When you want a Civic but you also need the practicality of an SUV
Having received more than 30,000 bookings since its launch in July, the all-new Honda HR-V is turning out to be a massive success story for Honda Malaysia, and out of the four variants offered, we were told that the most popular one is actually the version we're looking at here - the HR-V V VTEC Turbo variant which sits right below the range topping HR-V RS e:HEV hybrid.
So, in order to find out if its actually worth the hype, we put the HR-V V to the test recently where we drove it from Kuala Lumpur to the East Coast and back through a combination of highways, coastal roads, long sweeping corners, the tight twisties of Karak, and everything in between, and here's our verdict.
Priced at RM134,800 on the road without insurance, the HR-V V gets the same powertrain package as the new Civic, comprising a 1.5-litre VTEC Turbo engine and a CVT gearbox that produces 181 PS and 240 Nm of maximum torque.
While the entry level S variant comes with a naturally aspirated 1.5-litre DOHC i-VTEC engine which produces 121 PS and 145 Nm of torque, the electrified RS is powered by an Atkinson Cycle 1.5L DOHC i-VTEC engine that makes 107 PS and 131 Nm, and two electric motors that make 131 PS and 253 Nm of torque.
As for the transmission, the S, E, and V variants are all fitted with CVT-type gearbox, while the HR-V RS e:HEV gets a 2-motor Electric CVT.
If we are to compare the price of the V variant here with the other trims, the S, E, and the RS e:HEV variants are priced at RM114,800, RM129,800, and RM140,800 respectively.
Coming back to the V variant which we sampled, the list of standard features include automatic LED headlights with sequential signals, 18-inch wheels, leather seats, a leather steering wheel, leather gear knob, 8-way powered driver's seat, 8 speakers, Honda Connect, Honda LaneWatch, three driving modes (Normal, Sport, and Eco) as well as Variable Gear Ratio.
This is of course, on top of the LED front fog lamps, chrome tail pipe finish, the 7.0-inch TFT meter, the 8-inch display infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, rear air vents, two front USB ports and two rear USB type C ports, Honda Sensing, Agile Handling Assist, Hill Descent Control, Paddle Shifters, Remote Engine Start, as well as the Walk Away Auto Lock system.
The features that are exclusive to the flagship RS e:HEV variant which the V here doesn't get, are of course the hybrid powertrain, the RS Bodykit, RS Interior with red stitching, a Hands-free Power Tailgate, Sport Pedals, Dual Zone Air Cond, Automatic wipers, and Deceleration Paddle Selectors - all of which come at an additional RM6,000.
Even though the V variant here doesn't get the full list of bells and whistles, it still has its strengths. In fact, there are areas in which this variant outshines its higher-spec sibling, such as the driving department.
After driving both the HR-V V and the HR-V RS e:HEV, we feel that the V is more fun to drive. The straight-up no-nonsense VTEC Turbo engine and CVT gearbox combination delivers power so seamlessly that you just want to floor it every time the road opens up ahead.
The 181 PS and 240 Nm of torque produced by the engine felt more than adequate at all times, resulting in an engaging driving experience while we were driving in town, on the highway, while overtaking, and even while we were driving up Karak. Unlike many CVTs in the market, there was no rubber band effect or signs of struggling at all.
Complemented by a well-engineered chassis, impressive suspension setup and the features like the variable gear ratio and Agile Handling Assist, body roll was kept minimal, resulting in an SUV that handles very well without compromising the level of comfort one bit.
The V variant is also quieter and more relaxing to drive compared to the RS, in which the noise of the electric motor is clearly audible in the cabin during acceleration and whenever it goes past a certain speed.
There is also a generous dose of leather upholstery, making the V variant look and feel quite premium. Despite the lack of contrasting stitching, the interior of the HR-V V variant is still very visually appealing and nice to be in.
As far as the infotainment system is concerned, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both supported in the V variant, which is a big plus point. There are also two USB ports up front and two USB Type C ports at the rear. Storage space is also aplenty in the HR-V, with four cupholders in front and four at the rear.
So to recap, the HR-V V is arguably the most fun to drive, and also the quietest among the four variants due to the nature of the powertrain.
Also, it is RM6,000 cheaper than the RS variant, yet you get most of the important features except for a couple of things like dual zone air cond, automatic wipers, and the powered tailgate.
On the downside, the engaging drive comes at a cost. Since there is no electric motor to share the burdon, all the power comes solely from the engine, which translates to higher fuel consumption versus the RS e:HEV (duh!).
Also, the V spec here is a tad less practical than the RS as there is no dual-zone air conditioning and no powered tailgate, which means that you have to manually pull the boot lid down every time you close it.
Besides that, the V spec here also loses out to the RS in terms of looks.
While the RS gets a chromed front grille, a Honda logo with blue accent since it's a hybrid, red stitching in the interior, and RS emblems here and there, the V spec here gets a black grille, black stitching inside, and no special logos anywhere, making it look slightly simpler than the RS.
So, if good looks, fuel economy, and convenience are on top of your priority list, you may want to spend the extra RM6,000 and go for the RS.
You win some and lose some with the HR-V V VTEC Turbo here. There is no denying the fact that Honda has absolutely nailed with the design of the HR-V, so regardless of variant, you're still going to get your hands on a handsome SUV.
However, among the four variants, the V variant here is only second best, as the flagship RS variant is the champion in terms of looks, thanks to the chromed grille, the red accents, red stitching, and the other RS bits.
At the same time, the V variant here is actually the most fun variant to drive. It is so smooth, quiet, and powerful that it feels like you're in a vehicle that is powered by a 2.0-litre engine sometimes.
So, if you're wondering if the HR-V here is the right variant for you, it actually depends on what you want. If fuel efficiency and good looks are on top of your list of priorities, you may want to look at the other variants.
But if you're all about the joy of driving and don't mind spending slightly more money on fuel than the RS or the S variant, the V is definitely worth going for.