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Date: 21 Sep 2017 Author Type: Public Review
Author: Julian Lurie Edited by Matthew Willis
Source: Julian Lurie Edited by Matthew Willis
Honda’s all-new urban crossover, the HR-V was launched locally just on a year ago and has proved to be an important model for the company, enabling them to tap into the ever-growing entry crossover market. Some may remember that Honda did have an HR-V model here going back to the year 2000, but this all-new model is light-years ahead in all ways, in comparison to the previous one.

The new Honda HR-V range comprises two variants - the 1.5 Comfort CVT and the more up-market HR-V 1.8 Elegance CVT, which is the model we feature in this road test.

The all-new HR-V is built on the same floorpan as the Jazz, and is instantly recognised by the pronounced curve of the roofline, which creates a unique, coupé-like impression, while the short overhangs, raised stance and wide tracks reflect the rugged attitude typical of an SUV.

Viewed from the front, the design is unmistakably Honda, with tapered headlights framing the V-shaped grille in contrasting charcoal, and the meshed lower air intake provides a more aggressive look, while the crisp contours and emphasised wheel arches and comprehensive colour coding, add to the attractive appearance. Halogen headlights and front fog lamps are standard.

The side view is highlighted by the black fender extenders, a pair of slim aluminium roof rails, and classy 5-arm alloy wheels which on the press vehicle were shod with 215/55R17 Dunlop Sport Max rubber, and the HR-V comes with a full-size alloy spare wheel.

The rear-end is dominated by the large tail light clusters, a tailgate that opens all the way down to bumper level, a sharkfin antenna and a bumper finished in contrasting charcoal.

On the inside the Honda HR-V 1.8 Elegance CVT comes standard with leather upholstery, soft-touch surfaces and finishes, electric windows and mirrors, and illuminated vanity mirror, remote central locking, air-conditioning, cruise control, a multi-function steering wheel and multi-information trip computer, a 7-inch colour touchscreen display featuring Bluetooth connectivity for hands-free telephony and audio streaming, USB connections, a CD player with multiple speakers, and stop/start technology.

Despite its compact footprint, the front and rear cabin is truly spacious. The execution is smart and contemporary, and the raised seating position provides excellent all-around visibility, with the controls and switchgear ergonomically arranged for ease of use, whilst the rear bench seat will accommodate three passengers in comfort...High-grade finishes create an upmarket, sophisticated ambience.

The new HR-V is fitted with Honda’s unique Magic Seat system, already a most popular feature in the Jazz and Civic models. With the seats raised, the luggage compartment provides 393 litres of boot space up to window level, while folding the split rear seats flat increases cargo capacity to an impressive 1 002 litres. Oddments storage is provided for in the smallish cubby hole, the four-door pockets, magazine pockets behind the front seats, a box under the front centre armrest and two cupholders up front.

Another good feature in the new HR-V is the electric parking brake with the auto brake hold function. The electric parking brake is engaged via a switch on the centre console, and automatically releases when the accelerator pedal is pressed.

The auto brake hold function engages automatically after the vehicle has been braked to a standstill, and the brake pedal is released. The hold function is disengaged as soon as the accelerator is activated. However, if the brake-hold function remains activated for an extended period of time, for instance in a traffic jam, the electric parking brake will be engaged instead.

Passive and active safety systems include six airbags, head restraints, inertia reel seatbelts, and Honda's Advanced Compatibility Engineering body structure. Active systems include Emergency Brake Assist and Emergency Stop Signal activation, as well as Vehicle Stability Assist, Hill Start Assist and a high-mounted LED rear brake light. In the stopping department, the HR-V is fitted with ventilated disc brakes in front, solid discs at the rear with ABS anti-lock brakes and Electronic Brake Force Distribution.

The Honda HR-V 1.8 Elegance is powered by a new 1 799 cc four-cylinder petrol engine with electronic fuel injection. It develops 105 kW of power at 6 500 rpm and 172 Nm of torque from 4 300 rpm and is linked to a new-generation, Earth Dreams technology Constantly Variable Transmission (CVT) driving the front wheels.

In acceleration tests, leaving the CVT transmission in D-mode, it did the 0 to 100 km dash in 10.66 seconds, while top speed is given as 188 km/h. Petrol consumption is given as just 6.9 litres per 100 kms in the combined cycle. However over the week I spent with the HR-V 1.8 which included a variety of roads, the trip computer gave me a reading of 8.4 litres per 100 km which is also good for a crossover.

At the outset I can say that I have never been a fan of CVT transmissions as most that I have driven, when under acceleration, feels as though the car has a slipping clutch. However, Honda’s CVT with their Earth Dreams technology in the new HR-V is the best CVT I have ever experienced. However, when climbing hills or overtaking, it’s best to pre-select Sport mode, or use the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters.

Getting technical, the CVT utilises the latest control logic to achieve a direct and linear response reminiscent of a manual gearbox, while the standard fit shift paddles allow for a manual override for an even more engaging driving experience. The updated control software simulates seven virtual gears, thus always making the most effective use of the engine's output. To Honda's credit, the responsiveness of the CVT was so good that most drivers wouldn’t miss having a conventional automatic transmission.

The 1.8 engine is perky and gets the HR-V off the line quite quickly. In the morning rush hour traffic, the HR-V proved to be nimble and responsive and a breeze to drive in town. The steering is nicely weighted and gives the driver a secure, sure-footed feeling and makes it easy to manoeuvre when parking or in confined spaces.

On the open road, the Honda HR-V 1.8 rides like a larger, more expensive vehicle. It's nice and smooth over rough roads, and sudden dips don't upset the balance. The HR-V’s body stays level enough for a “sporty” drive and the ride is never rigid. Also, the engine seems to “love” being revved and cooperates with throttle inputs readily in regular driving scenarios. At a steady 120 km/h on the freeway the engine revs at just 2 500 rpm, and at that speed, the cab is well insulated from wind and road noise

The recommended retail selling price for the Honda HR-V 1.8 Elegance CVT is R395 400, which includes a three-year/100 000 km warranty, a four-year / 60 000 km service plan, and a one-year AA roadside assistance package. Services are at 15 000 km intervals.