This improved second generation Honda HR-V aims to stake a strong claim for the Japanese brand in the growing compact crossover market. It's a little pricier but more smarter, more spacious and better equipped than segment leaders like Nissan's Juke and Renault's Captur. Buyers choose from either a 1.5 petrol unit - now with a couple of output options - or a 1.6 diesel, both sending drive to the front wheels. It's Honda's idea of what a small SUV should be.
The engine range is as it was, though Honda has improved the interior quietness and refinement of the HR-V by adding greater levels of insulating material around the car. Plus certain grades have Active Noise Cancellation which reduces low-frequency noise in the interior by monitoring for such noises using two in-cabin microphones, and then cancelling them out with precisely-timed 'reverse phase' audio signals through the speakers. As before, this model's available only in front-wheel drive guise. There's a choice of either petrol or diesel power, the former being a 130PS 1.5 litre i-VTEC petrol, with the black pump-fuelled variant getting a 120PS 1.6 i-DTEC unit. Each drives through a six-speed manual transmission, although the petrol powerplant can be optioned with a CVT automatic, with a paddle-shift on some trims. As for performance, the 1.5-litre petrol model makes 62mph from rest in 10.2s (or 10.9s in CVT auto form). If that's not fast enough, you can also talk to your dealer about a perkier 182PS version of this engine. Go for the 1.6 i-DTEC diesel and the 62mph sprint occupies 10.1s.
The HR-V features a low centre of gravity, with the driver's hip point more akin to a conventional hatch than an SUV. The body is extremely rigid due to a high percentage of high-tensile steel, and this in turn helps isolate the suspension to do its job properly.
Honda reckons the MK2 model HR-V combines the 'personality of a coupe with the solid stance of an SUV' and they're not too far wrong. Think of it as a shrunken BMW X6 in appeal and you're not too far off the mark. The design is neat and interesting, with hidden rear door handles, deeply sculpted lower body panels and has been smartened up in this revised form. At the front, there's a sleeker interpretation of Honda's 'Solid Wing Face' graphic, with a re-styled high-gloss dark chrome panel and a revised front bumper with deeper air intake sections that house circular fog lights. The headlights now have projector lenses with re-designed LED daytime running lights. At the rear, a dark chrome garnish across the tailgate mirrors the trim at the front, and the rear lights sit within darker lens casings.
Inside, there are no real changes, apart from higher grade fabrics and re-shaped seats. As before, the cabin's more spacious than cheaper Juke and Captur models in this sector. And more usable too, thanks to the brilliant Honda 'Magic Seat' seat folding system. As well as splitting 60/40, the rear bench seat backs can fold forward as the seat base lowers to create a long, flat floor. The front and rear passenger seat backs can also fold forward to a horizontal position to accommodate longer items. A lower-profile fuel tank mounted under the front seats frees up under-floor space beneath the rear seats too. The boot holds 453-litres with the rear seats in use, and 1,026-litres to the window line with the rear seats folded away.
Overall, we like the HR-V. It's a touch more spacious than other cars in this class, with superior practicality you can really make the most of thanks to the brilliantly flexible 'Magic Seat' system that offers MPV-style interior flexibility. Alongside sophisticated design and class-leading safety, this set-up aims to justify premium pricing and if for you it does, then there's plenty else to like about this Honda. The brand won't import enough for it to become a mainstream choice but then this was never going to be a high volume model. It will instead appeal to those in search of the cleverest and classiest car of this kind. For these people, this car will, in Honda's own words, be 'precisely, pleasingly perfect'.Click here to find out more about our Honda HR-V range