2020 Honda HR-V review

The Honda HR-V has lots of standard equipment, and more cargo space than most small SUVs. It feels smooth and easy to drive, and auto braking is standard across the range.

Honda HR-V review
Score breakdown
Safety, value and features
Comfort and space
Engine and gearbox
Ride and handling
Things we like
  •   Easy to drive
  •   Versatile cabin
  •   Long warranty
Not so much
  •   Short on steering feedback
  •   Flat front seat bases

What stands out?

Honda’s biggest seller in Australia, the HR-V is an athletic-looking small SUV with lots of standard equipment. Its excellent interior has more passenger and cargo space than most alternatives, thanks in large part to the versatility of its ‘Magic’ rear seats. It feels smooth and easy to drive, and offers auto-braking and other advanced safety tech across the range.

What might bug me?

The parcel ‘shelf’ over the rear cargo area – it’s a flimsy mesh/cloth item that seems like a design afterthought.

Keeping comfy on long drives: the front seat bases feel flat. Subtle sculpting of the cushion, which is the norm, would have improved thigh support.

Driving under 80km/h on the space-saver spare until you can fix your full-sized flat tyre.

What body styles are there?

Five-door wagon only.

The Honda HR-V drives its front wheels, and it is classed as a small SUV, lower priced.

What features does every Honda HR-V have?

Cruise control, a reversing camera with normal, wide and top-down view modes, and climate control air-conditioning (which can maintain a set temperature).

A sound system with an AM/FM radio, a CD/MP3 player, two USB inputs, an HDMI port, and Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, operated from a 7.0-inch touchscreen that accepts swipe and pinch control.

Support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which allows you display apps from compatible smartphones on the touchscreen.

Multi-angle reversing camera and satellite navigation.

Height and reach adjustment for the steering wheel, which carries buttons for operating the cruise control, audio and Bluetooth.

A multi-information display, which presents distance, speed, fuel consumption and outside temperature data, and offers two user-programmable speed alarms.

Brake hold and hill-start assist functions integrated with the electric park brake. Remote keyless entry, and power windows that can be opened from the key fob.

A tyre deflation warning system, indicator lights in the side mirrors, LED daytime running lights, and LED taillights.

Brake hold and hill-start assist functions integrated with the electric park brake. Power windows that can be opened from the key fob.

A tyre deflation warning system, indicator lights in the side mirrors, daytime running lights, and LED taillights.

Aluminium alloy wheels, which are usually lighter and better looking than steel wheels, and a space-saver spare wheel.

Six airbags: two directly in front of the driver and front passenger; one alongside each front occupant to protect the upper body; and a curtain airbag on each side to protect the heads of front and rear occupants.

Electronic stability control, which can help the driver to control a skidding car. All new cars must have this feature.

Every Honda HR-V carries a five-year warranty, with no limit on the distance travelled.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

There is only one engine in the HR-V, a 1.8-litre petrol four-cylinder. It uses the least fuel in the least expensive model, the HR-V VTi, because that is slightly lighter than the more lavishly equipped VTi-S and RS. The VTi uses 6.6 litres/100km on the official test (city and country combined), and the others use about 5 per cent more.

A continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is the only gearbox available.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

Spending more to step up from the HR-V VTi to the VTi-S brings keyless entry and a start button that allow you to unlock and start the car with your key kept safely in a pocket or bag. Windscreen wipers operate automatically when it rains, and bright, very long-lasting LED headlamps turn on automatically when it’s getting dark.

There is a leather wrapped steering wheel and gear lever handle, front foglights, and roof rails – which provide mounting points for roof racks.

The wheel size rises from 16 inches to 17-inches, which makes the VTi-S smarter looking than the VTi. The left side exterior mirror tilts automatically when you are reversing so that you can see the gutter and avoid scratching your wheels.

The VTi-S also gains Honda’s LaneWatch system, that providing the driver with an 80-degree view of the passenger side.

Honda introduced a special edition VTi-L S +LUXE that added leather-appointed seats and front-seat heaters, plus premium paint as standard for an additional $2000 over the VTi-S.

The HR-V RS replaced the VTi-L in August 2018 and has sportier exterior trim, with bigger 18-inch alloy sports wheels, black chrome front sports grille, black mirror caps, dark chrome door handles, honeycomb front lower grille and fog garnish, a piano black body kit, privacy glass on the rear doors and the RS badge.

Performance is the same as the other HR-Vs, but handling is sharper thanks to a new variable gear ratio steering within the electric power steering.

The interior gains leather-appointed seat trim across driver and all passenger seats, heated front seats, smooth sports leather steering wheel and leather gear knob and gear-shift pedals.

The most expensive HR-V, the VTi-LX, provides a more sophisticated alternative to the RS and adds chrome door handles and a panoramic sunroof. It’s equipped with front and rear parking sensors, power window with automatic one touch functionality, LED Interior light and LED Map light, auto dimming rear view mirror and an eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat.

The VTi-LX also comes standard with additional advanced driver assist features including forward collision warning, high-beam support system and lane departure warning.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

Metallic and pearlescent colours come at an extra cost of about $600. Of seven colours available, Taffeta White is the only non-metallic colour and therefore the only no-cost standard colour.

How comfortable is the Honda HR-V?

The Honda HR-V rides nicely over bumpy roads – perhaps not quite as well as the Mazda CX-3 and Renault Captur, but still very well.

The fittings inside are also very good, with the exception of the front seat cushions. These are short and flat, which compromises comfort on long trips. We recommend test-driving an HR-V and making up your own mind, because the level of front seat support may vary for people of different sizes and statures.

The bigger wheels and tyres worn by the VTi-S, RS and VTi-LX don’t detract much from comfort.

Under way the HR-V interior is very quiet, and free from excessive wind, suspension and tyre noise. Perhaps because it is so well insulated most of the time, you do notice a rise in tyre noise on the coarse-chip surfaces found in many regional areas.

The quality of the plastics, textiles and carpets in the cabin is high, and the presentation of the instruments and controls is attractive. The leather wrapped steering wheel contributes to the sense of luxury in the more expensive versions, but even the VTi (which has a plastic steering wheel finish) feels nice inside.

What about safety in an HR-V?

Six airbags, a multi-view reversing camera, a tyre pressure monitoring system, seatbelt reminders, and bright, fast-illuminating LED taillights are high points in an impressive safety package that is standard even on the HR-V VTi.

City-speed automatic emergency braking (which will help you avoid rear-ending a car in front when distracted) was rolled out to all HR-Vs, with the updated model, in August 2018.

The HR-V VTi-LX builds on this with a forward-collision warning (which will warn you, even at highway speeds, if you are in danger of colliding with a car in front), and a lane-departure warning (which will prod you if you have begun to drift distractedly out of your lane).

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the Honda HR-V five stars for safety, its maximum, in December 2015.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

The overall dynamic standard among small SUVs is surprisingly high, which means that while the Honda HR-V is about average for performance in corners, it is still an enjoyable car.

The HR-V is not quite as capable during enthusiastic driving as the Mazda CX-3 and Holden Trax. However, the Honda’s user-friendliness in urban driving brings a different kind of pleasure.

The HR-V’s steering is short on road feel, and the car turns into corners with less enthusiasm than the two alternatives mentioned above. Nevertheless, once the driver is used to the steering, the HR-V is easy and entertaining to drive along a twisty road.

The engine is smooth and capable for most normal driving duties, even if it is not responsive enough to feel exciting. The Mazda CX-3, for example, has a bit more power and weighs about 10 per cent less than the Honda, and it performs with noticeably more oomph.

For enthusiastic driving, the CVT transmission is not as much fun as a good conventional automatic, or a manual gearbox. The relationship between how far you press the accelerator and how hard the car goes feels less direct. The CVT is better in the RX, which gets manual gear shift paddles and artificial gear ratio steps that make it behave more like a normal automatic.

How is life in the rear seats?

The HR-V has a longer wheelbase than other small SUVs – there is more distance between the front and rear axles. This with its terrific interior packaging results in plentiful rear leg room.

The swoopy, two-door-like look is a visual play, because the HR-V’s roofline doesn’t taper downwards excessively at the back. Head room in the rear seats is very good, as are foot and shoulder room.

The rear seat cushion and backrest feel very comfortable and the seat is sited high, which affords back-seaters superb forward vision.

How is it for carrying stuff?

A fuel tank located in the middle of the car, beneath the floor, helps give the Honda HR-V a boot that, at 437 litres, is one of the biggest in a small SUV. It is large enough to make the HR-V an alternative to a bigger car for some buyers.

The HR-V also offers more versatility in the cargo area than any other small SUV, thanks to the Honda brand’s clever ‘Magic’ rear seats. When the seatbacks are folded, the seat base also folds forward and down, to lie flat on the floor. The result is a taller load area than would be possible with a conventional folding backrest design.

Usefully, the seatbacks can alternatively be left upright and the seat bases folded upwards, to liberate space for tall items in the rear seat area.

Where does Honda make the HR-V?

The Honda HR-V is manufactured in Thailand.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

All-wheel-drive, which is available on the Hyundai Kona, Kia Seltos, Mazda CX-3 and Subaru XV, for example. That would help the car feel more secure if you were driving on gravel roads or other slippery surfaces.

More power, from a turbocharged engine. The Kona, Seltos, Suzuki Vitara, Fiat 500X and Jeep Renegade, Toyota C-HR offer this, for example.

Among other cars you might consider are the Renault Kadjar, Nissan Qashqai and Mitsubishi ASX.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

It is difficult to arrive at just one sweet spot in the HR-V range, because all the versions have appeal. The VTi is attractively priced and temptingly equipped. And yet the VTi-L is loaded with equipment and seems expensive only for its size, and not for what it offers as a package.

If you’re considering the VTi-L, it would be difficult not to choose the ADAS pack, because it brings some very desirable safety equipment for $1000.

Perhaps the VTi-S offers the smartest balance of price and equipment. It looks better than the VTi, with its bigger wheels and fog-lights, and it feels a bit nicer inside.

Are there plans to update the HR-V soon?

The HR-V arrived about February 2015, and power adjustment for the driver’s seat was added to the HR-V VTi-L about March 2016.

Satellite navigation was added to all HR-Vs in the second half of May 2017, and the CD player was dropped. The LaneWatch left-side blind-spot monitor on the VTi-S and VTi-L was also dropped. (LaneWatch was incompatible with the sat-nav; Honda said it would be reinstated on HR-Vs built after it had engineered a remedy.)

An update in August 2018 brought a mild facelift, autonomous emergency braking as standard across the range, and the sporty RS version in place of the VTi-L.

In February 2019 an special edition HR-V +LUXE was introduced that added leather appointed seats, and front-seat heaters to the VTi-S spec.

In April 2020, the HR-V adopted the Honda Civic’s infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone pairing.

No major updates are expected until early 2021, though there may be equipment upgrades and more special editions.

Score breakdown
Safety, value and features
Comfort and space
Engine and gearbox
Ride and handling
Things we like
  •   Easy to drive
  •   Versatile cabin
  •   Long warranty
Not so much
  •   Short on steering feedback
  •   Flat front seat bases


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