Honda HR-V SUV (2018 - ) review
The Honda HR-V packs the same versatile features as the Jazz and Civic, offering buyers lots of space in a compact, stylish SUV package. It’s up against a whole host of small SUVs including the Nissan Juke, Renault Captur, Seat Arona and Volkswagen T-Roc.
The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.5
The Honda Honda HR-V was one of the earliest small SUVs on the UK market, and it’s grown in popularity since its introduction back in 1998. It offers good practicality, a versatile interior, and a relaxing driving experience. However, since its introduction, most manufacturers in the UK now offer at least one small SUV, so the HR-V gets a bit stuck between smaller, cheaper rivals and pricier, more competent ones. There are a few issues with refinement, and a frustrating infotainment system.
- Nicely-finished cabin
- Responsive diesel engine
- Big boot
- Frustrating infotainment system
- Uneven low-speed ride
- Poor refinement
Interested in buying a Honda HR-V?
How good does it look?
Honda says the HR-V is a cross between an MPV, a coupe and an SUV. Sounds like an odd mix, but the result is a smart little car that looks sleek and well proportioned.
The range is simple to understand, with four trim levels: S, SE, EX and Sport. Every model gets alloy wheels as standard, ranging from 16 inches on the S models to 18 inches on the Sport model.
Front fog lights are standard on SE grade and above, with SX and Sport models getting full LED lights front and rear.
The EX model gets a few bits to differentiate it from the range, including tinted privacy glass, a panorama opening sunroof, roof rails, and satin finish door handles.
The Sport model also gets a few subtle exterior tweaks, including a black honeycomb finish on the front grille, slim front splitter, side skirts, wheel arch mouldings and more aggressive rear bumper. On top of that you get dual exhaust pipes and black door mirror caps.
There are nine paint options available on the HR-V range, including Platinum Grey Metallic, which is exclusive to the Sport trim.
What's the interior like?
The interior of the HR-V is quite simple, with plenty of high-quality chrome and gloss black trim around the centre console. While it looks good, it will attract plenty of fingerprints.
SE models and above get a neat touch-sensitive panel for the dual-zone climate control, which is easy to use.
The front seats are fairly supportive, and the driving position is high with good forward visibility, but it’s not quite as lofty as in some other small SUVs. Looking over the shoulder is a bit trickier as there are thick pillars at the back. The steering wheel moves for height and reach, so you should be able to find a comfortable driving position.
However, there are some questionable pieces of trim, too: the top of the dashboard and the fabric on the top of the doors both feel distinctly hard and a bit cheap. The centre console itself is also a bit flimsy, and moves around quite a bit if you knock it.
The infotainment system is a 7.0-inch touchscreen display, which is slow and difficult to use, with confusing menus that are hard to navigate through. The systems on most rivals, including the Seat Arona and VW T-Roc are easier to use.
How practical is it?
The HR-V’s most impressive trick is the amount of space Honda has managed to pack inside such a compact car. It’s nearly as long as a Range Rover Evoque, but narrow enough to still squeeze through town traffic. The HR-V has the same flip-up rear-seat bases as the Civic and the Honda Jazz – called Magic Seats – a fold-flat front passenger seat, nearly flat loading bay and a wide 470-litre boot.
On top of that, there’s a decent sized glove box, a couple of cubby holes in the centre console with pop-out cup holders.
Legroom is nearly double what you’d get in cheaper, more compact SUVs such as the Nissan Juke, but the sloped roofline means headroom in the back is tight, especially on cars fitted with the glass sunroof.
The interior versatility is a real bonus though, and the HR-V gives you more options for carrying loads of awkward luggage than an ordinary family hatchback.
What's it like to drive?
Similarly priced rivals such as the Jeep Renegade put the emphasis on off-road ability and handling, but Honda has gone down a different route with the HR-V. Top priorities are comfort and ease-of-driving, and this car certainly manages the latter very well.
The controls are light, with fairly accurate steering, and soft suspension. It means the HR-V settles into a comfortable cruise on the motorway, but there’s quite a bit of body roll when you turn into bends. The tyres run out of grip and start washing wide if you push too hard into corners, and at low speed, lumps and bumps will unsettle the whole car. This is an issue on the smallest 16-inch alloys, and it gets worse with bigger wheels.
The Sport model has had a few small alterations to improve ride and handling. The steering is precise and quite quick, which helps the car feel pretty agile. There’s still some body roll in corners – it is a tall car after all – but it’s been tidied up a bit, and overall has decent levels of grip. Although there’s a firm edge to the ride (thanks to performance damping), the car is less jittery, although you will still feel bigger bumps through your derriere.
How powerful is it?
If you’re looking to buy an S, SE, or EX model, there’s one petrol and one diesel engine on offer, and both are only available with front-wheel drive. The 1.6-litre diesel with 120 horsepower feels like the best for the car. It picks up quickly even from low revs. However, it’s also quite noisy. If you’re going up a hill, or keeping it in a low gear, it gets very loud and sends vibrations through the pedals and gearstick too.
The 1.5-litre petrol engine is no quieter, especially if you pair it with the optional CVT automatic gearbox, which sends the revs soaring every time you use the accelerator. It doesn’t have the low-end pull of the diesel either, so it can feel quite slow if you’re trying to overtake, and if you’ve got the CVT gearbox, there will be a long delay before you feel the power if you put your foot down. Stick with the six-speed manual gearbox, which is fairly slick.
The Sport model has an exclusive 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine, which you can pair with the manual gearbox, or optional CVT automatic. The engine is flexible and pulls strongly from a little below 2000rpm, before petering out around 5500rpm. It doesn’t feel slow, but it won’t bother hot hatches for speed. Again, stick with the manual gearbox, especially if you want a bit more of a sporty feel.
How much will it cost me?
Compared with rivals such as the Seat Arona or Renault Captur, the HR-V is quite expensive to buy, but it is a little cheaper than more premium rivals like the Audi Q2.
In terms of economy, depending on which trim level you go for, the 1.5-litre petrol engine will average around 40mpg on the WLTP cycle, similar to the turbocharged engine on the Sport trim (depending on whether you go for the CVT or the manual gearbox), and the diesel averages more at around 55mpg. You get better economy from the manual gearbox.
CO2 emissions figures for the diesel engines are a little over 100g/km, depending on which trim you go for, with the petrol a bit over 120g/km, and the turbocharged petrol at 135g/km.
As for other costs, resale values are pretty solid across the range, and there are some fairly competitive finance deals around, too.
How reliable is it?
Honda has proved time and again that its cars are mechanically robust, and as long as they are maintained properly, they’ll run and run for years without issue or complaint. This well-deserved reputation is backed up by the brand’s current position at the number two spot in the Warranty Direct Reliability Index.
The HR-V isn’t on the reliability index, but the car does use a lot of the same components as the Jazz, which is one of the most reliable cars Warranty Direct has tested, so it’s a fairly safe assumption the HR-V will be robust.
On the JD Power UK vehicle dependability study, which ranks manufacturers based on problems per 100 vehicles, Honda sits in the top half, but isn’t quite as high as on the Warranty Direct Index.
The HR-V comes with a standard three-year warranty, but coverage does last until you hit the 90,000-mile mark, and there is a five-year fixed price service plan available. We’d be very impressed if you managed to drive that far in three years…
How safe is it?
The HR-V scored the maximum five stars when tested by safety organisation Euro NCAP – which is perhaps no surprise given the amount of standard kit on board. Every model in the range comes with six airbags, hill start assist, an emergency stop signal, Isofix points on the outer rear seats, headlights that recognise oncoming cars and dip the beams for you, and active city braking, so the car will intervene and brake for you if it anticipates a sudden impact.
Mid-range SE versions and above go one better, with lane departure and forward collision warning systems, an intelligent speed limiter, and traffic sign recognition. Many rivals do charge extra for this kind of kit.
How much equipment do I get?
The HR-V is well equipped compared to a lot of its rivals. Even the entry-level ‘S’ models have cruise and climate control and 16-inch alloy wheels. Mid-range SE versions are even more generously supplied, with bigger wheels, a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with DAB radio and sat-nav, front and rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera, auto lights and wipers.
Sport and EX models get a few more luxuries like front heated seats, and leather upholstery (half leather/half fabric in the Sport), with EX models also getting a big glass sunroof and smart entry and start. When compared with other cars in this class though, at the top of the range it’s not the best value.
If you want a family SUV majoring on space and versatility, the HR-V has a lot of useful interior space, a big boot and a frugal diesel engine. It's likely to be very reliable, comes well-equipped, and has an excellent safety rating.