The debate started as soon as the HR-V rolled on to the drive.
David, my Honda loving neighbour, had seen photographs and did not like the new look so was eager to see the car up close. Compared to his three year old HR-V the third generation model is a radical shift in design.
It is a no frills, smooth sided SUV lacking any wow factor yet strangely appealing. It looks great from the back, its coupe style tailgate set off with a smart full width light bar and the high nosed front is interesting with a pronounced body coloured grille.
The shape is a nod to the first HR-V in 1998, itself radical, neither ugly nor attractive but still one to turn heads. Strangely that model did not last going into hibernation for seven years before returning with a more conventional design.
Back to the here and now and we have a self charging hybrid HR-V that has grown in all directions providing practical family motoring. Flip the tailgate and drop the back seats and you have an enormous area of space.
A lot of thought has gone into the model with some clever solutions to free up space. The hybrid’s auxiliary 12v battery has been moved to the engine bay and the fuel tank to under the front seats which allows the back seat cushions to drop deep into the floor creating a completely flat load area. And, of course, there are the so called magic back seats which lift up cinema style so take a walk through the car!
It is a brilliant idea, perfect for carrying tall plants or a medium sized bicycle and must be patented because no other manufacturer has copied it.
Yet this HR-V flatters to deceive when it comes to space. It is roomy with the seats down but with the seats in place the 304 litre boot capacity is a lot less than many of its competitors. May be Honda decided to sacrifice some boot space for rear legroom which is generous and better than many rivals. That said the middle seat is ridiculously narrow. Strange when everything else is so well thought out.
If David was still pondering the shape he was knocked out by the HR-Vs cabin. It is a simple, uncluttered attractive layout with high quality trim everywhere you look.
As expected there are plenty of high tech bits and bobs, mainly housed in a centrally mounted nine inch touchscreen. There is in car wifi, Android auto, wireless Apple CarPlay and you can run mobile phone aps through the car. To my delight the heating controls are manual and separate from the screen.
Something else Honda is pleased with is the air diffusion system through neat little L shaped vents. Instead of a blast of air in the face with the blower at full pelt air is directed around the cabin and is really effective.
This HR-V is hybrid only the 1.5 litre petrol engine boosted by an electric motor and boy is it efficient. Over nearly 400 miles of mixed driving we never dropped below 58mpg and at week’s end finished on 59.3mpg.
The majority of electric driving is mainly around town or at low speeds but cuts in whenever directed by the computer so don’t be surprised to see the EV light come on doing 50-60mph on the open road. Regenerative braking returns energy to the batteries and has incremental levels via steering wheel paddles. If only all self chargers had the paddle function.
Acceleration is punchy and feels quicker than the official time but slamming the throttle to the floor brings up the only real negative. The engine is instantly noisy and because of the CVT gearbox holds on to the din until lift off. If it was a manual gearbox you would change gear.
I took David for a spin and it was not long before he commented on the improved ride and more comfortable front seat. This HR-Vs revised suspension set up is better able to cushion against poor surfaces and while it not the sharpest handling in the class it is well behaved through twists and turns with minimal body roll and should satisfy any driver.
Honda has priced HR-V to compete with Toyota C-HR its main rival. It starts around £28,000 and is very well equipped from entry level with Advance Style topping out at £33,835. An optional sports package adds £2,250 but is it worth bothering for a family SUV?
HR-V sits in a pool of high flying rivals and apart from a noisy engine under flat out acceleration excels in most areas so make sure it is on your list. As for David, he is still thinking about it.
HR-V Advance Style
£33,835 – £36,910 tested
1.5 litre petrol hybrid 129bhp
0-62 10.7secs; 106mph
96g/km. 1st tax £135
Boot 304-1274 litres
Insurance group 31