As you know, we recently covered the launch of Honda’s compact crossover, the 2018 Honda HR-V, in August. After only a month, we were able to get behind its wheel during a media drive, taking us south of the metro to experience driving one of Honda’s bestsellers. While most would dismiss it as a mere facelift, a few more touches of added refinement and features help keep the latest HR-V in the running for our list of top crossovers.
We set off from Bonifacio Global City, only a few days before a strong typhoon is scheduled to hit the Philippines. Luckily, it was sunny with spots of clouds in the sky. Our route would have us driving on the expressway, into some country roads, and then up towards Tagaytay; a good test for an eagerly awaited vehicle.
We were assigned the 2019 Honda HR-V in RS trim. This has all the goodies installed, including navigation via an aftermarket head unit, leather seats and trim, all LED lighting, and a blacked out body kit with new wheels. There’s new touches of hrome surrounding the aircon vents, and a new gear shifter, and more soft touch materials.
I drove during the first leg of the journey, tackling the city streets of BGC and C5 before the road opened up onto SLEX. Right away, I could easily adjust my driving position and get acquainted with the new interior bits. The steering wheel is leather wrapped with contrast white stitching, and it feels definitely meatier and weightier this time. The previous HR-V we tested felt too light when turning the wheel, making it tricky when precision driving is required.
The new design and tweaking went a long way into making the electronic power steering of the 2019 version much more direct and pointed. It’s a welcome change, and it felt good making tight corners at intersections, unraveling smoothly and predictably. Pulling up navigation also showed a pretty comprehensive and up to date map, and the infotainment system was easy to link up with our smartphones. It was a painless and pretty intuitive setup.
As we made our way to the expressway, the road imperfections on C5 were something we wanted to tackle with this model. While the chassis is the same, the changes done in sound suppression and suspension movement were evident, with cracks and little bumps in quick succession taken well by the 2019 HR-V. It felt definitely more composed and comfortable, even for rear passengers. Naturally, the ride was very smooth on the expressway, and lane changes felt great with the steering adjusting to the increase in speed.
The daytime running lights are now LED, and reminiscent of the City, Civic, and CR-V models in the lineup. They are extremely noticeable, and help keep other road users wary of our distance and lane position. In our stint from BGC to Carmona exit on SLEX, we were still able to get a combined figure of 14km/l, impressive from the same 141 hp and 172 Nm 1.8L engine with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) found in last year’s model.
Once we got onto surface streets teeming with motorcycles, tricycles, jeeps, and slow vehicles, the 2019 Honda HR-V was more than eager to perform overtakes. It takes some getting used to the way Honda’s CVT feels, as it needs a gradual and continuous push on the pedal, instead of flooring it, in order to get maximum response. Put it into Sport using the gear selector, and it’ll be much easier. There’s also the option on shifting manually using paddle shifters, and the gear changing is pretty sharp.
The roads tightened up significantly and got more technical as we made our way towards our first stop, a lunch at Casitas De Victoria. The 2019 HR-V demonstrated good road handling manners, even when pushed to the point of the tires complaining. The good steering feel came into play here, leading to direct control in corners, adjusting the line when needed. Body roll was also minimal, less than I was expecting for a tallish crossover.
Braking was also good, leaning towards progressive rather than sharp initial bite. Good for trail braking when driving quickly, and modulating during city driving and instances where you have to match speed. Slam on them, and they will stop with enough power, though. In any case, shifting through the gears manually and letting the engine run up the revs felt nice, despite this being marketed as a family car more than an aggressive sport crossover. There’s a solid feeling of control, and the 2019 HR-V felt rewarding to drive fast.
As the road conditions changed and the canopy got thicker, headlights needed to go on for added visibility. The LED lights are strikingly good, and they make the HR-V look more premium. The foglights are also similar to that of the CR-V; a thin strip of white light. This would go a long way during night driving, where optimum visibility is required.
We took an even tighter and more technical path up to Tagaytay through Talisay road, where mud and wet driving conditions created opportunities to choose our lines throughout the drive. I was in the backseat of the HR-V during this time, and the road imperfections were calmly transmitted to passengers. There’s a lot of legroom here, even for a six footer like me, allowing me to relax and enjoy the view.
Despite the fast pace of the convoy, the HR-Vs were more than willing to keep up with the lead Civics with turbocharged engines. Our brisk pace led us to our final stop, Escala Hotel in Tagaytay, where we would spend the night and rest up before heading down to Manila the next day. Oh, and we still averaged 12km/l with spirited driving.
So, what does the 2019 Honda HR-V bring to the table? The changes aren’t revolutionary or game changing in any way, but they do add value to a vehicle that has always been a good contender in its segment. When the HR-V was originally launched, it was already a handsome looking and well-performing car that was also very practical. What Honda has done was bring the RS trim to another model in its lineup, while adding worthwhile touches and upgrades throughout the entire range. The RS model even adds curtain airbags for added safety.
As it is now, the 2019 Honda HR-V starts at P1,295,000, and is good value for money in its category, and the driving feel and experience are totally worth every peso. Go up P200,000 and you get the RS variant, with all the added visual changes, lighting upgrades, and added airbags. That’s still an excellent deal, as the added safety measures and external kit add to the look and feature set of an already good car.
Honda has just solidified the HR-V in its segment for 2019, and while a full platform change may be years away, this is the best HR-V you can get right now, and one of the best new compact crossovers in the market that is worth your money and time.