The original Hybrid Recreational Vehicle from 1999 was a more sober suited trendsetter but a lot has happened in two decades as fashions changed.
More manufacturers have poured into the market for practical but performance edged cars, some without any real credibility, but others have made an impression.
The range topping 182hp HR-V Turbo Sport CVT auto is definitely a driving delight. The HR-V range of manual or continuously variable automatics come with a choice of 1.5 petrol or 1.6 diesel engines in five trim levels from just over £19,000 to about £29,100. Top Turbo-Sport petrol models using the engine from the acclaimed Civic Sport deliver 182hp but the other petrol units push out 130hp and the diesels produce 120hp.
Our test car was given the £525 optional pearlescent paint finish and that was the only extra, which meant on the road it cost £29,615 and standard equipment included a lot of really useful equipment, advanced entertainment and sound system, driving and safety aids, as well as performance tuned electric steering, springs and dampers.
Visually it stands out with high-gloss black wheels, different bumpers and side-skirts, thicker arches over bespoke bigger 18-inch alloy wheels and 225/50 tyres. Inside there was soft-touch wine-red leather and black fabric seat upholstery, matching fascia trim and headlining. A stronger sporty bodystyle gives the impression of a two-door coupe but the rear doors handles are cleverly hidden in the c-pillar.
The powertrain is the secret of its success for sporty drivers, with excellent start-up, strong gutsy output and very smooth delivery, helped by the mode selectable software. The engine’s snappy response is matched by a quick reacting automatic transmission with creamy change action and overall we nudged over 40mpg from the car.
The steering gave excellent feedback and assistance, a tight turning circle and virtually no vibration or kick-back on bad roads. Combined with the powerful and progressive brakes and efficient parking brake and you have a very confidence inspiring family car.
Secondary controls grouped close to the column and wheel spokes needed familiarisation but worked well and I really liked the large instruments with their clear and simple displays.
The climate controls were also straightforward, worked well and were efficient at their job, with powered windows but no sunroof to backup. Oddment space was where I think the Honda HR-V is disappointing for a family with its small compartments. There are plenty of spaces but they are not big and neither is the boot when used with back seats erect, but there’s much larger capacity if they are folded away. The bootspace is behind a low lip and of a sensible shape anyway.
Access is very good throughout with big apertures and wide opening doors, a slight step up but once inside the thick and well shaped and deeply padded seats really cushion you on longer journeys as the miles roll away underneath.
You can hear how the Honda HR-V is progressing as road noise, possibly magnified by the bigger wheels and tyres, does come into the cabin and detract from the refinement. Tarmac changes, potholes and ridges are all heard and occasionally they jar the interior. You can expect a sporty ride and you get a firm ride as well.
Engine and wind noises are low by comparison, thankfully.
In a driver’s hands the HR-V really grips well, turning with confidence and composure, never causing a moments concern, and it had no nasty habits even on bad bits of road.
Given a really smooth piece of twisting tarmac it seemed to forget it was a big family car and behaved much more like a sporting hatchback, but a bigger one than usual.
It turns heads, brings smiles to a driver’s face and fulfills its role very well for a family that wants something different and desirable.
Mini Milestones: Honda HR-V 1.5 VTEC, Turbo Sport CVT auto, 2WD SUV.Price: £29,615 including pearlescent paint.Mechanical: 4-cylinder, 182hp, 1.5-litre turbo-petrol, CVT auto transmission, 2WD.Performance: 134 mph, 0-62mph 7.8-seconds, Combined Cycle 47.1mpg (41mpg on test), CO2 163g/km.Tax costs: VED First Year road tax £530 then £145 Standard rate, BiK company car tax 36%.Insurance Group: 18E.Warranty: 3-years/90,000-miles.Dimensions/capacities: L4.35m, W2.02m, H1.61m, boot/load space 448 to 1,473-litres, 5-doors/5-seats.
For: Performance, economy, sophistication, handling, seats and room.Against: Road and suspension noises, oddments room modest, small nominal bootspace, high emissions and high tax costs. Robin Roberts Miles Better News Agency