The Honda HR-V and me... we've come a long way. And this funky little SUV has grown on me.
From the initial fascination, the end of the honeymoon period (and subsequent frustration with its quirks), through to the formation of comfortable bond, it's been a great few months with the little Honda.
The HR-V VTi-L joined the CarAdvice garage as a long-termer and was placed into my care. Throughout the three-month simulated ownership experience, there were some ups and downs. The HR-V certainly has some quirks, but those are the things that give the car character and keep things interesting.
After learning many of its intricacies around town over a couple of months, I was keen to really stretch its legs on a road trip. The whitest sand in the world beckoned, and on one overcast day we hit the road early bound for Hyams Beach on the New South Wales south coast. The trip would be around 400km, three hours each way along the Grand Pacific Drive - a spectacular stretch of road.
I had loaded the bodyboard and skimboard in the boot, not needing to utilise Honda's "magic seats" because the wide boot opening allowed for both to slide straight in long-ways.
Fuel economy had been the biggest concern for me throughout my time with the HR-V. Claimed combined fuel consumption was 6.9 litres per 100 kilometres but we'd been averaging just over 9L/100km and that had crept up to more than 10L at times. After a particularly traffic-logged few days around town, the computer was displaying 10.3L by the time the road trip began.
If you live in Sydney or come for a visit, the drive down the Grand Pacific Drive is well worth the time. The 160km stretch winds through the Royal National Park before opening out along the coast, over the Sea Cliff Bridge and then into the Shoalhaven region.
The lack of in-built satellite navigation remains a point of contention for me. While the route is well-signed and I know it, I'm nowhere near organised enough to have gone to all the trouble of downloading maps before heading off.
At speed, the HR-V feels sturdy and stable in a straight line, but the twists and turns through the tree-lined national park highlighted its tendency to rock 'n' (body) roll a little. It still feels planted and never unstable, but has a bit more movement than I expected given its weight.
The cabin remains largely immune to the infiltration of road, tyre or engine noise, even at higher speeds or on rougher surfaces. It handles urban bumps and potholes well, but the supple suspension gets a little bouncy over larger bumps on the highway.
I quite like the weight of the steering around town, though some in the office argued it was too heavy. This was a point raised by colleague Tim Beissmann in his Honda HR-V vs Suzuki Vitara comparison, however he gave the overall win to the HR-V in the end.
"Though they compete in the same segment, the HR-V and Vitara will appeal to vastly different buyers. Those prioritising advanced safety technology, powertrain performance, cabin quality and interior capaciousness will pick the Honda every time. Similarly, those after more engaging driving dynamics, the added ability of all-wheel-drive, greater visibility and comfort, and fresher styling inside and out will be best served by the Suzuki," Tim said.
Interestingly, follower 'CarAdvisor' Mike Costello had previously compared the lower spec Honda HR-V VTi with the Mazda CX-3 Maxx. The Mazda narrowly won on points, but Mike wrote, "If you’re buying a second family car, and practicality is your priority, then the Honda is the one for you. Its cabin flexibility is second-to-none, and it’s one of the brand’s better efforts of late in terms of cabin presentation as well."
Overall the HR-V was a very pleasant road trip companion. I arrived at Hyams Beach sans lower back ache, which is always a win in my book.
Hyams Beach is postcard perfect. I was glad we had an overcast day because I suspect the glare off the sand on a sunny day would be just as enjoyable to look at without sunglasses as a nuclear explosion in space.
After a quick skimboard session, it was time to find somewhere for lunch. Fish and chips seemed to be the appropriate fare, and luckily World Famous Fish N Chips (that's the name of the shop, not an award) was just down the road in Huskisson.
After a relaxing lunch and a bit of exploring, I settled back behind the wheel of the HR-V with the radio on and volume turned up ready to tackle the drive home.
Arriving back in Sydney, it was pleasing to see the fuel economy had dropped to a more respectable 8.1L/100km.
The cars that make up our long-term fleet are often discussed (argued about) in the office, and the HR-V seemed to spark more debate than others in recent times.
While I like the look - a distinct style that I found exciting enough without being too flashy - some agreed, while others didn't. Where I found it a great little urban runabout, others found it clumsy around town. I found the seating position comfortable, but colleague Matt Campbell did not.
For others, like comparisons editor Curt Dupriez, the HR-V and its interior flexibility came to the rescue.
"After a failed attempt at taking delivery of a boxed bathroom cabinet due to restrictive space in the back of a large SUV, I discovered (after measuring second-time around, duh!) the HR-V would swallow the near two-metre object whole. Just. But in the real world, 'just' is more than enough sometimes. The HR-V remains, in my book, a packaging marvel," Curt said.
He got to know the car quite well while conducting a comparison.
"My introduction to the HR-V was pitching another press car against Renault's Captur (read more here) and I came away with a suitably high first impression: 'The Honda is simply a more well-rounded, more broadly capable device better suited to the urban environment and the daily grind', I wrote, and my opinion hasn't wavered substantially once the honeymoon period with our long-termer had passed. As a whole, I could've lived with the HR-V for many more months. Given the choice to change anything about it, though, I'd swap the engine for a torquier alternative and give it a proper automatic transmission."
Despite my struggles with the HR-V's quirky features, like the side-view camera and the holographic lines around the speedometer, once I got used to them they became far less of a concern.
It's no wonder it's so popular among small SUV buyers. Its use of space is impressive, it's well kitted-out when it comes to safety features, it's comfortable and responsive both around town and out on the highway, and it looks different without drawing too much attention.
In the end, the fuel consumption balanced out to be 9.4L/100km, which is 2.5L/100km above its claim. We put 3502km on the clock over the term of our loan and pumped 330L of fuel into it.
In my mind, the HR-V would be well suited to small families or those that would put the magic seat system to good use. Goodbye HR-V, I'm sad to see you go.
Honda HR-V VTi-L
Date acquired: August 2015
Final odometer reading: 9403km
Overall distance travelled: 3502km
Overall fuel consumption: 9.4L/100km
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Videography by Christian Barbeitos.