At first glance, the Honda HR-V shouldn’t really work.
Crossovers and SUVs are all about family practicality, aren’t they? Sportiness and performance aren’t valid considerations, surely?
Well, Honda thinks you can have both, and having spent time squirting a Honda HR-V Sport through the Hampshire countryside, what we discovered was that it makes for a surprisingly likeable mix.
How is it different to a regular HR-V?
Taking the somewhat frumpy HR-V as a starting point, Honda have ditched much of the chrome trim and replaced it with gloss black stuff instead.
The front grille gains some extra meshiness, the rear bumper is more aggressive, and the two are linked by gloss black side-skirts and wheel-arch mouldings.
Add a sprinkling of trinkets such as black door mirrors, dual exhausts, 18-inch alloy wheels, full LED headlights and smoked rear light clusters, and you have an HR-V that perhaps looks much as it should have done to begin with.
Are the changes just cosmetic, then?
Not at all. Indeed, the engineering changes go further than perhaps you might have first thought.
To start with, there’s a new engine. A 1.5-litre turbocharged VTEC petrol unit that develops 182 ps and 240 Nm of torque (220 Nm for the CVT auto).
That’s enough for a 0-62 mph time of just 7.8 seconds, placing it firmly – if somewhat surprisingly – into the territory of the warm hatch. Or to put it another way, it’s quicker than a Suzuki Swift Sport.
It feels quick, too. There’s modest lag until 1,900 rpm comes around, but with the turbo on song the HR-V zips through its slick-shifting six-speed manual’s ratios with surprising eagerness.
It even sounds pretty good while it’s doing it. Admittedly, much of the engine noise has been electronically massaged by Honda’s Active Sound Control, but still, it adds to the fun.
Presumably it handles like a clown on a pogo stick?
Again, not at all.
The Sport features a system Honda calls Performance Damper technology that, the company claims, helps keep the body flatter through corners, reduces vibration on uneven roads, and maintains stability during sudden changes of direction.
But that’s not all, because Honda have also given the Sport its own bespoke steering set-up with a variable ratio rack, and that, along with its generally amiable set of road manners, makes the HR-V Sport fun to drive for even the most ham-fisted of pilots.
In common with the regular HR-V, the Sport does still seem to bang and crash into large bumps. In fact, the car we drove exuded a particularly concerning collection of knocking and clattering noises from its suspension, especially at low speeds.
Thankfully, the HR-V settles easily into a cruise and, thanks to those torque reserves, picking up speed for an overtake is as stress-free as simply flexing your ankle.
What’s the cabin like to spend time in?
It’s incredibly accommodating, with a huge range of adjustment in the driving position, and a sportier character thanks to two-tone part-leather upholstery, black headlining, and alloy pedals.
It’s still home to the world’s largest dash-mounted air vent, and is still perhaps the most practical and flexible cabin on the market today, thanks to Honda’s Magic Seats that tilt up for tall loads, or fold forward (together with the folding front passenger seat) for long ones.
Then there’s the good-sized glovebox, the storage under the central armrest, and the variety of useful smartphone-shaped spaces in the centre console.
Unfortunately, there’s also the same disappointing infotainment system, although rumour has it this is due an update.
So should I buy one?
If easy-going, nippy, and practical-as-hell are your thing, then yes, you’ll love it.
The only problem is, this all comes at a price. The HR-V Sport starts at £27,840, or £28,365 with metallic paint. Opt for the CVT auto and it could cost you £29,615.
If performance is your bag, that’s enough to see you behind the wheel of a Civic Type R or a new Focus ST. Alternatively, if it’s an SUV you’re after, a well-specced Mazda CX-5 is easily within reach, arguably a car from the segment above.
But if it’s a combination of the two that lights your fire, the practicality of an SUV without a total loss of performance and fun, then a Honda HR-V Sport might just be the loveable oddball you’re looking for.
|Entry-level Price||£27,840||As tested||£28,365|
|Engine||1498cc 4-cyl turbo petrol||Transmission||6-speed manual|
|Power||182ps @ 5,500rpm||Torque||240Nm @ 1,900-5,000rpm|
|0-62||7.8 secs||Top speed||133 mph|
|Economy (WLTP)||42.4 mpg||CO2||135 g/km|
|Dimensions||4346 x 2019 x 1605 (LxWxH)||Kerb Weight||1417 kg|