It’s everywhere. You can’t drive past one main street without seeing one. We are talking about the Honda HR-V 2019. The question is should you follow the crowd’s collective wisdom or should you put your money on something else, the much talked about Proton X70 for example?
Honda HR-V vs Proton X70
The B-segment HR-V sits one segment lower than the C-segment X70 so direct comparisons between the two should be avoided. However, since the X70 undercuts its same-class rivals and is priced closer to a Honda HR-V than a CR-V, comparison is inevitable.
Which of the two suits you better is highly dependent on how are you going to use your car. For example, the X70 is a much bigger car than the HR-V 2019. To some that’s a good thing but to others, that’s a bad thing.
For most people, the HR-V 2019 is just about the right size – striking the right balance for easy parking, generous interior space, and low running cost. For others, it’s a bit too small for their needs.
The X70’s added heft brings with it not just greater road presence, but also greater comfort and cargo carrying capacity. It also brings with it significantly higher fuel consumption. Even when compared to similar class rivals like a Honda CR-V or Mazda CX-5, the X70’s fuel consumption is higher than average. For those that need the added utility, it is money well spent considering its low purchase price but for others, it’s an added hassle.
The HR-V 2019’s biggest strength is its overall packaging. It’s just about the right size for urbanities. It’s compact on the outside for easy driving and parking in the city, but inside it is more spacious than any of its similar class rivals, thanks to a more space-efficient packaging.
The Ultra Seats feature for example, allows the HR-V 2019 to offer far more usable than rival cars from one segment above it.
The high hip point makes it easy to get in and out of the car. The ease of entry/exit is especially appreciated by elderly folks and ladies in tight dresses.
The 437-litre boot (404-litre for the hybrid) swallows more cargo than any of its rivals.
It’s also very fuel efficient, even if you pick the standard, non-hybrid variant. The 1.8-litre engine easily does 7-litre/100 km or less in a typical mix of urban/highway driving – that’s Perodua Myvi level economy. In comparison, a Proton X70 will consume at least 10- to 11-litre/100 km in the same driving condition.
The 1.5-litre hybrid saves even more, consuming no more than 5-litre/100 km under similar driving conditions, while delivering far more power than the standard 1.8-litre combustion engine, thanks to the added boost from the electric motor.
Earlier models of the HR-V weren’t very comfortable – suffering from a noisy ride and a suspension that’s too soft and while lacking in sufficient travel relative to its ride height.
The current model has a vastly more comfortable ride with better noise insulation. The range-topping RS variant features a faster and sharper turning variable ratio steering wheel rack.
Its Brake Hold function – which holds the brakes while you take your foot off the pedal, while waiting in traffic - is one of the best around, engaging and releasing smoother than many more expensive German cars.
Enthusiast drivers won’t like the CVT-type automatic transmission but objectively, it’s the smoothest transmission on this end of the price spectrum, while being responsive enough and delivering a more direct feel than most other CVTs.
What’s not so good?
While the new facelifted HR-V 2019 is more comfortable and better to drive than before, it has a much poorer infotainment than its predecessor.
The previous model’s head unit’s touch screen had nicer, more expensive looking graphics, easier to use controls. It also had conveniently located USB ports in the lower section of the centre console, which is where you will most likely keep your mobile devices.
The new model deletes these additional ports, leaving you with just one USB port located on the head unit itself, far above the centre console, forcing you to oddly loop the USB cable over and under the two-tier centre console.
The low resolution graphics and poor tactile feedback buttons give it a poor presentation compared to the previous car’s more original equipment-looking unit.
Speakers count has also been reduced from six to four, across all variants.
It’s a low point in an otherwise almost perfect car.
Thanks to the added torque of the electric motor, the hybrid variant is much better to drive. In fact it offers the highest performance and lowest fuel consumption among its peers – the best of both worlds. Unfortunately, if you want the added power and reduced fuel consumption, you will also have accept a much lower set of equipment/feature levels, as the Hybrid variant’s list of features mirrors the entry E variant rather than the highest RS variant.
For example, the already below-par infotainment is fitted with an even smaller 6.8-inch screen (7-inch for V and RS). It also misses out on LED head lamps, making do with halogen projectors, while the seats are half leather-fabric rather than full leather.
On the upside, crucial safety features remain the same, although the Hybrid misses out on on LaneWatch blind spot camera.
Buy or Bye?
While the poor infotainment is a disappointment, the fact remains that no other car in its class matches the HR-V’s overall package.
The C-HR’s well-balanced chassis is fun to drive despite lacking in power but it’s also a lot more expensive and has a polarizing styling. The CX-3 has a far more expensive looking interior but it’s a bit too small for most people and is priced a bit too high (mostly due to additional taxes, it’s imported from Japan). The Peugeot 2008 or Renault Captur are a non-starter because none offer anything that the Japanese options don’t already have.
The only other option left is the Proton X70 but for reasons mentioned earlier, the two are from different segments and are not substitutes for one another.
The buyer who is better served with a smaller, more fuel efficient HR-V 2019 will not be happy with the larger X70’s running cost in the long term, vice versa.
Our pick of the HR-V 2019 range is the Hybrid variant, simply because it’s cheaper to run/maintain and yet offers more power. Although it lacks LED headlamps and LaneWatch camera, crucial safety features remain unchanged. The half leather-fabric seats are actually pretty nice to touch although it might be as premium as full leather seats.
Malaysians will understandably be suspicious of the hybrid’s reliability but this is not a full-electric or a plug-in hybrid vehicle. Regular hybrids are a mature technology. The hybrid battery is designed to last the lifespan of the car, which typically means 250,000 km or 15 years but as mentioned above, actual service life is dependent on driving style and maintenance habits, just like any other vehicle component. Some cars will need replacements a lot earlier, but it's rare.
In any case, the battery is covered by an 8-year/unlimited mileage warranty, and the replacement cost is RM 6,063 (excluding labour), as of 2019. Prices will go down as electrification becomes mainstream.
Note that there they Hybrid variant doesn’t come with a spare tyre, not even a space saver – not unlike many premium cars these days. The spare tyre’s well is taken up by the hybrid battery.
Total maintenance cost for the Honda HR-V 2019 are as below (for 5-year/100,000 km):
Maintenance cost for HR-V 2019 1.8-litre
Maintenance cost for HR-V 1.5-litre Hybrid
Price for the Honda HR-V 2019 in Malaysia:
HR-V 1.8 E: RM 108,800
- HR-V 1.8 V: RM 118,800
- HR-V 1.8 RS: RM 124,800
- HR-V Hybrid: RM 120,800
Specifications for Honda HR-V 1.8:
- Engine: 1.8-litre, naturally aspirated
- Power: 142 PS at 6,500 rpm
- Torque: 172 Nm at 4,300 rpm
- Transmission: Automatic (CVT), front-wheel drive
- Safety: 6 airbags, electronic stability control (VSA), ISOFIX, Hill start assist, brake hold, emergency stop signal, LaneWatch (V and RS only)
Specifications for Honda HR-V 2019 Hybrid:
- Engine: 1.5-litre naturally aspirated, hybrid
- Power: 152 PS (combined engine and motor)
- Torque: 190 Nm (combined engine and motor)
- Transmission: Automatic (7-speed dual-clutch), front-wheel drive
- Safety: 6 airbags, electronic stability control (VSA), ISOFIX, Hill start assist, brake hold, emergency stop signal