The HR-V has all the bells and whistles but not the complete Honda formula
Half A Honda Honda HR-V. PHOTO: HONDA

AMONG Japanese makes, the Honda brand has long had an enviable reputation for sporty styling and driving. The new Honda HR-V, though, manages to tick only one out of those two boxes. The Honda HR-V is a stylish compact sport-utility vehicle which when it went on sale in the US last month, immediately became the best-selling car in the country.


It was launched here by authorised Honda distributor Kah Motor in mid-April. By then, the Japanese domestic version, called the Honda Vezel, has been available in Singapore from parallel importers for a year, and is already a runaway success. Its current number one status as the most popular parallel import model in 2015 is partly due to the low prices offered by grey importers, and partly because of its attractive styling.

This "sporty" SUV is based on a stretched version of the Jazz platform. It has a dynamic profile with fresh design cues such as camouflaged rear door handles.


At 4.3 metres long and 1.6 metres tall, it is the perfect size for an urban runabout with a relatively commanding seating position.

Inside, the dashboard gets a large centre display and a neat strip of three slim air vents for the front passenger. The steering wheel is a familiar Honda affair first seen in the City and Jazz but with a pair of new-look shift paddles in cool piano black to work the seven-step continuously variable transmission (CVT).


Mated to the equally familiar 1.5-litre i-VTEC naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine to drive the front wheels, this responsive CVT with a torque converter is undoubtedly the best part about the HR-V.

It is direct and changes gears quickly, without the usual rubber band-like effect that some CVTs are prone to exhibiting. Pull the left paddle and it downshifts immediately. It mitigates the engine's somewhat anaemic 120 hp and 145 Nm. Given the low kerb weight of about 1,200 kg, the unit is not inadequate on Singapore roads. But it will run out of breath when pushed hard, plus get a bit boomy while doing so.


Another let-down is the inert electric power steering. Most Hondas have accurate steering with wonderful feedback - even the seven-seat Odyssey MPV. Not the HR-V though.


The suspension is competent and delivers good ride comfort but that's about it. It will not encourage you to take a corner faster. But if you still like it, perhaps the more pertinent issue is which Honda to buy - the HR-V or the Vezel. For one, the HR-V is assembled in Thailand with a port injection engine while the Vezel comes from Japan with a direct injection engine.


The interior with its 2,610 mm wheelbase is impressively spacious for its size, with a few levels of trim for both. Generally, though, the HR-V has a better level of user-interface equipment than the Vezel.

The centre display with reverse camera is factory-fitted with a seven-inch touchscreen that offers three camera views. The camera is integrated with the parking sensors to offer both audio and visual parking assistance. The Vezel does not have this option. It only gets an after-market head unit.


Both the HR-V and Vezel have multi-function steering wheels, but the HR-V gets an extra set of buttons for Bluetooth telephony.

When paired with an iPhone, the Siri function can be used via the steering wheel voice activation switch.


So the HR-V is clearly the one with all the bells and whistles and already, it has become Kah Motor's best-selling model. It would appear that those looking for an affordable alternative to the traditional sedan - especially one with a spacious cabin, elevated seating position and good forward visibility - find it to be an attractive proposition.

CAR INFORMATION

Honda HR-V 1.5 LX (A)

Price

:$132,999

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

:

-