Predictably, the new HR-V has far more in common with the current Honda line-up than with its now-distant predecessor. That model was an unapologetic matchbox of right angles.

The latest version, in keeping with the segment’s soft-edge vogue, doesn’t try too hard to be noticed. Its styling influences aren’t hard to pick out. From the regrettably labelled ‘solid wing face’ front end (actually an apt description) to the C-pillar-assigned door handles, the HR-V is unmistakably Honda: neat, subdued, compact in appearance and unassuming to a fault. 

Matt Prior

Matt Prior

Road test editor
Both engine options are mounted transversely and drive the front wheels

Possibly that contributes to its aerodynamic performance, which Honda claims is class-leading (while declining to quantify it), thanks to panels fitted under the floor to optimise the airflow.

The floor itself is clearly raised in comparison with the Jazz’s (the driver’s eye line is higher by about 100mm), although the modifications don’t drastically alter the car’s architecture. 

The front MacPherson struts and rear torsion beam remain, as does the unconventional positioning of the fuel tank under the front seats, enabling the HR-V, like the Jazz, to benefit from Honda’s popular Magic Seat system, a feature we’ll come to in a moment. 

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Engine choice could hardly be simpler. There’s a 128bhp 1.5-litre i-VTEC petrol unit and the 118bhp 1.6-litre i-DTEC diesel driven here. Both are four-cylinder units and form part of Honda’s Earth Dreams series – an umbrella term for the manufacturer’s continuing efforts to wring more efficiency from its established VTEC technology. 

The petrol motor represents a power upgrade from the maximum output of smaller derivatives currently used in the Jazz, although its modest 114lb ft of torque – delivered at 4600rpm – remains behind the equivalent turbocharged engines found in many of its rivals.

Nevertheless, only the petrol HR-V can be had with a continuously variable transmission, and it’s a measure of the CVT’s popularity among Honda’s European buyers that the firm has invested in a rewrite of the control software to replace the bandy, single-ratio monotony with seven simulated gears. 

The diesel makes do with the six-speed manual gearbox, although this has also been improved, the engineers claiming a smoother shift motion as a result of optimising the layout and shaft.

The 1.6-litre engine is another European exclusive, albeit one familiar from elsewhere in the range. Its common-rail injection, compact turbocharger, all-aluminium block and lightweight crankshaft have proved efficient in other applications – although the HR-V’s kerb weight of 1404kg (measured with a full tank of fuel) does make it somewhat heavy when measured against rivals such as the Mazda CX-3 and Renault Captur.

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