The Honda HR-V VTi-L continues its residency as a member of the CarAdvice long term fleet.
It's one of the most popular small SUVs in Australia, consistently ranking among the top three sellers in its class. So what is it about the Honda HR-V that makes it so popular?
Honda has a reputation for mechanical reliability as well as being known for its creativity, developing flexible storage features like its Magic Seats. As I'm finding out, there's a lot more to the HR-V than that, however.
The HR-V VTi-L joined the CarAdvice long-term fleet a couple of months ago and has been hard at work ever since, despite flying somewhat under the radar.
That's one of the things I think makes the HR-V so popular: in my opinion it's a looker but not ostentatious. LED headlights and daytime running lights, 17-inch alloy wheels, silver roof rails and a tailgate spoiler are enough trimmings to make it look suave but not overdone.
It's also a nice car to drive; not tetchy and raring to go every time you touch the throttle, yet not lacking in the performance stakes either.
It just seems to do everything well, neither shining too brightly nor feeling too dull. It's unassuming and inoffensive, hence its broad appeal.
The VTi-L is priced at $32,990 before on-road costs - quite a jump from the entry-level VTi at $24,990 and the mid-tier VTi-S at $27,990. The VTI-L becomes the VTi-L ADAS when a safety package is added for just $1000 extra.
All have the same 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine teamed with a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
I'm yet to really stretch its legs on a longer trip; the month has disappeared in the day-to-day goings on, so it's been largely tasked with ferrying me to and from work, running my daughter around and making frequent trips to the shops.
The driver's seat is a comfortable place to be, finished in leather and offering good support by wrapping around your torso nicely. I still find it a little odd that almost everything is touch-controlled, from the dual-zone climate control to the infotainment system that lacks integrated satellite navigation.
You can connect your iPhone via a HDMI cable to access functions on the phone and you can download an app called HondaLink Navigation Premium AUS for $49.99, but this chews up your mobile data if you use it on the run and the cable looks messy. We've previously tried the system in the Odyssey, and it's also available in the City, Jazz and CR-V.
The good news is you can avoid burning your mobile data by pre-loading your trip using your home Wi-Fi. I've been hesitant to try this so far because it sounds too hard, and I believe Honda should fit an integrated system, but I will test it out this month and report back in my next long-term update, I promise...
A couple of other things are getting on my nerves in our HR-V.
Firstly, it has a camera built into the passenger-side mirror, and every time you indicate to turn left the central screen displays real-time footage of the lane next to you. It's useful for lane changes, providing a back-up to your head checks, though at first I found it annoying when stopped at an intersection and, to get rid of that view, thought the only way out was to tap through menu settings to remove the camera view and then do things like change the radio station. But then it was pointed out to me that there's a little camera button on the right-hand stalk, which - thankfully - does away with that.
I do find the camera system particularly handy for parking. It has car-length guidelines that give you an instant visual assessment of whether a parking space is big enough, and if you're merging it also helps you determine if there's enough space between cars.
The speedometer has its own little quirk. A series of blue holographic lines surround it, and though I initially thought it was an interesting, creative touch, it's progressed to being annoying. A simple turn of your head and your peripheral vision picks up the movement of the holographic lines. At best it makes me feel cross-eyed, at worst borderline distracted.
There are a few things I'm loving in the cabin, though. There's a pop-out cup holder between the front seats that can handle a super-size slushy, and the two flexible side barriers will also hug a smaller cup tightly too. The centre console bin is tiny, though at least it gets one, unlike many of its contemporaries.
The gearshift is positioned on what looks like a bridge or an archway, and under there is a storage nook with the USB, 12-volt and HDMI outlets. It's so well hidden it actually took me a week to find it! I'd been looking for the USB point to charge my phone, scratching my head because it's listed on the spec sheet and wasn't in the usual places like the centre console bin or glovebox.
As well as lane watch, the HR-V VTi-L has front and rear parking sensors and a multi-angle reverse view camera, which can help you see around blind corners when reversing.
The huge electric panoramic sunroof has been a hit with my daughter. As soon as she's in the car, the roof is open sending fresh air flooding through the vehicle. When it's completely closed up the cabin is quite dark with its black interior and sloping roof line, so the sunroof adds a welcome splash of light too.
The outboard rear passengers are well catered for, with moulded seats, and bottle holders beside large speakers in the doors. Because of the shaping of the outside seats, the middle seat is narrow and raised and certainly not made for an adult to sit in for long periods of time.
There are no cup holders in the centre armrest, but there is a little storage bin on the back of the centre console bin - maybe it's a square cup holder? I've made a note to test this theory out with a Big M next month.
Honda's Magic Seats allow for numerous cargo configurations and are really clever and useful. I have previously tested them out in the Honda Civic - see the video here.
The boot is massive, setting it apart from its competitors. There's 437 litres at your fingertips with the rear seats in play, and this expands to 1032L with the seats folded flat.
The HR-V draws few complaints around town. The 1.8-litre engine produces 105kW and 172Nm, and it handles the trials and tribulations of stop-start traffic just fine. The CVT has seven artificial stepped ratios and allows the HR-V to accelerate fluidly, though that inevitable whine does kick in if you plant your right foot.
Fuel economy remains a bit of an enigma. When I first picked it up the trip computer was displaying average fuel consumption of 8.3 litres per 100 kilometres. Claimed combined fuel consumption is 6.9L/100km.
Over the course of the loan term we've averaged 9.1L/100km (we've used 168L of fuel over 1849km) though we have seen figures as high as 9.9L/100km. Unsurprisingly, it's climbed as we've spent more time in the city, so it will be interesting to see what the next month and more extra-urban driving brings.
Around town the HR-V is an enjoyable drive, feeling soft and supple over the majority of road surfaces - with the exception of potholes - even on its lower-profile tyres.
Plans are underway to stretch its legs on a road trip. Hopefully that will bring the fuel figure down to a more palatable level, while I'm looking forward to testing out its behaviour and comfort at higher speeds.
Honda HR-V VTi-L
Date acquired: August 2015
Odometer reading: 7750km
Overall distance travelled: 1849km
Overall fuel consumption: 9.1L/100km