Text and photos by Kap Maceda Aguila
INVARIABLY, consumers undeniably luck out with the escalation of competition — regardless of industry. The SUV/crossover market is one such domain that has seen a spike in players, what with a world so enamored with the format — to the tune of one vehicle in every three sold globally.
Manufacturers will of course give you what you want, or at least what they think you want. Buyers are not going to plop down a fistful of pesos for a lemon or a car with a stinker of a design concept, right? The compact crossover domain now is like an MMA fight, nay, melee with all participants on the ground, grinding it out with chokeholds.
So, again, in the final analysis, the crossover-crazy should benefit from all the, well, craziness. But wearing the hat of manufacturers allows us to posit the question: How does one stand out in a sea of SUVs? Japan-headquartered auto giant Honda seems to think that more means merrier — serving us heaping morsels of sport-ute goodness. The subcompact HR-V competes for your attention and budget inside a Honda showroom first. What are those much-ballyhooed unique value propositions to allow it to float in a sea of Honda CR-Vs, BR-Vs and Pilots? We dig deeper via the local alpha-dog variant, the HR-V RS Navi CVT.
• There was much rejoicing immediately after the present-generation HR-V’s unveiling in 2016. It was finally freed from a boxy, minivan-esque profile that many found tough to swallow. Supplanting it is a svelte and sleek figure evoking a dynamic and contemporary ethos. There’s even a faux coupe look because the vehicle’s rear door handles are located surreptitiously on the C pillar. The outsized-hatchback look is rather fetching. The skirting on our RS tester further ramps up the sporty image.
• The sheet metal bears elegant crimping on the side and hood, but the significant exterior features are undoubtedly the front and rear fascia — both an eyeful which lend character and heft.
• Inside, sedan-like appointments welcome driver and passenger into a low-key, high-tech cabin. Comfortably bolstered seats and deceptively spacious interiors are known strengths of Honda, and the company flexes its muscles anew in the HR-V.
• Two old-school circular gauges with analog needles are complemented by a modern multi-information display on their right but still smartly integrated into the instrument panel. As in other vehicles of the brand, economical driving habits (i.e., light on the accelerator) are rewarded by a green halo on the speedo.
• Piano-black surfaces here and there are a subtle but effective way to evoke luxury (as are the electronic parking brake and paddle shifters), while the three air vents directly ahead of the front passenger are strangely assuring of a comfortable, pleasant ride despite the usual metro swelter. A third-party (Kenwood) head unit should be a pleasant surprise for RS buyers. Speaking of which, the added accoutrements you get with the RS costs a sweet P200,000, but should prove worth the premium.
• On the road, the HR-V is a compliant, low-NVH vehicle. The seating position isn’t as high as other “proper” SUVs, and surely is another exemplar of the quintessential crossover tiptoeing the ute/sedan divide. It’s a daily driver you definitely wouldn’t mind riding and being seen in.
• We don’t like it that all the doors unlock when we shift to Park but, apparently, you can change that setting. The naturally aspirated 1.8-liter heart of the HR-V is sufficient, but may lack some oomph if you’re expecting exceptionally peppy performance, particularly when overtaking. The paddle shifters should help in that regard if you’re willing to sacrifice on fuel economy by going into higher rev territory.
• Raise your hand if you think this subcompact SUV looker is akin to a “CR-V lite.” We thought so, too. Honda should be mighty proud of its worthy fighter in the crossover war that packs features and commensurate character — not to mention space. Get in the ring with this contender.
Honda HR-V 1.8 RS Navi CVT
Price: P1.495 million
Engine: 1.8-liter, inline four gasoline SOHC i-VTEC; 140 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 172 Nm @ 4,300 rpm
Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
Wheels/Tires: 17 inches, 215/55
Key features: Vehicle stability assist, hill start Assist, multi-view reverse camera, auto brake hold, keyless entry, anti-lock braking with electronic brakeforce distribution, audio streaming, Bluetooth, two USB inputs, built-in WiFi, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Navigation (for RS only).