Joining this emerging car segment is Honda and their hotly-anticipated HR-V, which has caused quite a buzz among the public. The car has now been officially launched in Malaysia and we’ve shown you all the details about it. But how does it drive?
We ourselves are pretty eager to have a go at it upon seeing it in the metal at various roadshows before our local launch day. Thankfully, Honda Malaysia was generous enough to take us on a media drive to test out the all-new Honda HR-V in Chiang Mai, Thailand and this is what our first impressions of the car is like.
For us here in Malaysia, we get three variants: S, E, and V with prices starting from RM 99,800 up to RM 118,800
Keep in mind that the HR-V we drove is for the Thai market and some of the features on it are not found on our local market variant.
As for the competitors to the Honda HR-V, the Peugeot 2008 and Ford EcoSport represent its closest rivals. The Peugeot’s price closely matches the highest spec variant of the HR-V at RM 119,888 whereas the Ford competes in terms of price with the base and middle variant HR-V at RM 92,888 and RM 103,888.
Driving The All-New 2015 Honda HR-V:
Underneath that coupe-esque body lies the platform that underpins the Honda Jazz and from our review of that, we were impressed by its chassis that hardly ever felt unsettled. That trait is still present here because the HR-V tackles corners really well.
Our drive led us mostly on twisty trunk roads and there was rarely a moment where the crossover felt like it was a handful to handle. Another improvement is the steering, which unlike the Jazz, provided better feedback from corner to corner. Being B-roads, there were the occasional bumps and unevenness which the HR-V soaked up well enough thanks to its firm but forgiving ride.
The seats on our variant were of the fabric variety and they did a good job of keeping us in place as we made our way further out of town. They are also adjustable for height as well and together with a steering wheel adjustable for reach and height, provided a good seating position with good all-round vision.
Another feature of interest is the electronic switch parking brake. Put simply, a push of the button activates the parking brake. However, if you do attempt to set off and forgot to release it, the car will automatically release it for you.
PERFORMANCE: Powering the HR-V is a 1.8-litre SOHC four-cylinder engine sourced from the Honda Civic, and is paired to an Earth Dreams CVT automatic. On the twisty uphill sections of the drive, those of you with beyond-normal expectations of the car, may find that the powertrain has to be worked hard to get anywhere quickly.
The CVT transmission shifts just as good as anything through its virtual ratios, and putting it in S-mode held the virtual cog for longer to help get the vehicle up to speed.
However, to judge the HR-V on this merit is totally unjust. Around town, the powertrain is more than capable of conquering the typical day-to-day style of driving within the confines of the city. Even on the highways, it gets up to speed with minimal fuss and if you do need to perform the common overtaking manoeuvre, the CVT responds relatively quickly, exhibiting nearly no notice of the ‘rubber band’ effect common to transmissions of the kind.
Living with the 2015 Honda HR-V:
INTERIOR: Space-wise, there is more than enough of it to seat four passengers in comfort. It will seat five but with a centre armrest, we reckon the fifth passenger in the centre would be at a discomfort. Rear legroom is sufficient as well, as illustrated by the photo below.
FYI, the person pictured here (myself) measures 170 cm in height.
The main focus point though is the floating centre console that houses the gear selector and just below it, a small storage space along with a power outlet, USB ports, and other inputs for the infotainment system. Not only is it distinctive in design, it is practical as well, allowing you to place your mobile phone along the side of the wall and Smart TAG in the main area.
The other key design element you’ll see is the triple air-conditioning vents that point towards the front passenger. They are pretty good at keeping that passenger cool but when directing cooling towards the rear passengers, it’ll require a little creativity.
Moving on to practicality, and a similar arrangement to the Jazz’s popular ULTRA Seats can be found on the HR-V, folding the rear seats flat with a simple pull of a release latch on both sides. This opens up the boot space further and as you can tell, there is quite a lot of it. The rear bench can also tilt upwards, ala Jazz, allowing slightly taller items to be placed at the back.
EQUIPMENT: As we’ve mentioned earlier, the model we took was of the base variant that comes with fabric seats. Our infotainment unit lacked a touch interface but came with several inputs including CD, Bluetooth and AUX. The steering wheel is similar to that found on the Jazz as is the air-conditioning touch control panel.
The main dashboard itself is made of soft-touch plastic and for the other pieces of trim, they are either wrapped in leather as on the door pulls or fabric on the door trim. Go up a variant and you’ll get leather seats, cruise control, Siri hands-free capability, and a panoramic sunroof (that we won’t see on the Malaysian model).
SAFETY: Honda’s safety systems suite is pretty comprehensive here too, with anti-lock braking system (ABS), electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), brake assist (BA), vehicle stability assist (VSA), hill start assist (HSA), emergency stop signal (ESS), daytime running light (DRL), ISOFIX and 6 airbags (dual front SRS airbags, side curtain airbags and side airbags).
Unfortunately, the variant we tested did not come with a reverse camera, or the multi-angle reverse camera we have in Malaysia on the highest V Grade. The camera displays on the 7-inch screen and the virtual lines turn corresponding to the steering input, and as you may already know, the multi-angle rear view camera we have in Malaysia is a fantastic bit of kit – as seen on the Honda Accord, and now also the Honda CR-V.
Verdict – What we think of the Thai-spec 2015 Honda HR-V:
As a total package, the Honda HR-V ticks many boxes that make it a good run-around city car. Beginning with the comfortable seating position and ride, pottering around won’t leave you feeling fatigued.
The powertrain is also more than capable of handling day-to-day city driving if you understand the limitations of the CVT transmission, which is not for high performance but progressive driving.
Taking the trip to the malls and what not, the HR-V offers enough storage space to pile in all your purchases and even small pieces of furniture.
It’s hard to justify purely with words, let alone driving a foreign spec of car, but there’s a certain “functional” charm about the HR-V that makes it something for everyone. This is a clear segment leader for us, at the moment.
And if the case is anything like our test drives of the Jazz and City test drives in Thailand (Malaysians enjoy all kinds of improvements, it seems: right down to a better overall insulation package), we’re quite certain of a significant improvement to our local spec of car.
Here’s looking forward to that!