It goes without saying that the Honda HR-V has been a runaway success in our market. When it was launched back in 2015, the waiting period for one stretched to almost 6 months. It ticked all the right boxes for many Malaysian car buyers and was THE bang-for-buck SUV way before the Proton X50.
In its years in the Malaysian market, it has gone through some updates, and also a facelift and inclusion of a Hybrid variant in 2019. So, almost 6 years on from its launch, is the Honda HR-V still a relevant product? Let's take a deeper look into what we love and loathe about the Honda HR-V.
Pros - Still looks handsome
Yes, it is a rather common sight on our Malaysian roads for the past 6 years, but you have to admit that the Honda HR-V still cuts a rather handsome figure. The proportions are well-judged, and the overall design strikes a very nice balance between ruggedness and elegance. You definitely wouldn't mind being seen in one.
One of our favourite design cues in the Honda HR-V is the hidden rear door handle, no doubt inspired by the Alfa Romea 156. This gives the Honda HR-V a really clean and coupe-ish side profile. Who'd have thought such a simple solution would work out so well?
Pros - Unburstable reliability, fuel efficient with pretty nippy performance
While the R18Z9 1.8-litre engine doesn't look much now compared to newer competitors, (141 PS, 175 Nm), on the move the engine delivers its power quite well. Morover, you can rest assured that you will reach your destination every time. Paired with a CVT transmission, this drivetrain combo is fuss-free, easy to drive, and apocalype-proof.
If you prefer something with more zing, you can opt for the Hybrid variant that has 152 PS and 190 Nm. It comes equipped with a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission to make the driving experience a bit more peppy.
To top it all off, the Honda HR-V scores pretty very decently in the fuel efficiency stakes. On our internal testing, the Honda HR-V returned 7l/100km, while the Hybrid variant does even better at 5.3l/100km. This figures were derived from a combined driving cycle of highway and city driving,
Pros - Ace interior packaging
This is undoubtedly, the greatest strength of the Honda HR-V. Whichever variant you pick, there is the same genius littered all across the interior. Cubby holes, charging ports, and plenty of places to put things. If you look from the outside, the HR-V is really not a large car, so where did Honda find that much space inside?
That is even before we talk about the Ultra Seats, which enables the Honda HR-V to have multiple, flexible storage configurations. This is by far one of our favourite features of the Honda HR-V. Cap it off with a volumous 437-litre boot (404-litre for the hybrid) that wipes the floor with its rivals, and you can see why this car is so compelling to families.
Cons - Poor infotainment system
Whilst one does not expect a Bang & Olufsen hi-fi system in this price range, the infotainment cluster in all the variants is rather unpalatable. The head-unit's graphics look low-rent, the trim plastic bits feel brittle, and it's not very user-friendly. Worse still, the surface of the touch screen has a matt finish that makes it incredibly hard to see under sunlight. It's not even class-average, this is downright poor.
Cons - Brittle ride
This is another surprising complaint in an otherwise dynamically-competent package. There is an underlying brittleness when the Honda HR-V is asked to cope with more complex undulations. The suspension stroke also had a habit of bottoming out at the slightest compression.
Things did improve with the 2019 facelift, but overall, you'd expect the ride damping to have a bit more sophistication to the way it handles ruts, irregular surfaces and bumps. The greatest irony is that, the Honda HR-V handles better than it rides. How strange.
Cons - AC works hard to cool cabin, no rear AC vents
Surprising as it may sound, but the air-conditioning (AC) system in the Honda HR-V does struggle to cool the cabin down on hot days. This is because of a few factors. One, the AC vents on the front passenger side. While it looks good and well integrated into the front dashboard fascia, the cool air it channels isn't all that strong, even at max blower speeds.
Secondly, the Honda HR-V doesn't have AC vents for the rear passengers. This omission does feel at odds with the Honda HR-V's brief, which is mainly to be a family warrior. Also, when lower-priced models like the Honda City comes standard with rear AC vents, it becomes even more baffling.
So, to answer the question, is the Honda HR-V still a relevant car in 2021? The answer is yes. Whilst newer rivals have swankier interiors, more complex drivetrains and are packed with technology, the Honda HR-V remains an honest and no-frills way of motoring.
No rivals, new or old, have managed to come close to its interior genius, and until the all-new model makes landfall in Malaysia, expect the current Honda HR-V to remain ever popular, and with good reason.