As compact crossovers have become the defacto mainstream for young car buyers and growing families alike, there's a greater impetus on them to become a jack-of-all-trades – which means, that in addition of being comfortable and practical, they also have to be a decent steer in the corners and deliver a decent turn of power when climbing a hill or trying to overtake a fast-moving Perodua Myvi on the highway.
Honda has steadily improved on the driving dynamics of the HR-V since it was first introduced. The 2017 HR-V remedied some of the slightly dull handling, and the 2019 facelift brought about the new stylish RS variant and tech-laden Hybrid variant featured here, in addition to the perennial E and V variants.
Despite lacking some equipment when compared to the V and RS variants, the Hybrid is actually the most powerful variant in the range.
Hence, does the Hybrid variant really put the Sports back in Sport Utility Vehicle for the HR-V?
What does the Honda HR-V Hybrid go up against?
The HR-V battles other well-known compact SUV crossovers such as the Subaru XV, Mitsubishi ASX, and Mazda CX-3 but the biggest spanner in the works has been without a doubt, the Proton X70. Even though the Proton belongs to a larger product segment, comparisons with the Honda are inevitable due to the X70’s price, which ranges between RM99k and RM123k.
Abbreviation: TC: Touch Screen, AC: Apple CarPlay, AA: Android Auto
Only a few subtle badges on the rear and sides distinguish the Hybrid variant from the "E" variant. The 17-inch wheels look the part and help give the Hybrid an understated yet grown-up look. This car is less about the shout and more about the top-notch engineering underneath.
The HR-V gets full marks for practicality and usability. The Subaru XV and Proton X70 might be bigger, but they can't match the HR-V's Ultra seats which flip and fold into a variety of configurations to accommodate long or tall items. Cool joystick-type shifter frees up extra space in the compartment underneath compared to the regular 1.8L model. The seats are comfortable even after hours of driving and build quality, tactility, and fit and finish are all up to par.
The HR-V loses some marks for the infotainment unit: low-resolution screen, complicated menu sets, and excessive screen glare during the day makes it feel like a step backward from what was offered in the pre-2017 models. Needs at least one more USB charger port in the front.
The powertrain is a ballad of efficiency and power - peak power of 152 PS and the healthy surge of torque almost from idle is only telling half the story, the HR-V Hybrid delivers all that power at an overall efficiency of approximately 6.9 litres/100km. So, while it's powerful, it will also cover close to 600km from a full tank of fuel. The energy recuperation and battery recharging operations are almost seamless, and much of that is down to the wizardry of the transmission system.
All in all, it's perhaps the most talented Hybrid powertrain on sale today.
The chassis and suspension system has received some tweaks to manage the additional weight and power, and they work well. It’s worthy to note that the majority of HR-V Hybrid buyers are not going blast along backroads every weekend, hence the benefits of the proven underpinnings, good body rigidity, and quick steering instead deliver a predictable, nimble, and safe SUV in the city, and competent vehicle on the highways as well.
Should I buy one?
The HR-V Hybrid would be sublime for urbanites who conduct most of their commuting in the city and also require and practical and safe all-rounder for the longer balik kampung trips. It pays great dividends with its superb fuel efficiency and its easy-to-drive charactersitics.