02:55PM, Monday 21 October 2019
Those 60s pop icons The Beach Boys had a less-than-memorable hit with a song called Little Honda back in 1964; it reached 65 in the Billboard chart.
Unless you have the band’s Fifty Big Ones greatest hits compilation, for which the Little Honda track helped make up the numbers, it’s doubtful you’ve sampled its delights.
Possibly more likely to come your way are the delights of the little Honda SUV, the HR-V, which has been heavily revised for 2019.
We drove the car back in 2015 when it was relaunched after a hiatus of several years. It’s totally different from the boxy first HR-V, now with curvier coupe style although designers’ clever tricks hide quite a boxy and sensible body.
Our 2015 excursion was behind a 1.6 litre diesel motor that managed 54 mpg but we’ve just been enjoying the upgraded car in Sport trim with the 182 PS 1.5 VTEC Turbo engine from the Civic Sport. This potent power plant is available with a six-speed manual, or the latest-generation CVT which we drove and fully appreciated for its smoothness.
It generates a lot more power than the 2015 diesel’s 120 PS but when it comes to torque there’s rather less of it – 220 Nm on the CVT translates to 162 lb ft while the diesel had 239 lb ft. Still, the free-revving petrol motor makes this Honda an inspiring car to drive and with the big switch away from diesel most owners will find its 40.5 mpg average acceptable. The 25 per cent drop will be partly paid back in the greater fun factor.
Honda is a company founded on engineering prowess, so it comes as no surprise that the HR-V has undergone much more than an engine transplant.
Helping put the increased power on the tarmac are individual performance dampers and suspension revisions. These have been tuned in collaboration with a variable-ratio electrically-assisted rack-and-pinion steering system to give the HR-V the sporty feel Honda buyers expect. This is a family car that can be fully exploited when travelling one or two up along back routes (although that’s not endorsing inappropriate driving on country lanes as we’ve been hit very hard by a speeding driver in such circumstances and had a very lucky escape).
In addition, external stylistic changes such as high-gloss black trim, revised bumpers and skirts, more pronounced arches, and unique, larger-diameter lightweight alloy wheels emphasise that this HR-V is very different despite retaining the body of the car it replaces.
Inside, a combination of soft-touch, wine-red leather and black fabric seat facing, along with extended wine-red swathes on the dashboard, add a touch of g elegance to the Sport, singling it out from the rest of the HR-V range.
With the seats in place, the HR-V has 431 litres of capacity; flip them down and this grows to 1,473 litres but for many owners the electronic gizmos the car carries are almost as important as its abilities to swallow loads and people.
In Sport trim there’s everything you could wish for including AHA – not another pop group reference but Agile Handling Assist. It’s got traffic sign recognition and automatic main beam. The tyre deflation warning system also proved its worth – it signalled a problem and although all the tyres looked OK the left rear had dropped from 30 psi to 20 psi.
When we drove the EX version back in 2015 a panoramic glass roof with electric blind was on the equipment list and the Sport version could do with the same to give the interior ambience a lift. Heated leather seats remain, but power assistance would not go amiss – that said at least the backrests adjust with levers rather than turnwheels that old hands find hard to grasp.
You also get a decent amount of space for four adults, five if you must. The coupe looks do not restrict the headroom and, up front, there’s plenty of elbow room. The ride quality can feel firm but, then again, a squishy ride in such a tall car would lead to handling problems so there has to be a degree of compromise. At least the sensible height allows ready access.
Families might want to check out the ISOFix mountings in the rear – they are really difficult to access. It took ages to install our granddaughter’s safety seat and the third point in the roof rather than the seatback could affect luggage space if it’s used.
Car: Honda HR-V Sport CVT
Does it fit your ego...
0-62 mph: 7.8 secs
Top speed: 134 mph
PS: 182 @ 5,500 rpm
Torque: 220 @ 1,700 – 5,500 rpm
...and your wallet...
Combined: 39.2 mpg
CO2 emissions: 163 g/km
Best bits: fun motor for modern families.
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