Buyers also get a brilliantly practical interior thanks to so-called ‘Magic Seat’ ingenuity and a slightly larger bodyshape than is the norm in this sector. If you’re shopping in this segment and you’re prepared to stretch your budget a little, we think you’d probably like one.
Right from the off, you have a feeling that this might be one of the better compact Crossovers to punt along. This is helped a little by the fact that you don’t get an especially lofty driving position, even though Honda insists that your eyeline in an HR-V is 100mm higher up than it would be in a Civic or a Jazz. Throw the car into a bend and you’ll find a surprisingly high degree of traction on offer, even though this car doesn’t have the traction-enhancing ‘Agile Handling Assist’ system that the brand fits to its other compact models. Inevitably, there’s more bodyroll than you’d get in an ordinary hatchback, but it’s decently controlled and predictable.
HR-V users get two engine options, with petrol people offered a 130PS 1. 5-litre i-VTEC petrol unit mated either to a sweet-shifting six-speed manual transmission or a belt-driven CVT automatic gearbox. The diesel version, which gets the excellent 1. 6-litre i-DTEC powerplant borrowed from Honda’s Civic family hatch gives you slightly less total power – 120PS – but nearly twice as much torque, so much less cog-swapping is needed during rapid progress. The diesel unit’s also impressively clean and frugal, managing 74. 3mpg on the combined cycle and 104g/km of CO2.
Honda clearly wants this second generation HR-V to have more universal appeal than its slightly quirkier predecessor, the idea this time round being to reach a wider cross-section of users. If you like the idea of a small Crossover model, then this, perhaps, could be your car. The so-called ‘coupe-like SUV’ looks are stylish enough to stand out, without making a statement likely to offend anyone.
Thanks to plenty of adjustment for both seat and wheel, it’s easy to get comfortable and once you are, the designers claim that you’ll be positioned about 100mm higher up than you would be in an ordinary comparably-priced family hatch. Soft-touch surfaces accented with brushed chrome highlights, piano black finishing and subtle stitching lines do their best to provide a premium feel.
What really marks this HR-V apart from its contemporaries though, is the packaging brilliance of its so-called ‘Magic Seat’ system, made possible by Honda’s centre-mounted fuel tank layout. This liberates the floor of the cabin and allows all kinds of interior permutations. The ‘Magic Seat’ ‘Tall mode’ where the front of the rear seat base rises up and can be locked in a vertical position to leave a cargo height of 1,240mm from floor to ceiling, allowing the object in question to be placed behind the front seats. It’s ideal for tall, fragile items - maybe a small potted tree you’ve bought from the garden centre; or perhaps a bulky item of electrical equipment.
The other two ‘Magic Seat’ settings relate to the more conventional cargo configurations. Raise the rear hatch and you’ll note the wide cargo opening and low loading lip that pave the way towards a spacious 470-litre boot.
But let’s say you need more room and want to push forward the 60:40 split-folding rear seats to, for example, store something like a bicycle. That’s when you move into the ‘Magic Seat’ system’s ‘Utility Mode’ and the first thing you notice with that is the ease of the folding process. You’ve only to release a simple lever mechanism, push forward from the rear and watch as backrest and seat base retract together into the rear footwell in one quick, fluid motion.
If you’re not using the front passenger seat, there’s the option to recline it as part of the final ‘Magic Seat’ ‘Long mode’. With that done, items as long as 2,445mm can be accommodated.
There are so many compact Crossover models now on sale that you wonder whether any fresh arrival in this segment can really offer anything different. Refreshingly, this HR-V does. 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, there’s plenty to like about this Honda. Essentially, this second generation HR-V is everything its predecessor should have been, attractive, refined – and efficient too, courtesy of the diesel engine option the MK1 model ought to have had but never got.
That car was very much about style over substance. Here, in contrast, we’ve a much more complete product and one that should continue to appeal even if fresher and more fashionable competitors come along. 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’.