  8. I love the first paragraph.

  9. BR-V just got annoinced and unveiled in metal. It will smoke HR-V

    1. Yeah, but BR-V is still a design concept at this stage.

    2. The BR-V only has a 1.5L engine. I don't know how that will "smoke" the HR-V.

    3. He/she probably meant in terms of sales.
      The BR-V is basically a crossover version of the Mobilio MPV.

  10. I think they'll start production in Jan 2016. It's one sexy SUV


  11. Satisfied owner here.

  12. It's Ecosport owners like you who are trying to convince yourselves that your car and the HR-V are equals. Test drive the HR-V and you'll know how ridiculously slow and cheaply-made your beloved Ecosport is.

    1. The EcoSport fulfills it's duty as an affordable B-segment crossover alternative to the B-segment Fiesta it's based on.
      The HR-V is technically a B-segment crossover equipped to target C-segment crossovers, it bridges that gap between B and C- segments, though it's uncomfortably priced very close to the FWD 2.0 liter variants of the larger C-segment CR-V.
      One of the HR-Vs toughest competitor is the similarly priced AWD 2.0 liter Subaru XV.

    2. i go for the subie xv anytime , anyday over the hrv

  13. Why is the ecosport being compared to this? The HR-V is one segment higher than the ecosport. It doesn't deserve to even be compared to the HR-V.

    1. It's just half a segment higher since it's still built on Honda's B-segment architecture. The larger CR-V is Honda's true C-segment crossover SUV.

  14. You aint a racer if you havent drive a 90s Civic.! SiR is Good tho. :))

    1. You misspelled ricer.

  15. Price of the HRV is too high. Might as well get a Fortuner, Montero Sport, or Everest.

    1. Hahaha! Andito na naman yung mga turd-word diesel truck-based AUV fanb0is. Lolz.

    2. Sakit sa katawan ang mga truck based na iyan!

  16. Once you drive a Subaru XV there's no comparison anymore :-)

    1. In fact, I already have. And you know what, the HR-V feels and drives livelier despite having a smaller engine. Corners pretty good, too.

      No offense, but the interior materials and fit & finish of the HR-V is a major step above the XV.

      Also, depsite having a smaller footprint, interior space all around is way better than the cramped XV.

      Don't get me wrong though, I love the XV. And I love the HR-V. In short, It's very hard to go wrong with either car :)

    2. Only reason the HR-V "feels" faster than the XV is because of the XV's CTV tranny. In the highway and corners the XV can outrun the HR-V no problem. Tons of power from the 2.0 boxer engine and you get traction on all four wheels. Hard to beat that.

  17. XV over HRV anyday.

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  19. Hello Car Guide PH, been going through your reviews and comment sections. Have to say that they are very informative.

    Currently looking at Subaru Forester 2.0i L vs Honda HR-V E.

    Young family of 3 needing everyday commute vehicle here in Metro Manila with occasional trips to Tagaytay, Pico de Loro and Anvaya Cove.

    Any suggestions and possible alternatives to the 2 models would be appreciated! Thanks and more power!

    1. http://www.carguide.ph/2015/08/review-2015-honda-hr-v-18-el-mugen.html



    2. Personally, if your choices are between the HR-V and the Forester, I'd choose the Forester given it's a larger crossover and much more powerful than the HR-V. The HR-V is more of an urban crossover while the Forester is more versatile. That said, you can consider the likes of the Subaru XV if you want. It's more in the price range of the HR-V.

      Take note: both the Subaru XV and Forester are due for their mid-cycle updates real soon.

    3. Hey thanks for the reply! Looked at your reviews and each one helped quite a bit.

      Price-wise, HR-V pricing forced us to consider the Forester which really gives more value. HR-V E @ 1.230 vs Forester 2.0i L with minor changes (touch screen with back-up camera) @ 1.310 after discounts.

      Mid-cycle updates mean brand new models? Like the 2016 Fortuner? Or same model just improved features?

      In any case, thanks again for the response and yes we have really shifted towards the Forester giving a lot more value for just a little bit more in price. Thanks!

  20. Does the econ mode have an adverse effect to battery life? The way the i-stop tech of Mazda uses a specially made expensive battery. That's the difference for me. Between getting this and a CX-5.

    1. No.

      Econ mode controls certain car systems to make it more fuel efficient. Things like the throttle response, gearbox, and climate control are adjusted by the Econ mode.

      You don't need any special battery or anything of the sort.

  21. Which will be the best choice for a first time buyer like me (first car ever LOL)? Tucson, HRV el, cx5 pro? Thank you sir uly.

    1. I'm gonna second this question as we are also looking for our first car and we need a crossover or SUV.:))

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  24. Dear CGPH: Seeking your professional opinion. I've seen the refreshed 2016 xv and liked it. However, I'm also looking at the 2015 premium over the 2016 due to its price spread. Just in case I opted the 2015, will this affect that much in the long run in terms of resale value (in case we need to resell it)? How will this 2016 affect HRV comparison?

    1. Normally, I'd say choosing a 2015 over a 2016 year model car won't affect the resale value, however in the case of the Subaru XV, the 2016 model represents a "big minor change" which is Subaru speak for a mid-cycle facelift.

      Because of this, it will have an effect on the resale value especially since the 2016 model has more standard features compared to the 2015 one including push start, touch screen infotainment and so forth.

      Now, compared to the HR-V, it's still too early to say what the resale value would be on the Honda. However, frankly speaking, it seems Honda tend to keep their value better compared to Subaru (except for the second-generation CR-V). But I ask you this: will you actually buy a car based simply on re-sale value?

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  26. Hi Sir Uly, we're planning on buying a car soon. And I'm having a hard time choosing between asx and hrv since I dont know much about cars. So which one would you recommend for a family of 4? All girls lang ang gagamit since my dad's always out of the country. Thank you

    1. Hi Alyssa,

      I would suggest you go for the Honda HR-V. Though the Mitsubishi does have a 2.0-liter motor for almost the same price, the HR-V is a much newer car. Not only is the driving better or at par with the ASX, the HR-V also has a better packaged interior as well. It's also more fuel efficient for city driving.

      You can also look at the Subaru XV. It's pricier at P 1,398,000, but I've heard Subaru is discounting them heavily--as much as P 150,000 off. This means, you can get the XV for around P 1,248,000. You get more safety equipment and the added security of AWD.

  27. Hi sir Uly and all,
    i need some inputs from you since i am planning to buy my first ever owned car. I am trying to compare hrv, asx, rav4 for crossover/suv for their over all specs and usage. I am also considering the new Hilux (i knw lots of you don't like it due to the price but I always travel a lot in province and make use of it while i am there). hoping for not-biased response here.

  28. I think a problem would be with the parts. We've only had the HRV for 6 months and already we are experiencing a problem with the SRS module. It's been 5 days and still waiting for the said part to be replaced. Hopefully that'll solve the problem with the SRS and EPB warning lights showing.

  29. I own one.
    1.City driving specially quirino ave (the one with skyway construction) is around 6-7 km/l while skyway driving is around 17ish km/l.

    2.The ride is smooth like a sedan on a well paved road but since the tire is kinda thin at 55 only you can definitely feel the roughness of edsa pavement or small rocks if you happen to step on one.

    3.Acceleration is ok if you rev it above 3000 but your ecolight will definitely not be green.

    4. The annoying part for me is the trunk door opening specially at the malls where they inspect your trunk space. You dont have a latch to open it except unlock all the doors, which for me is a security risk. i dont know maybe i just havent found the latch for the trunk opening yet.

    5. The hmdi slot does not work according to honda, so if you plan to buy a tv plus you need to have your cool 7 in mid taken out and replaced with an after market player (honda would offer avt system for 50k) just so you could watch your favorite telenobela. We havent tried plugging it woth any hdmi device yet so kindly include that on your assestment after you test drive.

    6. The handling is superb specially on curve turns. You would never feel unstable or thrown around.

    7. The hold brake function is such a blessing. On a heavy congested areas you can just press it and let go of the brake. You can keep it on hold brake function on stop and go situation just press the brake a little harder when your on complte stop and it will hold (this is only when the hold brake is still armed). No need to press it everytime you stop and go. This is for situations like super heavy 4 km/hr kind of traffic.

    8. You can deactivate the "hand brake" if you have your seat belt on by applying a little pressure on the acceleration. It will deactivate the hand brake with pressing the button.

    9. The manual option (paddle shift) is ok for ling drive just to make you busy and anti-sleepyness. It automatically lowers speed everytime you press on the brake. This manual option is awesome for a guy whos been driving stick shift for 15 yrs.

    10. Cruise control is for tplex sctex only.

    Even though it may be a front wheel drive car or an overpriced cross over this car is awesome and head turner.

    No regrets whatsoever.
    Hope this helps.