Honda’s Crossover SUV is a car for all seasons

001-off-my-wheelsBrian Joss –

Quality is a hallmark of Honda and this is clearly evident in the Honda HR-V, the Crossover SUV which was launched here a few months ago. I should know as I have driven many in the range – from the Jazz to the new Honda Ballade which I took on a 3 000 kilometre road  trip from Milnerton to Johannesburg and back,  last year.  It was a trouble-free trip.

The first HR-V made its debut in South Africa about 12 years ago and was a taste of things to come in this highly contested segment of the market. The test vehicle was the Honda HR-V 1.8 Elegance with CVT (continuously variable transmission). There are just two models in the range which uses the Japanese manufacturer’s small car platform:  the other is the 1.5 Comfort also with CVT.

The Honda HR-V 1.8 Elegance CVT: driving into a highly contested market segment. Picture: Quickpic
The Honda HR-V 1.8 Elegance CVT: driving into a highly contested market segment. Picture: Quickpic

But back to the Elegance which boasts climate control, a reverse camera and Bluetooth connectivity, to name some. It also features Honda’s Magic Seat system which allows the 60:40 seating to be configured in different ways to accommodate passengers and cargo. There are three modes: the utility mode, the tall mode and the long mode which creates a tunnel to hold items of up to 2 455 mm in length. With the rear seats in the upright position, there is 393 litres of cargo space and by folding the rear seat flat there is a more than generous 1 002 litres. And there’s a full-size spare under the boot  floor. The tailgate opens to bumper level to make offloading and loading easy. And it does hold a lot. One one foray into wine country – Stellenbosch – with four up we packed the boot with a box containing half a lamb, deli goods from the Pot Belly on the R44 and from the nearby Blue Jay, a working farm, boxes of fresh fruit, and there was space for more goodies.

Design-wise, the front of the HR-V with its LED lights  and signature grille looks a lot like its baby brother,  the CR-V.  Featuring large light clusters at the rear the Elegance has  a sophisticated look.  Inside, the cabin has the unmistakeable touch of quality. The finishes are excellent and the premium feel is enhanced by the leather seats and the leather trimmed steering wheel. The facia is neat and the double-decker includes a seven inch touchscreen infotainment centre which is easy to use: you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure it out. The usual controls are  on the comfortable steering wheel. There is more than enough space for back seat passengers who can stretch their legs in comfort. And headroom is ample even for tall people.  On one  of the sweltering days, when the temperature gauge registered 39, the climate control was a boon. The music coming from the six speaker sound system which was tuned to the Cape’s new music station, Magic (828), which plays hits from yesteryear was ideal travelling music.

So how does the HR-V perform? I found it to be a very comfortable car and it reaches 100 km/h in a reasonable 11 seconds. Although the passengers may have felt the odd pothole or two it didn’t spoil the ride. Even on the uphill and gravelly dirt strip leading up to the Blue Jay the HR-V felt solid on the road. The steering was responsive, although a little on the heavy side. The HR-V sailed up the hills with ease and it was quite at home in an urban environment. The naturally aspirated petrol engine puts out 105 kW with torque of 172 N.m. On my various test routes I kept the 1.8 Elegance at between 100 km/h and 120 km/h and the CVT was quiet but put foot a bit and the noise becomes obtrusive and,  importantly,  the needle on the fuel gauge begins to descend alarmingly. The CVT, says Honda, simulates seven virtual gears and changes adapt to driving styles and conditions. In simple terms it works  like gears on a scooter through a system of pulleys.  You can also use the paddle shifts to override the CVT, if you want.  Honda says is uses 6.8 litres/100 km: I used nearly 8 litres/100 km in the urban environment but on  country roads I was close enough to Honda’s claimed 6.8 litres/100 km: just over 7 litres/100 km. So with a light foot you could get 800 kilometres out of the 50-litre fuel tank. The start-stop function also helps to reduce petrol consumption but I’m not sure by how much, or if it makes a significant difference.  Nice-to-haves in the Honda HR-V Elegance 1.8 CVT  include keyless starting, an electronic brake, electric windows all round and auto-activating LED headlights with daytime running lights. It has the alphabet soup of safety features including a full set of airbags,  ABS with EBD (electronic brake distribution), Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability Assist, Hill Start Assist and Emergency Stop Signal. Oh, and the brakes work well, as I found when someone decided to suddenly and without warning make a U-Turn at a set of traffic lights.

Summing up: the Honda HR-V Elegance 1.8 CVT is as at home on  country roads as it is in gridlock traffic which we encountered more than once. Although Honda describes it as a  Crossover SUV it would do sterling service an an MPV, great on the school run or to go on holiday in. It’s a relaxing drive and comfortable. One of its rivals is Nissan’s X-Trail (tested) and if I was shopping for another car I would be hard pressed to choose between the two. On balance I would probably opt for the Honda HR-V 1.8 Elegance CVT even though it has a price tag of R354 900.

The price  includes a three-year/100 000 km warranty, a four-year /60 000 km service plan, and a one-year AA roadside assistance package. Services are at 15 000 km intervals.

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