The Honda HR-V 1.5I-MMD is a refreshingly understated SUV and oozes practicality but can its hybrid engine compare to the petrol-powered gems Honda is known for, asks Charlie Flindt


At first glance the new Honda HR-V could be mistaken for being rather dull. It didn’t help that my test car arrived in Abigail’s Party beige (Honda bravely calls it ‘sand khaki pearl’) but the exterior comes with a refreshing lack of ‘spoilers and slash’ styling. Yet it’s a look that soon grows on you; the front is a handsome and restrained grille, and the back is free from frippery. And it has a high-riding chunkiness with big wheels that suggests (wrongly, of course) that four-wheel drive might be on offer.


Honda HR-V

The interior continues with the same theme. The dashboard is clear and simple, and the seats – in a slightly retro twill/ plastic mix (let’s stop calling it ‘synthetic leather’, shall we?) – are comfortable and practical. And it’s only after a day or two that you notice other quietly positive features. The A-pillars allow a clear view front-left and front-right, and the rear-view mirror is high enough to not be in the way. It’s bizarre that such features are now rare enough to warrant comment but as a man with a rugby-ravaged neck, I appreciate such common-sense design.

Access is also neck-friendly, although the HR-V will always be snug; it’s in the ‘subcompact crossover SUV’ segment, after all. But once in, there’s plenty of headroom. And while the boot is small (an issue made worse by the underfloor batteries), Honda’s ‘Magic Seat’ system is a revelation, giving many folding options, including – wonder of wonders – a flat floor. Again, a feature we took for granted in the past but has become harder to find. And I should know: I’ve had an 88-key Roland as my faithful-but-not-easy-to-accommodate travelling companion for many weekends over the past 15 years.

Those underfloor batteries give an early clue to the HR-V’s only weak spot: the hybrid engine. You don’t have to be a sceptic of these power plants to appreciate that the 1.5-litre ‘e-TEC’ sits rather unhappily in the HR-V. It’s slow and occasionally deafening, linked to a CVT gearbox that seems descended from the DAF 33’s. On electric-only, pottering around town, it’s spookily silent. Motorways and fast A-roads are a different matter, especially when some sharp acceleration is needed. It’s a shame, as it’s the only power plant on offer, and a tragedy for those who once would buy a Honda for the technical excellence of the petrol-powered gem under the bonnet. I found myself longing for a petrol-only VTEC unit and a manual gearbox.

Honda HR-V

It could be said that the HR-V is not cheap, but economy is good and you can bet the farm on excellent reliability. Being a Honda, it will keep its value well, too. What you get for your not inconsiderable cheque is a package that reeks of common sense and practicality, wrapped up in a body that is refreshingly lacking in bling and flashiness. And, in a rather roundabout way, that’s what makes the new HR-V stand out from the crowd.


♦ Engine: 1,498cc four-cylinder petrol/electric hybrid

♦ Power: 107ps petrol/131ps twin electric motors

♦ Maximum speed: 106mph

♦ Performance, 0 to 62: 10.7 seconds

♦ Combined fuel economy: 67.3mpg

♦ Price: £34,850