Honda's new HR-V is a stylish and functional high-riding city car
Cool crossover The new Honda HR-V boasts fresh, sporty styling and a host of modern features in the cabin. -- ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Long before BMW dreamt of crossing a coupe with an SUV and before the Range Rover Evoque was even a figment of Land Rover's imagination, there was the Honda HR-V.

The three-door coupe-like crossover conceived in 1998 made quite an impression with its avant-garde styling and urbane personality.

Honda called it a Hi-Rider Revolutionary Vehicle. It was so revolutionary, in fact, that it took Honda 15 years to come up with its successor.

The new HR-V looks set to become a far bigger hit than the original, thanks to its right size, head-turning design and to the current crossover craze.

In the past year or so, it has been rolling out of parallel importer showrooms at a rate faster than you can spell additional registration fee backwards.

The parallel import is known as the Honda Vezel. It has a wee bit more horsepower and a few more airbags.

But the HR-V brought in by authorised Honda agent Kah Motor has a significantly higher open market value, and consequently a higher retail price and higher residual value. Not to mention greater peace of mind in the sales process, as well as a five-year unlimited mileage warranty that comes with the car.

Like its predecessor, the new HR-V has the rugged good looks of a multi- terrain vehicle and a city-friendly packaging. Its styling is fresh and sporty, with a coupe-like side profile enhanced by hidden rear door handles.

Although based on a modified platform used by the Honda Jazz, it is a larger vehicle all round. It also has a longer wheelbase, wider tracks and higher ground clearance.

Yet, it remains compact enough to negotiate the smallest side lanes and alleyways, with a ride and handling you will associate more with a hatchback than an SUV.

Sure, its wider tracks do not fully offset its height, but its chassis is light and balanced enough for the ride to remain relatively calm even if the car is carrying a bit more velocity than it should around a tight curvature.

It is surprisingly confident in a wide sweeper, at speeds you would normally attempt in a well-sorted coupe.

Its shocks are a bit harsher than you expect of a crossover, but this trait does not manifest itself as a jolt up your spine unless you are going over some of the nastier speed regulators found here.

On the go, the front-wheel-driven HR-V impresses with its Jazz-like agility. In Sport mode, the car feels a lot quicker than its stated 11.8-second century sprint, with a throttle response that few would complain about.

The HR-V's steering may not have the performance often associated with Hondas, but the car is still nimble enough to make it somewhat effortless to filter or merge lanes.

And even when driven with verve, the car is pretty frugal with fuel, averaging 8.6 litres/100km in a 400km test-drive. I imagine its efficiency will improve when the engine is broken in.

The Thai-made Honda crossover makes the biggest impression with its cabin. You will find, in the premium version, a host of features that have been eluding bread-and-butter Japanese models.

They include electronic parking brake with self release, keyless access and ignition, climate control, 7-inch touchscreen with HondaLink connnectivity, HDMI and USB ports, and a multi- function steering wheel with cruise control, phone and audio switches and paddle shifters.

There is also an automatic hold function, which activates the parking brake once the car comes to a standstill. Unlike the version found in European cars, it does not apply when the car is in reverse gear - allowing the driver to park without having to deactivate the function.

Lastly, there is ample space inside (even if rear headroom is slightly compromised by a sloping roof line) and plenty of small storage compartments.

In short, it looks like a winner. But will people continue to buy the Vezel, or detour to the HR-V for better peace of mind? I guess time will tell.

CAR INFORMATION

Honda HR-V 1.5 LX Premium (A)

Price

:$112,999

Engine Type

:

4-cylinder in-line SOHC i-VTEC

Engine Cap

:

1,497 cc

Horsepower

:

118 bhp / 6,600 rpm

Torque

:

145 Nm / 4,600 rpm

Transmission

:

Earth Dreams CVT (A)

Acceleration

:

-

Top Speed

:

-