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In-depth reviews

Honda HR-V - Engines, drive & performance

With 129bhp, the HR-V can feel a bit underpowered at times

Carbuyer Rating

3.8 out of 5

Owners Rating
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Engines, drive & performance Rating

3.5 out of 5

The HR-V has clearly been designed to strike a middle ground between comfort, refinement and driving enjoyment. As you'd expect, this results in a small SUV that's not as fun to drive as the Ford Puma or as pliant over bumps as the Citroen C3 Aircross, but one that’s intended as a compromise between the two. You’ll find it very easy to live with.

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Particularly at low speeds, the HR-V is very quiet and refined, with good isolation from outside noises, although there’s a bit of road noise at higher speeds. The ride verges on being firm, which causes the car to fidget over a series of bumps, but the HR-V generally filters out the worst shocks and potholes.

There's just a small amount of body lean in corners, while grip is strong enough to make the HR-V feel safe and secure. We were also impressed with the brakes, which often feel inconsistent in hybrid models but proved firm and easy to modulate in the Honda.

Honda HR-V hybrid engines

The HR-V's hybrid powertrain isn't the easiest to understand unless you've studied engineering but essentially it consists of a 1.5-litre petrol engine and two electric motors, along with a small battery. This is ‘self-charging’, so the HR-V never needs plugging in, and the petrol engine essentially acts as a generator for the electric bits. At lower speeds and when pulling away, the HR-V usually feels like an electric car. Drive faster, say on the motorway, or accelerate hard to overtake slower traffic and the petrol engine will also kick in.

Refinement takes a bit of a dive when this happens because the eCVT automatic gearbox can send revs soaring and the petrol engine sounds rather coarse when worked hard. It's exacerbated by a shortage of punch because 129bhp doesn't prove to be very much in an SUV of this size and weight, particularly when attacking a steep hill. We found the best approach is to gently squeeze the accelerator, letting the car get up to speed more gradually and smoothly.

The steering is accurate and very responsive, making it easy to pull off quick manoeuvres and turns in the city without too much effort. Like many rivals, however, it’s light and lacks much feel communication about what's happening with the tyres on the road. A Ford Puma or Mazda CX-30 will appeal to keen drivers more, but the HR-V’s inoffensive driving experience will be pleasant for people who want a comfortable way to get around.

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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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