Not another two-wheel drive claiming to be an SUV, sniffs Charlie Flindt, who is then surprised to find he’s reluctant to hand the Honda HR-V back

Charlie Flindt is prepared to roll his eyes at another two-wheel drive posturing as an SUV. But when the time comes to return the Honda HR-V, he finds he has become rather attached to it.

For more motoring reviews, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio is an SUV that was worth the wait.


As is usual when presented with something claiming to be an ‘SUV’ with only two-wheel-drive, I was rather sniffy about the Honda HR-V, dismissing it as nothing more than yet another oversized five-door hatchback. And, Lord knows, we’ve got enough of them floating around.

It wasn’t long, however, before the little Honda began to grow on me. For a start, it looks fantastic – especially in lovely dark blue – with clever curves, a total lack of bling (except on the front grille) and stylish hidden rear door handles. Probably best not to mention which writer/farmer’s wife found the rear door handles just a little too hidden – I’d get a smack round the head. And because it is indeed an oversized five-door hatchback, it’s immensely practical. It’s easy to get in and out, interior room is vast and the boot is huge, too. Honda is keen on its ‘Magic Seat’ system in the back, which is a fancy name for a seat that flips and folds like a deckchair in a Carry On film, but does give all sorts of extra luggage-carrying options.

Honda HR-V

The engine pulls strongly from low revs.

It was a bit of a shock to find the controls less than perfect; it is a Honda, after all. Yes, the gear change was short and snappy but the steering was pretty stiff (not good for someone anticipating a shoulder operation now the shooting season has finished) and the clutch travel was long and fairly chunky, too.

The 1.6-litre diesel is good, however, and in a thoroughly old-fashioned way, pulling strongly from low revs and, once the cold clatter had gone, making a fantastic noise in the mid-range. Fifth and six gears seemed ridiculously long, and often I’d done most of a non-motorway journey in fourth before I realised – and that in itself is a sign of how quiet the warmed-up diesel was. Still, it all helps to minimise the use of that heavy clutch and promises useful economy – if you remember to keep changing up.

If you like driving tech, then you’ll love the HR-V as it comes with all the latest driving aids, some easier to understand than others. The creepy one is the one that links speed-limit signs to the car’s inbuilt speed limiter. Voluntary, for now, of course, but a glimpse of the future, folks.

Honda HR-V

Less than perfect controls.

No-one could describe the HR-V’s driving characteristics as a hoot, with softish suspension and a high-ish centre of gravity, but it’s practical and sensible, with just enough vim to eliminate boredom. If you’ve bought it expecting a Type R or an S2000, you’ll be disappointed.

As I started clearing out the clutter to send it back, I realised how fond of the HR-V I had grown. But old habits die hard: I couldn’t help thinking how handy it would be to have it in four-wheel drive – available elsewhere in the world, but Honda has chosen not to make it available in the UK. What a great little countryside runabout it would make – as well as elevating the HR-V from the 2wd pack. There I go again, getting all sniffy.

Honda HR-V 1.6 i-DTEC EX

♦ Engine: 1,597cc turbodiesel
♦ Power: 120PS
♦ Top speed: 119mph
♦ Performance, 0 to 62: 10.5 seconds
♦ Combined fuel economy: 70.6mpg
♦ Insurance group: 20
♦ Price: £27,115