Honda HR-V eyes compact SUV appeal

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Honda is poised to make a spectacular move into the rapidly-growing compact SUV market segment via the arrival of a new model called HR-V.

The Thailand-sourced vehicle, which is built on a stretched Jazz platform and powered by an updated version of the 1.8-litre engine from the Civic, goes onto the New Zealand market on Friday.

The offering will comprise a fleet of six different models, ranging in price from $32,990 for an entry HR-V S, to $43,900 for a Sport+.

At a media event in Auckland on Monday, Honda New Zealand's general manager of marketing Nadine Bell forecast annual sales to be at least 700 HR-Vs, which would put it just behind the Jazz in Honda sales.

Arrival of the HR-V is extremely important for Honda, because it means the brand finally has a competitor in the fast-growing compact SUV segment of this country's new vehicle market, which contains such product as the Mazda CX-3, Holden Trax, Ford EcoSport and Mitsubishi ASX.

Immediate impression is that the HR-V is an appealing new vehicle of a size that nicely fits in between the Jazz and the CRV. But despite its smaller size it offers more interior space than the original CRV, and in fact has rear legroom almost the same as the current CRV.

The range begins with an entry S, then moves up through VX with offroad-like front and rear skid plates and running boards, VL which adds leather upholstery and chrome and stainless steel garnish, then on to a trio of Sport models.

The Sport has the leather plus a panoramic sunroof, 17 inch sports alloys, the Sport X gets the skid plates and running boards, while a top Sport+ also boasts front and rear aero bumpers, side skirts and 18 inch alloys.

All six HRV models are powered by the same 1.8-litre four cylinder engine that is a evolution of the company's single overhead cam design. In this case the engine offers 105 kilowatts of power and 172 Newton metres of torque.

The engine is mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission, with paddle shifters on the Sport models for manual use.

The HRV is an attractive small SUV, with a striking front end featuring a prominent black chrome grille and multi-reflector headlights. The Sport versions have fog lights recessed into the black lower fascia.

An outstanding feature of the vehicle's side profile are sharp creases that sweep up the vehicle's flanks from behind the front wheels to converge at the C-pillar. Concealed rear door handles are also integrated high up in the C-pillars to help give the HRV an athletic look.

The interior is beautifully designed, with the outstanding visual feature being a centre console that is flowing in its design. It's a versatile interior too, featuring Honda's so-called "magic" seats which enable 18 different seating configurations.

In the tradition of the Jazz hatch that shares this vehicle's platform the seats can be flipped and folded to open up large amounts of load space in what is still a small vehicle. With all seats in use the vehicle offers 437 litres of cargo space, growing to 1032 litres with the rear seats folded down.

Safety specification is high, with the top Sport models featuring a very good LaneWatch Camera which gives the driver a camera view of what is on the left when turning left, and City Brake Assist which automatically stops the vehicle at low speeds to help prevent nose-to-tail impacts.

Standard driver technology aboard the HR-V includes cruise control, a 7-inch display audio touch screen, climate control air conditioning, reversing camera, electric park brake, brake hold function, and hill start assist.

The Sport models add a panoramic roof, fog lights, roof rails, leather seats, front and rear parking sensors.

Bell forecast the new HR-V will "appeal across the age spectrum" because of its combination of looks, performance and interior space.

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by ROB MAETZIG
Last updated 15:00, August 24 2015

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