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First drive: Honda HR-V Sport. Image by Honda.

First drive: Honda HR-V Sport
Honda adds a performance variant to the updated HR-V range and itís really rather good.

   



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Honda HR-V Sport

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Honda has already updated its likeable HR-V crossover for the 2019 model year, with a 'solid wing' face and new light clusters, fore and aft. But now it has added to the existing 1.5-litre 130hp VTEC petrol and 1.6-litre 120hp i-DTEC diesel models with a turbocharged, zesty Sport model. Question is, though: is the HR-V Sport any good, or a niche-busting product too far?

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Honda HR-V Sport
Pricing: HR-V from £20,040, Sport from £27,840
Engine: 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: front-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: five-door crossover-SUV
CO2 emissions: 151g/km (VED Band 151-170: £515 first 12 months, then £140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 42.2mpg
Top speed: 134mph
0-62mph: 7.8 seconds
Power: 182hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 240Nm at 1,900-5,000rpm
Boot space: 448-1,043 litres

What's this?

Did you know that 25 per cent of Honda's European sales are for 'sporty' models? Now, by this, we don't just mean the obvious candidates, like the storming Civic Type R and the company's revived NSX supercar, but also the models which Honda has, rather originally, christened 'Sport'. There were two of them previously, these being the surprisingly pokey Jazz Sport and then the Civic Sport, this being one rung down from the bonkers CTR.

And now there's a third example entering the fold. Given those strong European sales figures for racier products and the ongoing, insatiable customer demand for SUVs/crossovers, it's the HR-V which next receives Honda's Sport treatment. It uses the same 1.5-litre VTEC Turbo as employed in the aforementioned Civic Sport, delivering 182hp and 240Nm. This is for the six-speed manual version, because Honda will also offer the HR-V Sport with a CVT transmission (+£1,250), and this alters the power/torque delivery of the 1.5-litre motor - a similar thing happens on the larger CR-V fitted with the same engine, although in that instance, it's the CVT which gets more power. For the HR-V Sport, the peak output of 182hp remains the same, whichever gearbox you choose, but the manual hits that maximum at 5,500rpm while the CVT waits until 6,000rpm to do the same. With regards torque, the CVT has less of it but spread over a 700rpm-wider band: it delivers 220Nm from 1,700-5,500rpm, whereas the manual has 240Nm from 1,900-5,000rpm.

This means that the CVT car is slower, less accelerative and also worse on fuel/for CO2 emissions, with stats of 124mph flat out, 0-62mph in 8.6 seconds, 39.8mpg and 162g/km comparing to the manual's equivalent data of 134mph, 0-62mph in 7.8 seconds, 42.2mpg and 151g/km. However, even taking all of this into account - its extra expense, its lesser torque and its denuded on-paper performance figures - and also factoring in our long-standing hatred of CVTs, the automatic HR-V Sport is a little cracker. The gearbox has been designed to mimic an automatic, so there's no strained, unending lowing from the engine as it holds maximum revs during hard acceleration, and even when it does rev out, the 1.5-litre VTEC Turbo is a smoother, more pleasant thing to listen to than an Atkinson cycle normally aspirated shrieker. To be honest, we were stunned at how much we liked the HR-V Sport CVT.

Nevertheless, the manual is our preferred option and the one we'll focus on for the driving review here. So, before we get onto the dynamics, a word on the looks and market positioning. The handsome exterior and excellent interior of the HR-V are enhanced by the Sport's visual addenda of black external detailing - note the front splitter, the side skirts, the wheel-arch mouldings, the rear bumper (beneath which are twin, spaced exhausts), the door mirrors, the honeycomb front grille and the Sport's flashy 18-inch alloys, all finished in the moody shade - while inside there's dark-red leather for the seats' side bolsters, the dash pad fillet and the door cards... which contrasts with a black roof-lining and black cloth upholstery. Oh, and you might also spot a leather and alloy gear knob, which looks very much like the item you'd find on a circa-2004 S2000. With a generous spec list, of both comfort items and useful driver-assist safety features, and also the Magic Rear Seats and a boot that's only a little bit smaller than that found on a regular HR-V (448 litres plays 470 litres), the new Sport seems to offer the best of all worlds in one handsome crossover package. A starting price of nearly £28,000 (or £299pcm on the best-deal PCP), though, will be a stumbling block, as it places the HR-V Sport firmly as the flagship of the range for Honda's B-segment contender. Is the Sport worth such strong money? Time to find out.

How does it drive?

The turbocharged petrol engine aside, the HR-V Sport has some interesting mechanical tricks up its sleeve. It employs performance dampers behind the front and rear bumpers, these aiming to prevent the lateral oscillations that occur when a car is cornering hard. In essence, what the performance dampers do is improve torsional rigidity, which should sharpen the HR-V's driving manners. Ditto the Selective Damper Control (SDC) shock absorbers, which feature two pistons instead of one, to try and balance off ride comfort against handling prowess. Furthermore, the 18-inch rims wear wider, grippier sports tyres, the HR-V Sport has Agile Handling Assist (brake vectoring to aid cornering) and it also enjoys a variable gear ratio for the steering.

All of this adds up to the best B-segment crossover we've yet driven, bar none. The HR-V Sport is excellent. It's fun in the corners, with just the right amount of body roll - there's enough to inform you of the approaching limits of grip, but not too much to make the car feel like it is leaning over as it loses control of its mass. The steering is fast, accurate and beautifully weighted, with a consistency of response that's incredibly confidence-inspiring; it lacks genuine feel, however, so don't start thinking this is some hot hatch on stilts. Understeer is well restrained and when it does eventually start to bleed in, it's progressive in its onset and therefore easy to read and counter. There's even the merest suggestion of rear-axle mobility, although you have to be working the HR-V very hard to get it to feel like it is sliding into a neutral cornering stance.

Nevertheless, with excellent damping - the ride's taut and occasionally the suspension is loud over large, low-speed compressions, but there's none of that jittery background nonsense you get on other sporty SUVs and the suppleness it displays at higher pace is most welcome - and a fantastic drivetrain, the HR-V Sport is an engaging, enjoyable and surprisingly rewarding vehicle to punt along quickly. Sure, it doesn't do much that a well-sorted C-segment warm hatch could do just as well (a Civic Sport, for instance...), but to drive it's a revelation. It's quick, too, that 1.5-litre motor bestowing really decent pace on the little crossover and sounding pretty good in the process; there is some mild, artificial augmentation of its exertions, yet it's never so intrusive as to put you off the Honda.

As a crossover, though, it still has to function civilly in daily driving and it's here where the HR-V Sport makes the most sense of all. On the motorway, it's a delight, that wonderfully controlled ride and top-notch noise suppression making it a supremely comfortable cruiser. Add in its solidly built cabin, which has more than enough room for a quartet of tall adults to get comfy onboard, and its vast boot as well, and you can see why this thing is going to be a hit.

Have we got any grumbles about it, beyond the steep asking price? Well, nothing deal-breaking, no, but there are a few observations. The Honda infotainment remains painfully mediocre, perhaps even borderline rubbish, and that's a real shame; the Garmin-sourced satnav, in particular, being the main annoyance. There's a sneaking suspicion that the cabin, despite all that red hide, could have been a little, er... jazzier (forgive the Honda pun, there) for this sports model, while the mainly analogue instrument cluster - with its lovely 3D speedometer - is let down by the almost dot-matrix-esque information panel to the right-hand side. And if crossover drivers aren't the keenest bunch, then would customers perhaps be better served sticking with the 130hp 1.5 and saving a bundle of cash in the first place? Maybe. But then, you're forgetting the 25 per cent - there's clearly strong demand for this sort of thing. And there's no doubt Honda has executed the HR-V Sport marvellously, so it deserves to be a big success.

Verdict

Pricey and of a breed that irks so many people (that breed being the performance SUV, or crossover, in this instance), there's little doubt that the Honda HR-V Sport will be instantly overlooked by many people. But not us; this thing's brilliant. A great all-rounder that's fun to drive, easy to live with, comfortable to travel in, decent to look at and practical too, there's little to dislike and much to love about the HR-V Sport. Which brings us back to a line we said in the driving impressions above: love 'em or loathe 'em, crossovers and SUVs are here to stay and, when it comes to the B-segment class, there's genuinely nothing we like more than the Honda HR-V Sport.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Interior Ambience

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Passenger Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 26 Mar 2019



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2019 Honda HR-V Sport. Image by Honda.2019 Honda HR-V Sport. Image by Honda.2019 Honda HR-V Sport. Image by Honda.2019 Honda HR-V Sport. Image by Honda.2019 Honda HR-V Sport. Image by Honda.

2019 Honda HR-V Sport. Image by Honda.2019 Honda HR-V Sport. Image by Honda.2019 Honda HR-V Sport. Image by Honda.2019 Honda HR-V Sport. Image by Honda.2019 Honda HR-V Sport. Image by Honda.








 

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