2015 Honda HR-V 1.6 i-DTEC review
Honda's new Nissan Qashqai rival enters a class brimming with choice. Will it make an impact? We drive the manual diesel version to find out...
The HR-V is a no-brainer for Honda. Chunky small SUVs like the Nissan Qashqai and Skoda Yeti are all the rage at the moment, so it’s no surprise to see the Japanese brand entering this lucrative arena.
At 4.3 metres long, the front-wheel-drive HR-V has a similar footprint to a Ford Focus, or Honda’s own Civic. That means it's slightly smaller than a Qashqai, but considerably larger than a Mazda CX-3 or a Nissan Juke.
Prices start at £17,995 for the entry-level 1.5 petrol (which can also be had with a manual or a CVT automatic gearbox), while the 1.6 diesel we’re testing here costs from £19,745. However, Honda is keen to point out that PCP finance will account for more than 80% of retail sales, and with a £500 dealer contribution already being offered, the HR-V is competitive on that score.
SE Navi is likely to be the most popular trim, which on the diesel will cost you £22,105 if you're paying cash or, with a 20% deposit, £279 a month over three years.
What’s the 2015 Honda HR-V like to drive?
The HR-V drives more like a jacked-up hatchback than an old-school 4x4. Swing it in to a corner and the body doesn't sway around too much, while the light steering weights up just enough to give you confidence; it could do with being a bit more accurate, however. A Mazda CX-3 is more agile, and a Nissan Qashqai steers with more precision, but the HR-V doesn't disappoint.
The ride isn't so impressive. Potholes, in particular, aren’t dealt with anywhere near as well as they are by a Nissan Qashqai, and tend to send jolts through the cabin. It's a pity because the HR-V rides speeds bumps well and stays relatively settled on the motorway.
The diesel engine has plenty of punch, and it provides an even build of acceleration as you climb the rev range, making the Honda feel satisfyingly nippy in most types of driving. There's not much urgency at very low revs, mind, which means you can find yourself swapping gears quite frequently around town. Fortunately, the six-speed manual gearbox is always a delight to use.
That’s about the best aspect of the HR-V’s refinement, though, as the diesel engine is noisy at tickover and gets even louder under moderate acceleration. Road noise is also noticeable over coarse surfaces, although the engine noise is the real bugbear.
What’s the 2015 Honda HR-V like inside?
The first thing that strikes you when climbing aboard is that you don't sit quite as high as you do in a Qashqai. Mind you, the elevated driving position still gives a good view out of the front, and you sit altogether higher than in a CX-3.
There's plenty of adjustment in the seat and steering wheel, so it's easy to get comfortable. The straightforward instrument dials are easy to read, and the 7.0in touchscreen and touch-sensitive climate controls keep the dash looking refreshingly minimal. There’s also a good blend of textured materials, which all feel solidly assembled.
The touchscreen remains easy to read even in direct sunlight, but it’s a shame that some icons are small and hard to hit precisely, and the integration with a Smartphone is hit-and-miss – particularly given that you can’t yet link an iPhone with the Mirrorlink system, which allows you to ‘mirror’ an app running on your phone through the car’s display.
In the back there's plenty of leg room, even for tall adults, but they could find their heads brushing the roof – particularly in the range-topping EX which has a panoramic roof fitted as standard. Overall, the HR-V isn't quite as accommodating in the back as a Qashqai or a Yeti, but far more so than a CX-3.
Still, the HR-V gets Honda’s 'magic' rear seats, which flip up cinema-style to leave enough room in the back for a bike. There's also a big boot – bigger even than a Qashqai's, although the 470-litre capacity does include some underfloor storage.
There's masses of safety kit, too, including automatic city braking and, on SE trim and above, traffic sign recognition and a system that helps you reverse out of your driveway onto a busy road.
SE Navi is our favourite trim. As the name suggests, this is the cheapest way to get sat-nav, although all HR-Vs get alloy wheels, climate control, front and rear parking sensors, a DAB radio and Bluetooth. There’s little need to go for the full-fat EX trim, despite the temptations of its leather upholstery and panoramic sunroof.
Should I buy one?
You certainly shouldn’t discount it.
The HR-V’s interior has real merit in terms of its versatility and you get loads of standard kit on all but the entry-level S. The Honda is predicted to hold onto its value well, too, which adds further appeal.
The 1.6 diesel engine also offers good performance, although it is very noisy. It's a shame that the rear headroom isn't better, too.
So, for us, the HR-V is good, but it isn't quite good enough to eclipse the mighty Qashqai, despite coming with more standard kit and being slightly cheaper to buy.
What Car? says...
Honda HR-V 1.6 i-DTEC SE Navi
Engine size 1.6-litre diesel
Price from £22,105
Torque 221lb ft
0-62mph 10.2 seconds
Top speed 119mph
Fuel economy 68.9mpg