It's a tick for boot and cabin space in this small SUV, but will the kids be happy with the tech if you take on a long family road trip?
Honda was one of the first manufacturers to introduce Australian families to the idea of a small SUV, or jacked up hatch as they were once referred, with the introduction of the HR-V in 1999.
But the original model only lasted two years before Honda dumped it because of a lack of sales. It re-launched the HR-V with a new-generation model in 2015 and it has been one of the most popular models in its class since.
We have tested the top-of-the-range HR-V VTi-L ADAS with young families in mind to make sure you can fit the rugrats in, keep them happy, and get all their gear from point A to point B.
Strap ’em in
The HR-V was a car full of surprises for me and this was the biggest – there is more interior space in this small SUV than larger models we have tested in the medium SUV segment.
With a rear-facing car seat set up behind I could sit in the passenger seat without my knees touching the glovebox. We are not talking stretch your legs out, business class, type room but I would happily sit there for any metro commute and could even be persuaded to sit in there for shorter country trips. I would not drive the car with it set up behind the driver’s seat.
I was even able to squeeze myself in between two car seats in the back. While it was never going to be an option on the road it did show that the Honda has more shoulder room than most in its class.
Getting the baby seats in and out of the car was easy. While the Isofix points are neatly tucked away in the back of the seat they are still easy to access. Like most wagons we have tested the top mounts are tethered to the back of the rear seat and easy to access.
In the HR-V the cargo blind is like one of those easy-to-fold windscreen sun screens that you can never get back into the bag and, in this case, should be left in it.
The cabin has a decidedly premium feel with plenty of soft leather-like padding on the dash, doors and centre console and easy-to-clean leather upholstery on the seats.
The seating position is also a little higher than your average city hatch making getting in and out easier and, more importantly, you can get the children in and out of the baby seat without feeling like you are doing a squat session at the gym.
The build quality is the high standard you would expect from Honda and there are plenty of storage spaces. It also has climate control, though there are no rear seat vents and a full-length sun roof that the grandchildren loved. They spent most of the time they were in the car looking up at the sky.
The one time I closed the cover they immediately complained.
It is also reasonably well insulated from road and wind noise, though in the test car there was an annoying, and intermittent, rattle coming from somewhere in the dash. According to a spokesman from Honda it was caused by a loose-fitting plenum (The area at the base of the windshield where the wipers are fitted).
He said the vibration usually only happened when traveling around 100km/h and could be easily fixed by replacing the plenum.
Another area where I was pleasantly surprised. The boot is deep and big for the class with 437 litres of space with the rear seats upright.
The top-selling Mazda CX-3 has 264 litres. In the HR-V cargo space can be increased to 1462 litres with the seats folded flat.
With the rear seats being used there is still plenty of room for the pram and any bits you will need to carry on a daily basis. With the floor lowered, to create the extra space, it does mean that you have to lift the pram in and out of the boot, rather than slide it.
The HR-V also has what Honda calls its Magic Seats system which for those times you need to carry taller objects, like pot plants, you can flip up the rear seat base and create a much deeper space that is separate from the cargo area and is accessed via the back doors. The space-saver spare tyre is housed under the cargo floor.
For a vehicle priced under $35,000 there is not much it does not have in the way of technology. It comes with features like automatic headlights and windscreen wipers, front and rear parking sensors, a power adjustable driver seats, and heated front seats.
It also has keyless entry and start which means you don’t need to get the keys out of your pocket to get into the car while you’re carrying a screaming toddler. The downside is it does not have an automatic tailgate.
The seven-inch touch-screen infotainment system includes satellite navigation and a reverse camera but it is not the most intuitive I have used and it does not have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
Even pairing the phone had me referring to the manual and it took a while to work out how to access the sat nav without scrolling through all the systems via the steering wheel controls.
There is one USB point, hidden in the infotainment system, and three power points – in the front seat, rear seat and cargo area.
ANCAP Safety Rating: 5 Stars
The HR-V was tested in 2015 and was awarded 5 stars with a score of 36.22 out of 37. It scored maximum points in the side impact and pole test and 15.21 in the frontal offset crash.
The HR-V comes standard with six airbags (dual front and curtain) as well as electronic brake distribution, emergency brake assist and seat belt reminders on all seats.
The top-of-the-range model we tested also has autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, and automatic high beam.
All HR-V models come with the same 1.8 litre, four-cylinder petrol engine that generates 105kW and maximum torque of 172Nm.
It is matched to a seven-step CVT automatic transmission, with steering mounted paddle shifters and a sports mode, that delivers power to the front wheels.
This is not a combination that is going to excite driving enthusiasts, but what it does offer is a smooth and refined performance that will be more than adequate around the metropolitan area and on the highway.
It is responsive enough off the line to find gaps in the traffic and it has good acceleration once it is nearing peak torque.
The transmission moves smoothly through the steps and the electric steering is well weighted and responsive.
The wife’s take
Love, love this car. I am told by my resident car expert that it is classed as a small SUV, but it certainly doesn’t have a small feel about it. The cabin is roomy, and the storage in the boot is very generous. The full-size sun roof was a great feature that made the cabin seem even roomier.
My only negative about this car was the infotainment system. These days, you expect these systems to be intuitive. I didn’t find this one to fit that description.
I had to look up the manual to pair my iPhone, and to figure out the navigation system. These are only small problems and, if you owned the car, you would hopefully have them sorted pretty quickly. A really nice car to drive.
Buying a new HR-V might not make you the coolest dad on the block, but it ticks just about every box when it comes to selecting a vehicle that will best suit your young family.
The cabin is spacious, functional and comfortable and the “magic seats” offer flexibility very few competitors can match.
It is well appointed when it comes to safety features and technology and, while the performance is not class-leading, it is a very comfortable car to drive.
2.0 XLS 2WD
$32,000 (plus on-road costs)
The ASX is the oldest (it was launched way back in 2010) and one of the most popular small SUVs on the market. It offers pretty close to the same equipment, right down to the full-size sun roof, as the HR-V. Its cargo area is slightly smaller.
2.0 Akari 2WD
$35,490 (plus on-road costs)
The CX-3 is the top-selling model in the segment. It offers pretty much the same extensive list of features and safety technology as the Honda but has a smaller cabin and cargo area. Where the CX-3 excels is its street cred among young families.
Nissan Qashqai 2WD
$37,990 (plus on-road costs)
Another model that virtually straddles the small and medium SUV market offering interior space and luggage capacity comparable to bigger models. In terms of features it is the only one to offer adaptive cruise control and rear cross-traffic alert on its top-end model.
• Price: $34,340 (plus on-road costs)
• Warranty: five-years, unlimited kms
• Fuel Consumption: 6.9L/100km (official) 7.7L/100km (during test) Standard unleaded petrol
• Engine: 1.8-litre i-VTEC four-cylinder (105kW/172Nm)
• Transmission: Continuously Variable with seven steps.
• Visit HBF for a tailored insurance quote
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