Age is just a number – a statement usually heard from titos and titas of Manila. Apparently, this holds true even for cars, particularly with the Honda HR-V. This nameplate was launched in the Philippines last 2015, with its sights pointed at the then-rising subcompact crossover segment.
Now, what’s the point of reviewing a three-year-old car? Well, if it’s still better than its newer competitors, it deserves a good hard look. But is the HR-V really better than the likes of Mazda CX-3, Chevrolet Trax, or the Subaru XV a.k.a. the pricier hatchbacks on stilts? We got our hands on the range-topping EL variant, dressed-up in Mugen aesthetic upgrades.
We’re pretty sure you’re familiar with how the HR-V looks. Even with its dated exterior design, it’s still quite appealing and frankly, better-looking than many, if not all, of its rivals. Whether at the mall parking or on busy city streets, especially with this media unit’s Morpho Blue Pearl color, it can turn heads of unsuspecting bystanders.
The HR-V may be considered older than other crossovers, but it’s no push-over with its exterior toys. Aside from its overall SUV-like form, it’s showered with nice-looking, bright LEDs from the front up to the rear, with daytime running lights underlining the dual-projector headlamps. And the hidden rear door handles by the C-pillars? Still a great touch.
Although, admittedly, the Mugen upgrades are polarizing. The front sport grille covering the Honda badge is interesting, but not the best out there. The mandala-looking 18-inch rims aren’t really great, but I’d prefer those than the non-Mugen’s plain 17-inch thick-spoked wheels.
Nevertheless, the other Mugen aesthetic additives like front, side, and rear under spoilers, as well as the lower wing spoilers and ventilated visors complement the crossover’s already handsome, sporty aura.
With its Mugen kits, this HR-V is like an overly-accessorized basketball player; will look a whole lot better by losing a wrist band and maybe the neon-colored shoe laces, too.
While most overly-accessorized ballers don’t perform well on the court, the HR-V begs to differ as it drives better than it looks. High-speed runs are easily attainable, and can go head-to-head with those bigger SUVs. In slower paces, it can go smoothly with the needed pull always available whenever needed. Even from stand still, the car is quick to react with abrupt accelerator input. Although flooring can still result to a bit of throttle rattling, but that’s normal with CVTs. Still, Honda’s Earth Dreams CVT is commendable. Plus, disc brakes on all four wheels bite like there’s no tomorrow.
Forward driving visibility is unimpeded but the rear end has a bit of a blind spot when backing up; you can blame that on the vehicle’s design that minimized the size of the rear windows and windshield. Thankfully, there’s rear parking cameras with wide angle view to assist you, as well as four proximity sensors, albeit, it could use at least two or four more eyelets for better sensitivity.
The 1.8L SOHC i-VTEC gasoline engine isn’t much of a drinker, registering a notable fuel consumption of 8.4 km/L on heavy traffic. Faster paces at 60 km/h read 13.1 km/L, while expressway stints with the cruise control nailed at 90 km/h registered 17.1 km/L.
These numbers can be improved a bit by engaging the green ECON button, but be prepared for less engine output.
For handling, the electric power steering is surprisingly heavy. This is something you would like on fast drives on the expressway, but would really be a workout on mountain twisties and tight city maneuvers. Good thing, it’s almost always on point and only a few times you’ll feel any understeer. It’s easy to find yourself having fun with the car’s agility.
As the HR-V doesn't pretend that it’s an off-roader, the suspension is a bit firm but still on the fence of being comfortable. Yes, it can absorb road imperfections but are obviously felt inside the cabin. It behaves like a low, sporty hatchback. Upside is, body roll is minimal for all occupants even with the 185mm ground clearance, and noise insulation is well-covered.
Speaking of occupants, all five people on-board are presented with leather upholstery and dashboard trims, with only a few splashes of soft and hard plastics. The age in this three-year-old media unit shows, like the analog dials, plain monochrome multi-information display, and some scratches on the surfaces, but overall, the cabin still looks great despite the wear and tear.
For this Mugen variant, the front cabin speakers are outlined by a blue ambient lighting, which is a great look at night. The black-on-black leather theme of the interior is well-complemented by stitches, while the perforated leather seats are soft, but surely dirt-magnets.
Overall ergonomics at the front cabin is well thought out by the HR-V’s designers. All the controls for the door locks, windows, and other vehicle settings are of arms’ reach, while steering wheel controls are placed at the right spots. I specifically like the buttons for hands-free calls at the bottom left of the three-spoke steering wheel. They don’t make the wheel look cluttered.
I wish I could speak of the same ergonomics for the seven-inch infotainment system and automatic climate control. While soft-touch design make the dashboard seamless, it’s hard to adjust things while you’re driving. So, better set everything first before rolling. Fortunately, wires and cables won't be your problem as the HDMI and USB ports are hidden under the center console, just like in the 2018 Honda Civic. The 12V socket, on the other hand, is inside the console box.
There’s nothing much to report at the back, except for the foldable center armrest. There’s no air vents nor cup holders; only two bottle holders by the doors. This is something that Honda can improve on in the future.
As with other subcompact crossovers, the HR-V has limited rear passenger space. The sloping roofline makes the head-room lower, while the overall 2,610-mm wheelbase (8.5 feet) gives just enough legroom for people standing 5’7" and below. Beyond that, someone has to adjust. For cargo space, the HR-V is just like the Jazz that has versatile seating configuration; you can maximize it up to 1,665L at the expense of a handful of passengers.
With several years of existing in the market, we understand why Honda Cars Philippines, Inc. (HCPI) isn’t giving the HR-V a definitive update – it's still an attractive vehicle for younger generations of car-buyers, the ones who are looking for a good-looking car that’s not short of high-tech features. But we won’t lie, it definitely needs some refresh. And we can’t be more excited about its arrival.
The HR-V EL Mugen variant sells at P1,634,000, while dropping the Mugen kits will cut the price to P1,480,000. Admittedly, this is a bit hefty when compared to the rest of subcompact crossovers out there. But, with a good-looking car that drives well, relatively comfortable, and armed with high-tech features, that’s a price you can compromise for.