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In-depth reviews

Honda HR-V review – an economical but flawed small SUV

"The Honda HR-V has evolved into a hybrid-only SUV with smooth styling but it's a shame boot space has shrunk"

Carbuyer Rating

3.8 out of 5

Owners Rating
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Pros

  • Easy to live with
  • Cheap to run
  • Infotainment

Cons

  • Small boot
  • Sluggish
  • Coarse petrol engine

Verdict – is the Honda HR-V a good car?

The Honda HR-V is very easy to live with and cheap to run – two vital features that are important for a capable family car. Honda’s infotainment system is also a high point, with a crisp, colourful display. A key problem is the HR-V’s boot, though, which isn't on a par with small SUVs such as the Hyundai Kona – another important consideration for families. Not helping matters is the Honda’s sluggish engine, which is fairly loud and unrefined at speed.

Honda HR-V models, specs and alternatives

The Honda HR-V is a small SUV that’s come in for big changes for this latest generation, both in terms of how it looks and how it drives. A full hybrid setup is now the only choice, just as with the smaller Honda Jazz, making the HR-V a clean and easy-to-drive option.

Best small SUVsTop 10 best small SUVs 2024

It goes head-to-head with hybrids like the Hyundai Kona, Toyota C-HR and Renault Captur E-Tech Hybrid, while the Ford Puma, Nissan Juke and Skoda Kamiq are rivals with more traditional engine options. It's a busy, trendy part of the market, with virtually every manufacturer offering a strong contender as a result, but starting from just under £31,000, the HR-V has its work cut out to impress buyers enough to spring for it. That said, there are often very competitive finance deals offered by Honda including generous deposit contributions that make getting into the driver’s seat a lot more doable.

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The HR-V’s exterior styling ticks the right boxes, with sturdy looks and a coupe-SUV roofline to help set the car apart. It also takes Honda in a new direction, with cleaner shapes and softer angles than the outgoing Honda Civic. An upright, slotted grille and flat bonnet helps give the HR-V the tough looks many buyers want. We think it looks smarter than the previous-generation HR-V, even if you could argue the looks are conservative.

The interior is fairly minimalist but Honda has retained physical controls for the air-conditioning, which is positive, as it makes the system easier to use on the move. The nine-inch infotainment setup is also a big improvement over the old HR-V's system, with more attractive looks and improved connectivity, including Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay

Storing the hybrid battery pack under the boot has ensured tall occupants can get comfortable inside but this approach has also eaten into boot space. Measuring just 319 litres behind the back seats, room in the boot is disappointing and is easily beaten by that in the Nissan Juke. In fact, nearly all its rivals have bigger load spaces. At least Honda's ‘Magic Seats’ mean the middle of the car offers some flexible storage space.

Being a hybrid not only affects practicality, but also the price, which has risen. It’s still possible to buy a car of this size for under £20,000, but the HR-V starts on the wrong side of £25,000, and ultimately our UK drive has revealed that it doesn’t stand out in enough areas to feel like good value.

The e:HEV hybrid system is shared with the Honda Jazz, albeit it has a bigger battery in the HR-V. The system uses a 1.5-litre petrol engine and two electric motors, giving 129bhp and up to 52.3mpg. Acceleration from 0-62mph takes 10.6 seconds and in some situations the HR-V can feel underpowered but it's efficient and at its best around town. Here, its neat handling is also perfectly adequate, without matching the Puma. 

We're fans of Honda's new exterior and interior design, with much-improved infotainment and cleaner lines. Build quality is a high point and the hybrid powertrain is likely to prove cost-effective to run. It doesn't feel quite as well suited to the bigger HR-V though, performing better in the Jazz, and the small boot is off-putting.  

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Charlie writes and edits news, review and advice articles for Carbuyer, as well as publishing content to its social media platforms. He has also been a regular contributor to its sister titles Auto Express, DrivingElectric and evo. As well as being consumed by everything automotive, Charlie is a speaker of five languages and once lived in Chile, Siberia and the Czech Republic, returning to the UK to write about his life-long passion: cars.

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