EVERY so often I hear people say they’ve found something on their car they never knew existed. Did they not read the owner’s manual?
No. It seems a great many new car buyers simply don’t bother with that informative, and to my mind, essential, publication.
Which brings us to Honda’s latest HR-V.
Now owner’s manuals of years gone by used to run to around 50 pages, but they increased as the technology balloon grew bigger, and the handsomely bound manual of the 2018 HR-V encompasses all of 618 pages.
There’s more: there’s also a matching book on how to drive the satellite navigation system, and it’s only a 66-pager.
Read the manuals, folks, and you’ll soon find out what ADAS means, how to open the sunroof, how much pressure your tyres need, what that orange knob on the engine is for and where you’ll find the controls for the myriad other little luxuries that are tucked away in this little pleasure box.
The HR-V was among the pioneers of compact SUVs, arriving in 1999, then going walkabout a couple of years later. It came back about three years ago and has been a solid performer for the brand.
HR-Vs, all powered by a 105kW/172Nm 1.8litre four-cylinder petrol engine, and all with front-wheel drive, come in three levels of spec: The $24,990 VTi, the VTi-S at $27,990 and the $34,340 VTi-L + ADAS, which is the one we’re looking at here.
ADAS (Advanced Driver Assist System) is Honda-speak for its electronic safety pack, which comprises Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning and adaptive high beam lights.
If you can live without ADAS you can knock $1000 off the price.
Standard features are plentiful: leather trim, power adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, climate control aircon, panoramic sunroof, front and rear parking sensors, 7.0-inch touchscreen, SatNav, reversing camera, six-speaker stereo, a proximity key, LED headlights and Daylight Running Lights, and 17-inch alloy wheels.
The Thai-built vehicle has conventional styling, but the lines hide the excellent and huge interior.
Its a full five seater with exceptional head and legroom in the rear and it comes with what Honda calls its Magic Seats, which can be laid flat or vertically, that is with the cushions folded upward, with barely any effort, making for the tallest cargo mode in its class.
That way you can pack in things like young trees, a coupe of mountain bikes, several St Bernards or a few bales of hay.
Even with the seats in pace there’s a lot of room in the boot. Try 437 litres, which should be enough for most shopping trips anyway.
There’s also an effective cargo cover which is easy to remove. It weighs nothing, simply slides out.
In-cabin storage is also impressive. The centre console has a pair of auto-adjustable cup holders and there are receptacles for odds and ends and bottle holders in all four doors, the rear ones, by the way, with neatly hidden outside handles.
The driving position is fine with a cockpit to please most pilots. There are clear displays for all the things that matter, good ventilation and visibility.
The powertrain might not look exciting on paper, but it’s a smooth, efficient system with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) taking care of the ratios. Some people profess to dislike CVTs but I’m a fan of the clever system that I first encountered in a Daf car back in 1961. These days it’s more refined and common in many a brand.
However, if you want to do your own thing, the VTi-L also has steering wheel mounted paddle shift.
Performance is fine and you still have to keep an eye on the speed to avoid hidden cameras taking a shot of you, and there HR-V will happily cruise along at state limits all day long – and not use much fuel either.
We recorded an average of 7.8litres/100km, mainly in suburban conditions.
To help drivers get the best economy possible, there’s Eco Assist, a visual training system that responds to your drive.
Act like a hoon and the outer ring of the speedo glows white. Keep it smooth and you get a green glow.
Or you can push a button to activate Econ mode, which adjusts the engine, CVT and aircon for a slight drop in performance, but optimum economy.
It’s an easy car to drive and park, the ride is nice and reassuring, comfort levels are high and the steering and brakes are in keeping with Honda’s fine reputation.
Suspension is by Macstruts in front and a rear torsion bar.
The orange knob on the engine? That’s the dipstick, apparently colour-coded to please Dutch drivers.
HR-Vs have a five-star crash safety rating, a seven-year warranty and capped servicing.
Verdict: A smooth, easy to drive and very versatile small SUV. Much to like.
- Smooth performance
- Versatile seating
- Capacious boot
- Good comfort
- Big warranty
- Good fuel economy
- Still looking . . .