There is always something of a media feeding frenzy when a new model is launched and rush to be the first to have it on test gets underway. However, sometimes it is worth sitting back and waiting, since the game does change.
In the highly competitive urban crossover space, where the Honda HR-V competes, there is constant activity with new additions and upgrades. When the upgraded HR-V was launched in late 2018 for the 2019 model year, one of its chief rivals had yet to make its appearance – the Volkswagen T-Cross.
Hailed as the game-changer in the segment, the T-Cross garnered plenty of coverage across the various media platforms, including all of those that had long since passed opinion on the Honda.
My own recent experience with the Honda where T-Cross is strong opposition (as are the Subaru XV 2.0 and Hyundai Kona 2.0 Executive) gives, perhaps, a broader sense of where this market is going.
The revised Honda HR-V urban crossover gained all-new front and rear styling, an enhanced interior and upgraded equipment levels, while retaining the core attributes of its predecessor.
While the silhouette remained unmistakably HR-V, the front end underwent several significant updates to get Honda’s ‘solid wing face’, which incorporated an all-new front bumper, a reprofiled bonnet and redesigned headlights.
The soft-touch surfaces and piano-gloss black detailing remained with the Elegance getting smarter perforated leather upholstery with double-contrast stitching.
Honda’s Magic Seat System, retained in the updated model, allows an almost infinite variety of seating and load carrying configurations and is made possible by the HR-V’s centrally located fuel tank, which allows a flat rear cabin floor. The split rear bench seat can be folded forward conventionally to extend the 393-litre luggage compartment to 1 002 litres.
However, the bench seat’s seat squabs can also be raised, creating a central cargo area that is both tall and generous, making the loading of large, ungainly objects easy and convenient.
Less obvious but significant in overall comfort terms, noise and vibration dampening has been upgraded, further enhancing the HR-V’s already impressive refinement levels.
Standard across the board are electrically operated windows and mirrors, remote central locking, air-conditioning, cruise control, a multi-function steering wheel and a multi-information trip computer.
As part of the upgrade package, Honda has standardised the touchscreen-based infotainment system, which means both Comfort and Elegance models now feature a 6,8-inch touchscreen display, instead of the 5-inch screen previously fitted to the Comfort version.
The infotainment system features Bluetooth-based hands-free telephony and audio streaming, extended connectivity via USB and HDMI and smart device screen mirroring for access to device-specific functions such as video and photo files, as well as GPS navigation.
The system also incorporates a FM Stereo/AM radio tune and multi-speaker sound with multi-function controls, which makes using the system both safe and intuitive.
In the case of the 1.8 Elegance model, a rear-view parking camera is linked to the parking sensors to make reverse parking more convenient.
Safety comes via front, side and curtain crash bags, together with head restraints and inertia reel seatbelts for all seating positions.
In active safety terms, the HR-V offers anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), Emergency Brake Assist (EBA) and Emergency Stop Signal (ESS) activation.
Further peace of mind is provided by Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA), Hill Start Assist (HSA) and a high-mounted, third brake light. IsoFix child seat anchors are also included.
The 1.8 Elegance CVT has a 1 799 cc four-cylinder engine, featuring i-VTEC variable valve timing and electronic fuel injection. Power and torque maximums come to 105 kW at 6 500 r/min and 172 Nm at 4 300 r/min respectively.
The CVT gearbox fitted is linked to shift paddles allow drivers to select gears manually for a more engaging driving experience.
The software controlling the CVT simulates seven virtual gears and optimises gear changes to match individual driving styles and specific driving conditions.
Even with the 1,8-litre engine, the Honda has less power and torque than its segment rivals (Subaru 115/196, T-Cross 110/250 and Hyundai 110/180) but, in real world driving this is not all that noticeable and its larger engine capacity (except for 2,0-litres of the Subaru) makes its progress about town less frenetic.
It certainly lacks nothing in willingness to get up and go but the slightly more ‘chilled’ progression as the CVT seeks gears has less ‘whine’ than some others and it settles on a choice more quickly.
The 1.8 Elegance model achieves 7,8 litres/100 km in the combined cycle, coupled to 162 g/km of CO2 emissions.
The retail prices include a 5-year/200 000 km warranty, a 4-year/60 000 km service plan, and a 3-year AA Roadside Assistance package. Services remain at 15 000 km intervals.
Overall, the ride quality and handling of the Honda was impressive – further complicating buyer choice in this class. That said, the build quality and solid feel of the Honda are worth considering, potentially ahead of any power and torque disparity.