Overall rating: 4/5
The Honda HR-V may be a compact crossover in terms of its exterior dimensions, but inside it feels spacious and drives like something from the next segment up.
In the metal 4/5
The design of the new Honda HR-V is accentuated by contours and crisp lines all of which appear carefully considered and rather than making it appear busy help to mask features, such as the integration of the rear door handles into the C-pillar. In fact there is almost a coupé-like nature to the overall look and this helps set the HR-V apart from some of its boxier looking rivals like the Skoda Yeti or more divisively styled cars like the Nissan Juke.
Inside the cabin the first thing you notice is how airy it feels. Large glazed areas up front combine with slim A-pillars and a low scuttle, affording the driver a wide view, the only hindrance being a low-set rear view mirror that can obstruct forward visibility a bit, especially if you prefer to sit a little higher when driving. The dashboard is quite driver-focused, with clear easy-to-read instruments and models from ES grade upwards also get the seven-inch Honda Connect touchscreen system as standard. Of particular note is the cabin quality and the materials used. In the back there are Honda's versatile Magic Seats that can either fold forward and flat or upwards to create space for taller items. Even with the rear seats in place boot space is a useful 470 litres, but this can be increased to 1,533 litres if required.
Driving it 4/5
On Irish roads the HR-V performs very well; its suspension setup feels more than capable of dealing with a variety of different road surfaces while still managing to prevent too much road noise from entering the cabin. Over more severe bumps it can feel a touch firm but on the whole it delivers a compliant ride. Quiet too is the 1.6-litre i-DTEC diesel engine, which has plenty of sound insulation around it. Combined with its useful 300Nm of torque and relatively low weight, engine speeds never seem to go beyond 3,000rpm in everyday driving.
In terms of the other aspects of driving performance the six-speed manual transmission is also deserving of credit. The stubby gear shifter is more akin to something you would expect to find on a Mazda MX-5 rather than a crossover SUV, but it works very well and is a joy to use. Other manufacturers should take note. The steering is also well set up and gives a more direct feel than many of its rivals.
What you get for your money 4/5
Irish buyers will have the choice of three different equipment grades in the new HR-V running SE, ES and a range-topping EX. Pricing for the ES will start from €25,995 in the case of the 1.6 i-DTEC diesel, while the petrol engine will come in €2,000 cheaper at €23,995.
The EX specification is the most basic and not likely to be the popular choice but even so with that buyers get 16-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth, City-Brake Active, climate control, an alarm, automatic headlights, cruise control, electric windows all-around and heated door mirrors. The audio system consists of a CD and radio with five-inch i-MID screen, four speakers and remote controls on the steering wheel.
Spend a further €2,750 and you can move up to the mid-level ES specification. At this level the HR-V comes equipped with 17-inch alloy wheels, the seven-inch Honda Connect touchscreen, dual-zone climate control, front and rear parking sensors, automatic wipers, rear centre armrest, front fog lights, six-speaker stereo and Honda's Dynamic Safety Pack. This packages together a number of safety systems including Forward Collision Warning, Traffic Sign Recognition, Intelligent Speed Limiter, Lane Departure Warning and High-Beam Support. It is this level of specification that represents some good value for money and will appeal to buyers who like to have a lot of equipment on their cars.
The range-topping EX model costs a further €4,300 over the mid-level ES, but on paper doesn't seem to represent as good a value proposition. The additional equipment is more luxury-based and includes leather upholstery, a panoramic glass roof, heated front seats, reversing camera, privacy glass, smart entry and engine start and a Garmin-based satellite navigation system. There are also roof rails and LED headlights and daytime running lights.
Not only does the new Honda HR-V tick a lot of important boxes in terms of design and drivability, there are also some very competitive levels of standard equipment, especially on the mid-level trim. So good is the new HR-V in fact that it might not only win over customers from direct rivals but it could also tempt some to downsize from larger SUVs given how little the Honda seems to concede.