Honda HR-V review

Category: Small SUV

The HR-V is efficient and well equipped – but has lots of strong small SUV rivals

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  • White Honda HR-V front cornering
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  • Honda HR-V interior driver display
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  • Honda HR-V interior front seats
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  • Honda HR-V interior steering wheel
  • Honda HR-V interior infotainment
  • Honda HR-V interior air-con controls
  • Honda HR-V interior detail
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Introduction

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 for its second generation it morphed into a sportier car with crisper lines. Now Honda brings us this sleek, hybrid-only third-generation model, which is radically different again, and bang on trend.

Then again, it needs to be, because there are a lot of tempting small SUVs and family SUVs available, including the big-selling Nissan Qashqai, the sporty Ford Puma and Seat Ateca and the all-round brilliant Skoda Karoq and VW T-Roc.

It certainly won’t be easy for the Honda HR-V to stand out against those sought after competitors, so does it have what it takes?

In this review we’re going to find out, rating the HR-V in all the key areas, including performance, efficiency, comfort, practicality and costs.

Overview

The Honda HR-V is an efficient and well equipped small SUV with a smartly styled and nicely finished interior. However, this is a highly competitive class, and for the same money there are plenty of rivals that are better to drive and more practical. If you do get an HR-V, we recommend going for mid-spec Advance trim.

  • Good fuel economy
  • Clever folding seats
  • Very well equipped
  • Noisy engine
  • Tight rear head room
  • Ordinary to drive
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Our Pick

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Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

The front-wheel-drive only Honda 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 suffer 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.

At least the hybrid setup has the significant upside of impressive fuel economy and lower emissions. Indeed, the HR-V will officially manage up to 52mpg, no doubt helped by the fact it’ll drive around towns and cities using electricity-alone (for short periods) before switching to petrol power as speeds increase.   

Better still, unlike plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) you don’t have to plug the HR-V in when you do run out of electricity. Instead, the HR-V will charges up you drive.  

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.

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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 soft suspension means that it’s not especially agile.

It leans more through corners than the Nissan Qashqai and doesn’t feel as sharp as the firmer Ford Puma and Seat Ateca. 

Driving overview 

Strengths Efficient engine; comfortable ride; accurate steering

Weaknesses Coarse engine; rivals are more fun to drive

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Interior

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 with any trim. 

Narrow front windscreen pillars and large windows make for plenty of visibility out of the front and at junctions. Likewise, rear visibility is very good, with over-the-shoulder blind-spots kept to a minimum and large, well-placed, door mirrors increasing the view further.

Parking’s a doddle, too, thanks to all HR-Vs coming with front and rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera. 

We also like that the second-generation HR-V’s touch-sensitive heating controls have been scrapped and replaced with proper knobs and dials. The result is that it’s far less distracting to use on the move than the VW T-Roc, with its touch-sensitive sliders and buttons. 

Every HR-V has 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 Honda Jazz – is not as user-friendly and responsive as it could be, and its graphics look rather fuzzy compared with its competitors. Luckily, wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto smartphone mirroring comes as standard, allowing you to bypass the Honda software. 

You don’t have to sit in the HR-V for long before you realise that perceived quality is a real strength of the car, with plenty of plush, soft-touch finishes used. It feels just as well screwed together as a Nissan Qashqai or 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.

Interior overview 

Strengths Appealing materials; great visibility; good driving position

Weaknesses Infotainment system has outdated graphics and can be slow

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Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

Even if you’re 6ft tall, we doubt you’ll have any complaints when sitting in the front, with the Honda HR-V offering about the same amount of space as the Nissan Qashqai.

What’s more, the interior is wide enough that you won’t be rubbing shoulders with your front seat passenger. 

Rear knee room in the HR-V is very generous, giving even particularly long-legged passengers space to stretch their limbs right out. It isn’t, however, the same story when it comes to head room – a six-footer sitting straight will find that their hair is touching the roof lining. 

To make matters worse, the middle rear seat is quite a bit higher than the outer two, and has a narrow seat cushion. The Nissan Qashqai, Seat Ateca and Skoda Karoq are all better for carrying three people side by side.

That isn’t the main negative of the HR-V, though – that honour falls to the boot. You see, most versions only offer 319 litres of space, and that drops to 304 litres if you go for the Advance Style trim, because its upgraded sound system takes up one of the side storage compartments.

For 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.

Practicality overview 

Strengths Versatile rear seats; lots of rear leg room

Weaknesses Small boot; limited rear head room

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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 heated front seats, keyless entry and start, heated door mirrors and all the parking aids that we’ve already mentioned. Meanwhile, mid-spec Advance, our pick of the range, adds a heated steering wheel, a heated windscreen, dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery and a powered tailgate. 

Better still, the HR-V is predicted to depreciate at a slower rate than the Qashqai and Karoq, helping to keep PCP finance rates competitive. You can check the latest prices using our New Car Deals pages.

Once you factor in the efficiency of the hybrid engine (it has an official average of 52.3mpg and we managed 48.4mpg), the HR-V has plenty of financial appeal. 

When it comes to reliability, the HR-V was too new to feature in the 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey as a model, but Honda as a brand performed very well, claiming sixth place out 32 car makers ranked. That puts it above all the rival brands mentioned in this review. 

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.

Costs overview 

Strengths Reliability record; lots of standard equipment; competitive price tag

Weaknesses Safety rating could be better

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Honda HR-V interior driver display

FAQs

  • At just under 4.4m in length and with a high driving position, we class the HR-V as a small SUV.

  • Our expert reviewers give the Honda CR-V four stars, while the HR-V scores three stars – making the CR-V our choice. The CR-V is a bigger, pricier car though, so ultimately it will depend on your budget and whether you want a small SUV or a family SUV.

  • Yes, thanks to its hybrid system. Officially, the HR-V will manage up to 52.3mpg and, when we tested it on our private test track, it got quite close to that, managing 48.4mpg.

At a glance
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RRP price range £30,705 - £36,305
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
Available colours