This is Honda’s third-generation SUV and it marks a radical change which is one of the final steps in the company’s plan to electrify its entire range by this year. Many car companies are going the same route, with the 2030 deadline for the end of petrol and diesel sales at the forefront of the mind.
It also represents a new style for Honda. Early HR-Vs were tall and boxy – good-looking in their own way – but the latest versions are lower, sleeker and sportier.
So, what does that collection of initials actually mean? The HR-V part is said to be High-Rider Revolutionary Vehicle and the e: HEV is electric hybrid electric vehicle.
It features Honda's powerful and efficient e:HEV two-motor hybrid powertrain as standard and it claims to be cleverly packaged with more space than you might expect. The boot is 304 litres, rising to 1,290 litres with the seats down.
Honda say with some justification that it has a desirable blend of stand-out design, exceptional efficiency and ultimate usability. The figures back this up with a 0 to 60mph time of 10.7 seconds, emissions below the 100g/km mark and economy in the 60-plus miles per gallon zone.
It has a notable stance. The boot could be bigger but there is more than anticipated room for five people up front. The ride and handling adds to the sporty feel and the engine and motors combine for decent power and performance.
The sportier look is achieved by some quite subtle changes. Its sleek silhouette is achieved by increasing road clearance by 10mm and reducing the roof height by 20mm compared to the previous model. Increasing the size of the wheels to 18in, which come as standard on the all-new HR-V, and reducing the front overhang further reinforce the robust SUV appeal.
Aerodynamic improvements are achieved without the need for unnecessary design features. An air curtain slit at the front bumper, rear side sill lip and sleek rear light shape all help to reduce turbulence, aided by the rear side spoiler. The resulting effect is higher stability and better high-speed fuel efficiency, without spoiling the sleek design.
If the exterior is interesting but subtle, the interior has more wow features. Contemporary fabrics and textured materials create a solid, premium feel, with the quality of soft-touch materials.
The interior was designed with a focus on space and light to elevate the sense of airiness in the cabin. This airy feeling is amplified by an ‘Air Diffusion System’ where L-shaped vents are in the top corners of the dashboard. This system is said to be better than traditional vent layouts, where passengers often feel uncomfortable with air flowing directly onto them. The system directs a stream of air along the front side windows to the roof, creating a vortex of air beside and above occupants.
Although it is similar in size to the previous model, the new HR-V offers greater leg room and shoulder space. In addition to the 35mm increase in rear leg room, there is an additional two-degree recline compared to the previous generation HR-V, enabled by Honda's centre tank layout and clever packaging of hybrid components. The platform configuration also allows Honda to retain the exceptionally versatile rear Magic Seat set-up, that offers both fold-flat or flip-up seat flexibility, depending on load space required.
Loading is enhanced by a hands-free ‘Power Tailgate Walk Away Close’ function with increased functionality over other similar systems. The smart key proximity function detects when the key is moving away from the car, to automatically start closing the tailgate.
Storage space within the HR-V is also optimised, a centre console sits in the middle of the cabin plus a front pocket for small items with USB charging sockets in the front and back, in addition to a wireless charging pad. The premium audio system and external amplifier, and touch-activated cabin lights further reinforce the premium interior feel and comfortable ambience.
Honda's proven e:HEV hybrid technology – already featured in other models - delivers a smooth and enjoyable experience, with responsive performance and impressive economt. It comprises two compact, powerful electric motors connected to a 1.5-litre i-VTEC petrol engine, with peak power output from the propulsion motor of 131PS.
The e:HEV set-up includes three interchangeable drive modes, automatically selected. For ultimate efficiency, the HR-V pulls off in electric mode, seamlessly changing to hybrid mode when the engine is under high-torque demand, with the petrol engine used when driving at higher, more constant speeds. The driving dynamics are enhanced through the various performance modes – Sport, Normal and Econ, while the additional drive mode B can be selected through the gear shifter for stronger regenerative braking and a more EV-like experience.
A good all-round package? Of course. Just what you would expect from a Honda.
Honda HR-V e:HEV
Price: £31,035. Range starts at £26,960
Engine: 1,498cc petrol engine generating 117ps
Performance: Top speed 106mph and 0 to 60mph in 10.7 seconds
Insurance: Group 30
Warranty: Three years, 90,000 miles