Honda HR-V: Back to the future

2023 Honda HR V Vi X 5

What is it?

Unlike most competitors that have up to five SUVs in their range, Honda currently has just two — the small HR-V and mid-sized CR-V.

That’s about to change with a third model, ZR-V, which is due for release in a few weeks and will slot between the two. 

This week we’re looking at the HR-V.

When it arrived in 1999 it was one of the first compact SUVs around and at once set the standard for what has become one of the fastest growing segments of the automobile market.

Unfortunately, with its bland styling and three-door body, the original HR-V never really took off and it was dropped in 2003.

But it returned in 2015 when a much more attractive five-door, second-generation model arrived.

Third generation HR-V arrived in 2022 with sleeker styling, advanced safety and driver-assist features. 

It comes in two grades with two different powertrains, starting with the Vi X (our test vehicle) that’s powered by a 1.5-litre i-VTEC four cylinder petrol engine, and the e:HEV L hybrid powertrain. 

2023 Honda HR V Vi X 6

What’s it cost?

The distinctive new HR-V grille blends the intakes with the bumper and combined with sleek headlights, gives the HR-V a futuristic look.

The grille is body-coloured (there’s a choice of five) rather than a more common contrasting black or chrome. 

As is a growing trend the rear of HR-V is a cross between an SUV and a hatchback, with embedded rear door handles suggesting that it’s a two-door coupe.

The lower-side panels are painted in black which makes them harder to see and serves to give the vehicle a lower look.

The centre screen is a 9.0-inch touch unit but rather too shallow to give a long view ahead when using satellite navigation.

The problem for interior designers is that there simply isn’t enough room in the lower dash area for a larger screen.

It has wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto.

HR-V has been awarded five stars for safety.

The Honda suite of driver-assist and safety technologies includes forward collision warning, collision, mitigation braking system, lane keep assist system and lane departure warning.

2023 Honda HR V Vi X 1

What’s it go like?

The four-cylinder engine isn’t turbocharged and has capacity of 1.5 litres, with 89kW of power and 145Nm of torque.

It is happy to run on standard unleaded petrol which can make a real difference given some of the crazy prices being asked for petrol at the moment. 

It drives the front wheels through a CVT-style continuously variable transmission.

The engine is relatively small and doesn’t produce as much power as we would like.

It’s a typical Honda unit in that it likes to have plenty of revs on board before it really takes off.

Keen drivers won’t mind this because once it’s given its head it’s a really pleasing unit to drive.

The dashboard has the instruments located in a binnacle with a curved top.

The 9.0-inch central screen is landscape in shape and therefore doesn’t provide a view ahead as offered by a portrait screen.

Potential buyers need to be aware that the HR-V only comes with two rear seats.

This isn’t necessarily a problem for two-plus-two families because the rear has comfortable and supportive bucket seats with a large padded armrest between them and a couple of cup holders. 

Rear passengers also get adjustable air vents, two USB-A ports and another drink holder in each door.

The rear seatbacks fold completely flat and the bases can be folded up to allow for taller objects to be carried.

Handling is pretty good, with plenty of feel through the steering wheel.

It’s able to easily take corners at speeds far higher than those who would be done by the typical family driver.

Ride comfort is a little on the firm side but after a couple of hours on our extended-drive part of our road test review the Honda HR-V we still felt comfortable so, again, the designers have done an excellent job.

Fuel consumption is rated at 4.3L/100km in the hybrid variant and 5.8L/100km in the petrol model. We averaged 6.6L in our petrol test car.

Standard warranty is five years and unlimited distance with the option of a two-year extension.

2023 Honda HR V Vi X 3

What we like?

  • Futuristic look
  • Fun to drive
  • Doesn’t use much fuel
  • Concealed rear door handles make it look like a coupe
  • Accepts standard unleaded

2023 Honda HR V Vi X 4

What we don’t like?

  • Needs more power
  • Ride a little firm
  • Seats four (only two seats in the back)

2023 Honda HR V Vi X 8

The bottom line?

Honda HR-V VI X is an interesting machine that, while it doesn’t have the straight-line performance that we like, it does have handling that we really enjoy.

However, the lack of three seats in the back could make it difficult to sell when the time comes to do so.

2023 Honda HR V Vi X 2


CHECKOUT: Honda Civic Hybrid: More dollars than sense

CHECKOUT: Honda adds ZR-V to range


Honda HRV Vi X, priced from $36,700
  • Looks - 7/10
  • Performance - 7/10
  • Safety - 8/10
  • Thirst - 8/10
  • Practicality - 7/10
  • Comfort - 8/10
  • Tech - 8/10
  • Value - 7/10

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