Announced back in March, it’s now here – Honda Cars Philippines Inc. (HCPI) continues its lineup update with the third-generation HR-V. The offensive, which started last year with the new-generation City, is ushering in a heavily revamped range that should excite Honda fans and Filipino consumers alike.
I’ve had a chance to get behind the wheel of the HR-V before its launch – not only in one but in both of its variants. Is the new HR-V any good? And how does it fare in the subcompact crossover segment that’s currently being dominated by China-made nameplates?
Honda is obviously moving on to a more subdued styling. You’ve seen it in the City, you’ll also notice so with the Civic. The Honda HR-V isn’t any different. It deviates from its previous sporty aura, now carrying a classy appeal for both S and V flavors in an obviously bigger package. The hidden rear door handles still work like a charm, while the swoopy roofline and coupe-like rear profile work for the crossover’s overall form but not for functionality. More on this later.
The two variants differ on a number of things, with the grille being the foremost differentiator between the two. The S variant comes with frameless, horizontal slats, while the V makes use of mesh to add pizzazz upfront. I personally like the peculiar aura of the frameless grille, plus the LED light bar works perfectly well with the white paint of the S trim tester (not so much with the red paint of the V).
Differences aside, both HR-V variants come with LED lighting, front and back, which somehow give the base S variant an advantage in case you’re choosing between the two. The dark alloy 17-inch wheels of the V variant can be a deciding factor, though, as it looks quite attractive compared to the rather complex design of the S trim.
In the sea of sporty crossovers from the Mainland, the HR-V’s elegance is a refreshing sight and void of pretensions. I adore that – a lot.
The HR-V S and V variants are almost identical inside in terms of layout, though the V gives you the advantage of better materials such as the leather-wrapped tiller and leather seats. There are more silver accents on the V, as well, though the fabric upholstery of the S is attractive because of Honda’s newfound Euro-inspired approach to styling.
The minimalist and ergonomic design of the new Civic and City is found in the HR-V. I like the abundance of cubbyholes and storage spaces inside – a huge improvement from its predecessor. The head unit isn’t third-party this time around, which means it’s neatly integrated within the center console, including the connectivity ports.
Another improvement found in the HR-V is the massive legroom for rear passengers, which is somewhat an answer to the gripes of its predecessor. There are A/C vents, as well, but the swoopy roofline means that headroom’s limited even for myself who’s standing 5’6”. I actually hit my head as I entered the vehicle’s back seat during the photoshoot – something that rarely happens given my lack of height.
The cargo volume isn’t listed on the spec sheet but through visual comparison (I drove the old HR-V to the venue), I can say that it has been improved. I also love how Honda attached the tonneau onto the tailgate. It’s a simple improvement that goes a long way if you’ll be using the cargo area a lot.
Tech & Safety
The biggest selling point of the new Honda HR-V is its bevy of technology and safety features. Just like the new Civic, all HR-Vs sold in the Philippines will come with Honda SENSING. The suite of safety features, which includes Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keep Assist, and Autonomous Braking, vow to make driving safer for its passenger, though I can’t say how effective they are given the limits of the pre-launch preview. But considering how great it worked with the Civic, I don’t expect less from the HR-V.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity are both present in the HR-V, albeit wired. The 8-inch infotainment system has a pretty nice display resolution, though there’s a space for improvement for the rear camera output. Other basic and advanced safety features that you can think of are standard.
Driving & Handling
Thankfully, I was able to drive the HR-V in both S and V flavors within the confined test track of HCPI. The reason I had to is that the S comes with a naturally aspirated 1.5-liter gasoline, while the V gets a helping hand through a single-scroll turbocharger.
In terms of power delivery, the difference between the two was night and day. The V Turbo variant gave an earlier pull, while the S was more relaxed. That’s not to say that the S lacks power; I tried a steep incline climb with the non-turbo HR-V with four passengers aboard and it was effortless. The V Turbo trim just provided more oomph.
Handling-wise, the HR-V S felt lighter but the urethane material somehow affected the overall feeling while my hands were on the steering wheel. The HR-V V Turbo, on the other hand, felt more premium.
What’s notable was suspension tuning on both variants. It was superb and can absorb reasonable road imperfections with conviction. This trait, no matter which engine option you choose, should make for an enjoyable drive as I did during my tests.
Honda isn’t letting its guard down with the emergence of Chinese contenders in the small crossover segment. The HR-V is a testament to that, and the company did its homework by giving us a well-rounded vehicle that improved upon its faults from the outgoing model.
And I say that knowing that the HR-V is still on the pricier side of the spectrum. Of note, the base HR-V S has a sticker price of P1,250,000 (more affordable than the base outgoing model), while the HR-V V Turbo sells for P1,598,000. Again, both variants have Honda SENSING, which should be a pretty sweet deal.
Yes, the Chinese contemporaries are much more affordable and are as equipped, if not better, but if you’re still not ready to embrace Chinese-made vehicles, the new HR-V should be at the top of your shopping list. Just make sure to duck lower than usual when entering the back seat.