The Honda HR-V presents a very interesting proposition: a subcompact crossover with a small displacement engine yet spacious enough for five passengers (and still has enough cargo room). You get fancier amenities in the cabin compared to other entry-level SUVs and it sports a stylish exterior that clearly mimics that of its statelier sibling, the CR-V.
Price starts at a little under P1.3-million, but this top-of-the-line RS Navi is P200K more expensive. For starters, it justifies that with good looks. The RS unit comes exclusively in this Phoenix Orange color highlighted by a black honeycomb grille right below that thick, shiny chrome strip that bears the company logo. It has very nice proportions from the hood to the hatch, nothing too large/small or out of place, and nothing too fancy either. Aside from having LED tech, the headlamps, daytime running lamps, fog lamps and tail lamps appear plain and rather straightforward. It does pull off a sporty image with its low profile courtesy of that sloping roof line as it sits on beautiful five-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels.
Access to the cabin is via a hands-free keyfob; just reach out to the handles to open and press on the button (found on the handle also) to lock. For the rear passengers, the rear door handles are found right by the C-pillars.
The interior’s theme is mostly dark glossy, with black leather on the seats, shift knob, steering wheel and on some panels by the doors while the shiny stuff comes from accents on the center tunnel and all the equipment in the middle of the dashboard.
The instrumentation panel comes with three dials, the rev meter on the left, speedometer in the middle and the right-most is the vehicle’s multi-information display showing the trip computer, range, elapsed time, average speed and various other data.
Its crown jewel though, just like the Jazz, is that gorgeous seven-inch touchscreen display with navigation, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. Even though Honda uses a third-party unit (Kenwood) this time, it still works seamlessly, albeit a tiny wee bit of a delay compared to the snappy proprietary system of the previous model. They’d also do better fixing the USB ports in place instead of having them hang around on a wire just right beside the glove box. It just doesn’t fit the refined look of the cabin. Right beneath it is a segment-exclusive shiny panel below it that controls the air-conditioning system.
As it is based on the Jazz, and latter boasting of class-leading legroom, it wasn’t a surprise that the cabin was roomy enough for five. Even the size of the front seats felt just right, snug but not small and tight.
The 1.8L engine is fired up via the Start/Stop button and delivers 140 horsepower and 172 Nm of torque via Honda’s Earth Dreams Technology Continuous Variable Transmission (CVT).
Three modes control the engine’s performance, Econ (when the Econ button is turned On), Normal (when turned off) and Sport (when selected via the gear shifter). Econ is as it states; fuel efficient but lacks the spirited drive you’d want on an open highway. Response is retarded and so is the feel to spread out power more evenly for higher mileage and reduced consumption. The difference isn’t as stark on Normal and Sport but I did get much quicker throttle response and higher agility on Sport at the expense of fuel efficiency. And it was easy to tell because on that mode, I could hear and see that the revs were kept at 2k and above. Fuel consumption in the city was 9.5 kilometers per liter but hits a high of 15 on the highway. It takes a while for it to hit 100 km/h on the highway because of the small displacement engine but can stay there without taxing the engine too much because the CVT keeps it at its best rev range regardless of speed.
Despite its low profile, it doesn’t have high rollover resistance, especially when laden, so I had to take it down a notch around corners at high speeds. Comfort is good as far as suspension and shock/noise dampening is concerned but the 17-inch wheels do let some of the road imperfections through on certain occasions.
At P1.495 million, it isn’t exactly entry-level cheap but you do save a couple of hundred pesos compared to getting a CR-V if all you need is a chic-looking SUV for going to the office.
It has high ground clearance, the kind of tech a millennial would appreciate, and spacious enough for friends or family. The engine is small but it would do if you want to keep money in your pocket instead of out the tailpipe. If you’re on a budget but you won’t skimp on the qualities above, put the 2019 Honda HR-V RS Navi on your entry-level SUV list.
Text and photos by Eric Tipan