Honda may be late to the new party, but now it’s back and the HR-V is up against some tough opposition.
Positioned somewhere between the smaller Nissan Juke, Renault Captur and Mazda CX-3 and the larger Nissan Qashqai, Kia Sportage, Ford Kuga and Renault Kadjar, the HR-V might be a masterstroke.
It’s distinctive and looks good. Still very much a Honda from the front, it has a slippery profile for a crossover. Honda reckons it has the “lines of a coupe, the robustness of an SUV”.
Inside there’s plenty of space for a family, though taller adults might find the headroom at the back challenging.
There’s also superb boot space of 470 litres (bigger than a Qashqai) or 1,533 litres with the seats folded down. And, of course, there’s Honda’s “magic seat” system.
Not only do the 60/40-split seats fold completely flat to create a flat low loading cargo floor, but the seat bottoms also flip up, creating an extra space for taller items.
Other standard features across most of the model range include Honda’s Connect infotainment system and driver safety technologies including an intelligent speed limiter which combines a traffic sign recognition system to identify changes in the speed limit, then restrict the top speed of the car accordingly.
On paper it all sounds good, and thankfully, the HR-V drives well too.
The punchy 1.6-litre diesel seems brisker than it is (0-60mph in 10.5 seconds), while I have no reason to doubt the claimed top speed of 119mph.
The engine is a little harsh when revved hard, but soon settles down, and the cabin is pretty refined – not class-leading, but not bad either – and the slick six-speed manual gearbox with its sporty, short throw is a joy.
It’s nippy in town and holds its own on longer, faster runs, and handles surprisingly well, even during spirited driving, thanks to well controlled body roll.
The driving position is very comfortable, while the instruments are clear and unfussy.
The Honda HR-V range starts at £17,995 for the entry-level 1.5S petrol, rising to £24,945 for the EX, powered by the 1.6i DTEC diesel.
I tested the latter in white orchid pearlescent paint (an extra (£525). Packed with goodies including an impressive panoramic glass sunroof, leather seats, rear privacy glass, roof rails, LED headlights and running lights and heated front seats, it’s a tempting package.
The HR-V is safe too, gaining a maximum five star rating in Euro NCAP crash safety tests.
Honda claims the diesel in the car I tested is capable of 68.9mpg and low CO2 emissions of just 108 g/km.
This engine in the Civic Tourer is one of the most frugal cars I’ve ever driven – the HR-V isn’t quite so good, but I managed a very respectable 50-60mpg.
Verdict: The Honda HR-V rises to the challenge in the tough crossover segment.
Safe, spacious, practical, comfortable and economical, it has a quality feel. Add Honda’s legendary reliability and you have a package well worth considering. Choosing a compact SUV just got even trickier…