What Car? says...
The Honda HR-V family SUV is like the David Beckham of the car world – it's been in the public eye since the Nineties, and tried out some radically different looks.
The original HR-V had a boxy, rugged style, but then for its second generation it morphed into a sportier vehicle with crisper lines. Now Honda brings us this sleek, hybrid-only third-generation model, which is radically different again, and bang on trend.
So, does the Honda HR-V manage to stand out from the crowd? That's what this comprehensive review will tell you over the next few pages.
We'll rate its performance, interior quality, running costs and other qualities, and let you know how it stacks up against those rivals. We'll also reveal which of the three trims – entry-level Elegance, mid-range Advance or flagship Advance Style – makes most sense.
If at the end you decide you want to buy an HR-V or any of its rivals, make sure you check out the deals available through the free What Car? New Car Buying service. It has some of the best prices available on most makes and models, and you can get them without any haggling.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The front-wheel-drive only HR-V has a similar hybrid setup to the Honda Jazz hatchback, but gets a bit more power from its 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and two electric motors: a total of 129bhp.
As with other hybrids, when you start the car and move off, it's very hushed. This calm is shattered if you put your foot down, though, because the revs are sent soaring to the stratosphere, and are held there until you back off.
The Jazz and the Honda C-HR suffers from the same problem, but neither is as loud as the HR-V. Its engine note is coarse, and you feel vibration through the pedals and steering wheel under the sort of hard acceleration you'll need to get up to motorway speeds in a hurry.
There is, though, a significant up side to the hybrid setup – the impressive fuel economy, which we'll look at in more detail later.
It's a ‘regular’ hybrid, so you don’t need to mess around with cables to charge the HR-V's battery, as you do with a plug-in hybrid. That also means it won’t travel far at all on electric power alone.
Instead, the car switches between the engine and the electric motors as it sees fit. We found that it tends to do more electric-only motoring in towns and cities, and use a combination of both power sources on faster roads.
The HR-V has quite soft suspension and wafts along pleasantly most of the time, yet it's also able to pass over undulations and speed bumps without feeling overly floaty. You do hear some thwacks from the suspension at times, though. The Skoda Karoq is more settled.
As for the handling, the HR-V is safe and predictable. That's helped by steering that's accurate and feels naturally weighted, but the combination of a relatively tall body and that soft suspension mean it's not especially agile. If you're looking for something that is, the Seat Ateca is the family SUV for you.
The interior layout, fit and finish
You sit high up in the Honda HR-V, so it feels like a proper SUV rather than a slightly jacked-up hatchback. The relationship between the steering wheel and the pedals is spot on, and you shouldn't have any trouble finding a comfortable driving position, although it's a pity you don't get adjustable lumbar support.
Visibility is very good, in part thanks to big door mirrors, and there are well-placed physical dials and buttons for operating the heating and ventilation (thankfully, the touch-sensitive controls from the second-generation HR-V have been binned).
Perceived quality is another strength of the car, with plenty of plush, soft-touch finishes used. It feels just as well screwed together as the Skoda Karoq, and also has a more stimulating design, although the materials aren't as brilliantly consistent as they are in the Mazda CX-30.
Every HR-V features a 7.0in digital driver display behind the steering wheel and a 9.0in touchscreen for the infotainment. The touchscreen – which is shared with the Jazz – is not as user-friendly and responsive as it could be, but you do get wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring as standard. They allow you to run your phone apps through the screen, rather than relying on the Honda set-up.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Rear knee room in the Honda HR-V is very generous. Even particularly long-legged passengers will be able to stretch their limbs right out, although if you're six feet tall and sit up straight, your hair will probably be touching the roof lining.
The main negative of the HR-V is the boot. Most versions offer 319 litres of space, but the range-topping Advance Style model gets just 304 litres because its upgraded sound system takes up one of the side storage compartments. By comparison, the Karoq has a 521-litre boot, while even the Vauxhall Corsa small hatchback offers 309 litres of luggage space.
On the plus side – and it's a big plus – the HR-V gets the Honda ‘magic seats’, which fold flat and have bases that flip up like cinema seats. You can't remove the seats entirely as you can in some versions of the Karoq, but then that's a bit of a hassle anyway, while transforming the HR-V is a doddle.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
At first glance, the starting price of the Honda HR-V looks pretty punchy compared with what you'd pay for an entry-level Nissan Qashqai or Skoda Karoq. In reality, that's because Honda includes lots of equipment as standard. Spec for spec, the HR-V is priced broadly in line with those rivals.
For example, even the cheapest model, Elegance, comes with front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, heated front seats and keyless entry. Mid-level Advance trim – which is our pick of the range – adds a powered tailgate, leather upholstery and a heated steering wheel.
Euro NCAP awarded the HR-V four stars out of five when it was tested for safety. It scored fairly well for adult occupants but didn’t do so well at protecting child occupants in the side barrier impact test. Honda fits a good amount of important safety kit to every version of the HR-V, including blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assistance and adaptive cruise control.
Once you've factored in competitive PCP deals and the efficiency of the hybrid engine (it has an official average of 52.3mpg and managed 48.4mpg in our hands), the HR-V has plenty of financial appeal.
The latest HR-V was too new to feature in the 2021 What Car? Reliability Survey but Honda finished a respectable 14th out of the 30 brands included.
For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here
The latest HR-V was too new to feature in the What Car? Reliability Survey, but the previous model finished joint top of the table (with the Mazda CX-3) out of 20 vehicles rated. The HR-V’s 100% score was an impressive demonstration of how happy owners have been. It comes with a three-year/90,000-mile warranty as standard. Read more here
The HR-V is only sold as a hybrid model, with a 1.5-litre petrol engine plus two electric motors to provide propulsion. If you want a fully electric Honda, the Honda E small electric car is available now, and a new small electric SUV in the vein of the HR-V will be launched in 2023. Read more here
There’s only one HR-V engine – a 1.5-litre petrol with two electric motors, which makes it an economical car that’s especially quiet when it’s running on electricity alone at low speeds. We recommend mid-range Advance trim. Entry-level Elegance models are well appointed, but Advance adds nice-to-have features such as a powered tailgate and leather upholstery. Read more here
All HR-Vs get a 9.0in touchscreen for infotainment. It’s not as user-friendly and responsive as some rivals but includes wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring as standard, allowing you to run your phone apps through the screen instead of using Honda’s system. Read more here
The HR-V scored four stars out of five in its Euro NCAP safety assessment. It did reasonably well for adult occupant protection but was let down a little by its child occupant protection score. Standard safety equipment includes blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assistance and adaptive cruise control. Read more here
Most versions of the HR-V have 319 litres of boot space – which is very small compared with rivals – but range-topping models have even less (304 litres) because of the upgraded sound system taking up space. Honda’s magic rear seats do provide some compensation, flipping up like cinema seats to leave lots of extra space if nobody is using them. Read more here
|RRP price range||£30,695 - £36,295|
|Number of trims (see all)||3|
|Number of engines (see all)||1|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||hybrid|
|MPG range across all versions||52.3 - 52.3|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||3 years / 90000 miles|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£1,705 / £2,018|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£3,409 / £4,036|