The HS’s 1.5-litre engine proves adequate in normal driving, but not much more than that. Although it will slowly gather speed from below 2000rpm, you have to be prepared to take it beyond 3000rpm for it to feel anywhere near its claimed 160bhp. A Skoda Kodiaq 1.5 TSI feels far stronger from low engine speeds; even a 1.2-litre Peugeot 5008 doesn’t feel significantly weaker.
The good news is that, when driven in a restrained manner, the HS’s engine proves hushed whether you’re building speed or cruising, even at motorway speeds. Pass 3000rpm and it becomes far gruffer, with a rather coarse edge revealed if you take it past 4000rpm. Thankfully, the standard six-speed manual gearbox is rather pleasant to use, with a precise action that's far more enjoyable than the 5008’s, if not as snickety as the Mazda CX-5’s.
The seven-speed automatic gearbox suits a slower driving style, proving smooth when pulling away from a standstill and when changing gears – if you’ve got a light right foot. Try to pull away quickly, though, and the HS stumbles forward clumsily as if a clutch pedal has been released a bit too quickly. However, it is, at least, less hesitant than many other modern autos, such as that found in the Kodiaq. In fact, it even beats the far more expensive Audi Q5 in this regard.
Meanwhile, the HS’s suspension strikes a good balance between ride comfort and handling prowess. Although the ride isn’t as pillow-soft as the Citroën C5 Aircross’s, it takes the sting out of potholes and pimples, dealing with undulating road surfaces pretty well, with only a small amount of float at times. The HS is certainly more comfortable than the firmly sprung CX-5.
Like that car, though, body lean is well controlled and there’s a decent amount of grip before the front end starts to run wide. Driver confidence is built further by steering that builds weight in a manner that feels natural and even gives you a few hints as to what the front tyres are doing. The HS’s brake pedal also proves easy to modulate, whether in start-stop urban traffic or stopping from higher speeds. Even so, the CX-5 will still put a bigger smile on your face on a twisty road.