Frankly, neither the bar nor expectation is set particularly high here. The platform-donating Jazz is a respectable supermini, but no one could accuse it of being compelling to drive – a sentiment that could be just as easily levelled at the entire small crossover segment, given its failure to produce a stand-out driver’s car.

The HR-V, sadly, doesn’t alter that deficiency but, from an admittedly low standpoint, performs rather well. Ease of use is understandably Honda’s primary concern and, backed by the willing diesel motor, the car is not difficult to rub along with. 

Ride is on the firm side, but the HR-V handles capably

The steering is reasonably light and amenable but comes with quite a slow rack, similar to that of the Jazz. Manoeuvrability is fine, though, as is forward visibility. There’s a hint of underlying firmness to the ride and a fair bit of suspension noise, but you won’t be paying the road surface undue attention unless you hit a pothole or similar intrusion. 

Certainly, the HR-V feels lighter and easier to manage than its bigger sibling, the CR-V, yet there is something quintessentially Honda about the experience, too – a rugged roundedness that wells up from the build quality and arguably makes its supermini underpinnings easier to forget than they are in, say, a 2008.

Still, there’s agility enough if you go looking for it. Despite having to sometimes labour at the wheel and its lacklustre rate of response, the HR-V offers plenty of grip and isn’t adverse to pressing on. Beyond-limit driving could hardly have been at the forefront of Honda’s thinking with this car but, as a testament to the engineers’ thoroughness, the HR-V is largely untroubled outside its comfort zone. 

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The engine is perched on the front axle and there’s plenty of suspension travel to get through, so understeer is inevitably the default response to a loss of traction. However, the chassis possesses the same balance that was plumbed deep into the Jazz’s staid handling. Thus, with the right frame of mind and a big lift, the HR-V will turn lateral momentum into a gentle tightening of its line. 

Alternatively, leave your foot in and it turns in keenly enough, the lean easily felt but not to the point where it adversely affects transit around the apex. Indeed, the grip levels are determined enough for the car to lean onto its front wheels and lever the outside rear tyre from the ground. If only the steering were as keen. This all helps distinguish it from the Jazz, a supermini famously indignant at being asked to challenge the national limit.

The body control, while naturally inclined to permit some lean, is well managed and the chassis is keen enough to cock an unlikely rear wheel during spirited cornering. To describe it as fun would be a little generous but, nevertheless, it’s quietly satisfying to know that the well-built, robust aptitude common to both the Jazz and CR-V is underwritten here by at least a small dollop of sprightliness.