|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
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|
|Vehicle Classification||Sub-Compact Crossover|
|Body Type||5-door Crossover|
|Engine / Drive||F/F|
|Under the Hood|
|Aspiration||Normally Aspirated, i-VTEC|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||I4|
|BHP @ rpm||141 @ 6,500|
|Nm @ rpm||172 @ 4,300|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Gasoline / 93~|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,269|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, MacPherson Strut|
|Rear Suspension||Torsion Beam Axle|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Tires||Bridgestone Adrenaline RE002 225/45R18 W
(f & r) (as tested)
Dunlop SP Sport Maxx 050 215/55R 17 V (f & r) (stock)
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||Yes|
|Parking Sensors||Rear, w/ Camera|
|Fog Lamps||Yes, Front|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt/Telescopic|
|Steering Wheel Material||Leather|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes, 60/40 (ULT)|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|Power Mirrors||Yes, w/ Fold|
|No. of Speakers||6|
|Steering Wheel Controls||Yes|