In the ultra-competitive small-SUV segment, it’s a case of adapt or wither on the vine. In the case of the Honda HR-V, the vine, while not exactly withered, is starting to show signs of age. That’s why Honda has injected some life into its ageing HR-V (it’s been around since 2014) to give it one last injection of modernity ahead of the all-new model scheduled for 2022.
The Honda HR-V range comprises four variants. All are front-wheel drive and all are powered by Honda’s 1.8-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine married to a continuously variable transmission. The differences come down to creature comforts and features.
Things get underway with the price-leading VTi at $25,990 plus on-road costs and tops out with the bells-and-whistles VTi-LX at $36,240.
Here, though, we have the second-from-top 2021 Honda HR-V RS priced at $33,690 plus on-road costs. That places it firmly in the middle of a fertile small-SUV battlefield where choices are plenty.
Front-wheel-drive rivals from Japan include the Mazda CX-30 G20 Touring ($34,990), Mitsubishi ASX in top-spec Exceed trim ($33,490), Nissan Qashqai ST+ ($32,290), and the Toyota C-HR Koba ($35,165). Those wanting the surety and extra grip of all-wheel drive could also plump for the Subaru XV 2.0i Premium priced at $34,590.
There are even some Europeans in the mix at the price level, with Peugeot’s 2008 in Allure spec asking for $34,990, while the Renault Kadjar Zen is priced at $33,740. And the all-new Volkswagen T-Roc starts at $33,990 plus on-road costs.
That makes for a competitive segment, the vines positively dripping with choice, technology and style.
|2021 Honda HR-V RS|
|Engine||1.8-litre naturally aspirated, four-cylinder petrol|
|Power and torque||105kW at 6500rpm, 172Nm at 4300rpm|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||6.7L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||8.7L/100km|
|Boot volume (rear seats up / down)||437L / 1462L|
|ANCAP safety rating||5 stars (2015)|
|Warranty||5 years / unlimited km|
|Main competitors||Mazda CX-30, Mitsubishi ASX, Volkswagen T-Roc|
|Price as tested (ex on-road costs)||$33,690|
Honda needed to keep the HR-V fresh, and in 2020 finally updated its infotainment system with a 7.0-inch touchscreen running Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It’s a very minor update, and it came at cost, adding $500 to the bottom line.
The RS badge on the back hints at a sportiness not found in the wider HR-V range. Yet, those sporting pretensions are cosmetic only, the HR-V RS powered by the same 1.8-litre, naturally aspirated, four-cylinder petrol as found in the wider range. It’s good for 105kW at 6500rpm and 172Nm at 4300rpm. It’s mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) sending drive exclusively to the front wheels. It’s a perfectly reasonable combination, neither thrilling nor lacking.
Around town, the HR-V goes about its tasks with minimal fuss. Moving away from standstill is brisk enough, smooth and linear acceleration that feels well-suited to the HR-V’s natural habitat. The CVT does a commendable job of providing the right amount of drive, although steep inclines can catch it out sometimes, the HR-V feeling sluggish at first before the CVT finds its groove and helps pile on the revs.
On that point, with maximum power and torque not coming on song until quite high in the rev range (6500rpm for power and 4300rpm for torque), the little HR-V can feel a bit overworked when accelerating up to freeway speeds or navigating hilly terrain. You have to work the accelerator to get the most out of the HR-V. Once up to speed, though, the Honda is perfectly happy maintaining 100–110km/h.
It’s quiet, too, road noise well isolated from the cabin, despite the RS model sitting on standard-fit 18-inch alloys with lower-profile rubber. Kudos, Honda.
The ride, too, is decent, the HR-V doing a good job of ironing out regular bumps and lumps while larger hits are dealt with easily, the Honda settling quickly back into its rhythm. It certainly never feels unsettled, instead traversing Sydney’s patchwork roads comfortably.
Inside, the HR-V is feeling a little long in the tooth – not surprising since this generation has been around for seven years now. The addition of smartphone mirroring is commendable, but the 7.0-inch touchscreen isn’t on a par with others in the segment. If anything, it looks a bit aftermarket, marring what is otherwise a pretty decent cabin ambience. The partial leather seats are comfortable and supportive, and heated as standard.
The seating position is nice and high, too, offering good visibility all ’round, and ideal for the urban environs the HR-V is likely to call home.
The layout inside is pleasing, everything thoughtfully placed for easy ergonomics. Bar one exception. The single USB point needed to run smartphone mirroring is hidden away, down low under the centre console and on the passenger side. Finding it for the first time is challenging, and trying to plug in at night even more so. It’s a minor gripe, but mars an otherwise decent user experience.
There’s also a little too much gloss-black trim, a magnet for fingerprints and dust, mitigated by plenty of soft-touch materials that add a classy feel. Although once below the line of sight, harder, scratchier surfaces become evident.
Where the HR-V really starts to shine is in the second row. The seats themselves feel a bit firm, but in terms of space there’s a decent amount of toe, knee and leg room. Only head room is slightly compromised, but Honda has mitigated this with small indentations in the roof.
There are no air vents in the second row, and only a single 12V socket for keeping devices charged. For those with kidlets, there are ISOFIX mounts on the outboard seats, while all three second-row pews are equipped with top-tether anchor points.
Where the HR-V trumps the rest of the small-SUV segment, though, is in terms of cargo-carrying ability. Thanks to Honda’s ‘Magic Seats’, which can be folded up and then forward to create a cavernous cargo area, the HR-V’s maximum load-lugging capacity is rated at a not inconsiderable 1462L.
And even with the back seats being used by people, the HR-V’s cargo area measures in at a class-leading 437L. That’s plenty of space for shopping, prams, and luggage or whatever else your needs run to. A space-saver spare lives under the boot floor.
The entire Honda HR-V range was awarded a five-star ANCAP safety rating back in 2015. It lacks for some advanced safety smarts, though, fitted only with city-speed autonomous emergency braking that operates at speeds up to 30km/h.
There’s no lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert or blind-spot monitoring, although like the broader range, the HR-V RS is fitted with ‘LaneWatch’ that displays a rear-facing camera view of the left-hand side of the car on the infotainment screen. It’s surprisingly good, although there’s no similar function for the right-hand side of the car, which would be even better.
If you must have more active safety tech, then you’ll need to step into the top of the range VTi-LX that brings with it Honda’s Advanced Driver Assist System.
Honda claims the HR-V RS will make do with 6.7L/100km of 91RON unleaded on the combined cycle. After a week of predominantly urban driving, we saw an indicated 8.7L/100km.
Honda’s servicing intervals are a bit on the skinny side, too, certainly in terms of distance, with a trip to the workshop required every 12 months or 10,000km, whichever comes first. Costs are reasonable, though, with the first scheduled 10,000km visit asking for $299 and every subsequent visit needing $315. Honda covers the HR-V with its standard five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty.
There’s an inherent honesty to the Honda HR-V which, despite nearing the end of its life cycle, still presents as a handsome small-SUV package. Its drivetrain combination might not be the most sophisticated in the segment, but it’s perfectly suited to the demands its owners will place on it most of the time. And with the versatility afforded by those clever Magic Seats, the HR-V embraces the ‘utility’ of its segment.