Honda HR-V RS is excellent value, great looking and decent to drive, but powertrain leaves a little to be desired
The very competent if slightly bland Honda HR-V has had a makeover. The facelift includes the standard inclusion of autonomous emergency braking – Honda calls it “City-Brake Active System” along with a reversing camera and revised styling. All models get satellite navigation, climate control and LED daytime running lights.
Honda has also reshuffled the model variants: the range still opens with the VTi priced from $24,990, then steps up to the VTi-S priced from $27,990, then there’s the sporty HR-V RS which replaces the VTi-L and is priced from $31,990 and finally, there’s a new flagship, the HR-V VTi-LX which has a recommended retail price of $34,590.
We sampled the HR-V RS and it mirrors the Civic RS in the sense that it is the sporty model in the HR-V line-up. The HR-V RS is fitted with leather trim with heated front seats, leather wrapped steering wheel and a leather wrapped gear knob. As per all models there’s a reversing camera and satellite navigation, Honda’s “Lane Watch” system which incorporates a camera in the left wing mirror to assist with lane changing.
On the outside, there are chunky 18inch wheels, a body kit, shiny black highlights, chrome door handles and fog lights. As per all new HR-V models, there’s a new grille up front that mirrors Honda’s new corporate design language.
Under the bonnet, the HR-V RS shares the same 1.8 litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine that produces 105kW/172Nm and CVT transmission that is fitted to all other models in the HR-V models. Power is fed through to the front wheels.
That drivetrain is also carried over from the previous HR-V and well, it’s a little lacklustre, especially in a model with sporty aspirations. It always feels as though the engine is working hard and that CVT doesn’t exactly make for spirited performance, either. The 1.5 litre turbo power plant from the Civic and CR-V would make for a much better fit in a performance oriented model. And it lacks the pep of the C-HR’s turbo engine.
One mechanical change the HR-V RS model does gain over its more sedate peers is a variable ratio power steering system, which does indeed sharpen things up in the corners. The ride is firm without being uncomfortable, although the shocks from some undulations can be felt through passengers’ rumps.
Inside, the leather is of decent quality, as are the interior plastics and that interestingly-styled dash remains unchanged. However, that infotainment system looks cheap and is dated and perhaps most crucially in a SUV aimed at 20 to 30 somethings, it misses out on Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Granted, neither does the Toyota C-HR.
Space and seating are relatively comfortable, although the rear passengers may find rear legroom a little tight and the rear bench is best suited to two adult occupants. Three children should be fine.
Sale or no sale?
The Honda HR-V RS looks great, isn’t bad to drive and is decently equipped. However, that infotainment system and lethargic drivetrain are disappointing. If you’re looking for a compact SUV, don’t strike off the HR-V RS completely, but make sure you cross shop against rivals for before making a decision.