2015 Honda HR-V 1.6 i-DTEC review

The HR-V is a no-brainer for Honda. Chunky SUV-like hatchbacks like the Renault Captur and Nissan Juke are all the rage at the moment, so it’s no surprise to see Honda entering this lucrative arena.

At 4.3m in length, the front-wheel drive HR-V has a similar footprint to a family hatchback, cars like the Ford Focus or Honda’s own Civic. It’s also closely matched in size to competitors such as the Skoda Yeti, Mazda CX-3, and the ever popular Nissan Qashqai.

Prices look a bit steep, at £17,995 for the entry-level 1.5 petrol (which can also be had with a CVT automatic), and the 1.6 diesel that we’re driving starting at £19,745. Mind you, Honda are keen to point out that PCP finance will account for more than 80% of retail sales, and with a £500 dealer contribution already being offered, the HR-V is competitive on that front.

SE Navi is likely to be the most popular trim, which on the diesel will cost £22,105 on the road, or, with a 20% deposit, a monthly cost of £279 over three years.

As the SE Navi name suggests, this is the cheapest trim to get sat-nav, but all HR-V’s get alloy wheels, climate control, front and rear parking sensors, digital radio, USB and Bluetooth. SE or SE Navi also get the 7.0in colour touchscreen complete with Smartphone-linked internet browsing and auto lights and wipers, so there’s little need to go for the full-fat EX trim, despite the temptations of its leather upholstery and panoramic sunroof.

What’s the 2015 Honda HR-V like to drive?

The HR-V drives more like a raised hatchback than a full-sized SUV. Swing it into a corner and the body remains fairly well tied down, and the steering weights up enough to give confidence and allow you to place it precisely, although there’s little sense of feedback. It’ll still wash wide if you go into a bend too quickly, but overall it does feel a fraction more sporting than most family SUVs.

The diesel engine has plenty of punch, and it provides an even build of acceleration as you climb the rev range, making it a satisfyingly nippy thing to thread through town or down a rural road. You will have to change down fairly often to avoid the slow-responding pre-turbo boost low revs, but the gearchange – although notchy – is short-throw and light, so it doesn’t feel a particular chore to use.

That’s about the best aspect of the HR-V’s refinement, though, as the diesel engine is quite noisy even under moderate acceleration. Road noise is also noticeable over coarse surfaces, although it’s only the engine noise that’s a real bugbear on longer journeys. 

You can tell that Honda has been keen to keep a hatchback-like, slightly sporting feel to the HR-V’s handling given that the ride is stiffer than most soft roaders. It’s not uncomfortable, and in fact some might prefer the firmer ride in favour of less pitch and wallow from the body over swells and undulations, but the HR-V does feel choppy over scruffy surfaces and can deliver the odd harsh thump over mid-corner intrusions.

What’s the 2015 Honda HR-V like inside? 

The first thing that strikes you after getting into the HR-V is that it doesn’t feel as high-set as a Qashqai or other more conventional, SUV-style soft roaders. As with its driving dynamics, the Honda’s lower driving position feels closer to a high-set hatchback than a ‘proper’ 4×4, which is not a bad thing – the high-set gearlever is particularly nice to use – although it does mean you don’t get the advantage of a loftier view down the road ahead. 

Otherwise, the HR-V’s interior is a big improvement for Honda. The straightforward dials are mostly easy to read, and the new 7.0in touchscreen and touch-sensitive climate controls keep the dash looking refreshingly minimal. There’s also a good blend of textured materials, which all feel solidly fitted, although there are some cheap-feeling plastics and coarse fabrics, particularly on the door cards.

The touchscreen remains easy to read even in direct sunlight, but it’s a shame that some icons are quite tiny and hard to hit precisely, and the integration with a Smartphone is hit-and-miss – particularly given that you can’t yet set up an iPhone to function with the Mirrorlink system, which allows you to ‘mirror’ an app running on your phone through the car’s screen.

Still, the key functions of the digital radio and MP3 player connectivity work well, and most will find the system very manageable with familiarity.

There’s plenty of room up front, too, and with height-adjustable seats and an adjustable steering wheel that will allow most sizes and shapes of driver to find a natural seating position.

It’s less of a success story in the back. There’s plenty of leg room even for tall adults, but they could find their heads brushing the roof – particularly in models with a panoramic roof. Between that and the narrowing window line, there’s little sense of the airy abundance of space that a Qashqai or Renault Kadjar can offer. Middle passengers will have a firm, raised cushion to sit on, and shoulder room is a bit tight for three across, too. 

Still, as with the Civic, the HR-V gets Honda’s ‘magic seats’, which allow you to flip the rear seat base up for a big through-loading area, ideal for bikes or taller items. It also has a  huge boot – bigger even than a Qashqai, at 470 litres claimed capacity, complete with a low load lip, seats that fold flat easily, and the ability to take items of well over 2.0 metres if you drop the folding front passenger backrest.

There’s masses of safety kit, too, including emergency city braking, and, on higher trim levels, traffic sign recognition and lane departure warning.

Should I buy one?

You certainly shouldn’t discount it. The HR-V’s interior has real merit in terms of its versatility, the dash looks modern and will be easy to use once you’ve got used to it, the confident handling will satisfy plenty of buyers, and the diesel engine offers good performance. It’s just a shame that rear passenger headroom is fairly mediocre, refinement in this diesel is poor, and the price makes it look expensive next to some rivals.

A Suzuki Vitara, for instance, might not feel as nicely finished inside, but it’s only a touch smaller and you’d get a fully specced diesel version for thousands less, and on cheaper finance, too. Similarly, a Renault Kadjar will cost roughly the same despite being bigger for rear passengers and more refined.

Having said all that, the nimble HR-V does undercut the Qashqai on price, and its efficiency will keep company car costs down. If you’re not bothered about the rear seat accommodation then this is a worthy contender: it looks great, its seemingly high prices will be offset by generous kit and savings on finance packages, and for most it will be a satisfying car to run. 

It’s not the class best, but it’s easy to see why you might be tempted, even in this competitive market. 


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