What is it?
The Honda HR-V is the car with which the Japanese manufacturer wants to take advantage of Europe's lucrative crossover market.
While the HR-V's exterior dimensions place it in roughly the same league as the Nissan Juke and Skoda Yeti, Honda has made it clear that it intends to steal customers from the segment above, and namely from the likes of the Nissan Qashqai and Renault Kadjar.
On paper at least, the HR-V makes a good case. Take, for example, its boot capacity, which soundly trumps that of the Qashqai in terms of seats-up space, with 470 litres versus the Nissan’s 430 litres. The Renault Kadjar only slightly beats the HR-V here, offering 472 litres of storage space with its rear seats in place.
The HR-V will arrive in the UK this September with the choice of two engines: a 128bhp 1.5-litre i-VTEC petrol and a 118bhp 1.6-litre i-DTEC turbodiesel. Both come with a six-speed manual transmission, while a CVT is offered as an option with the petrol engine.
Honda claims the diesel variant can return up to 70.6mpg combined, with CO2 emissions of 104g/km. In manual form, the petrol model is capable of returning up to 49.6mpg, with CO2 emissions of 134g/km. When equipped with the CVT these improve to 52.3mpg and 125g/km.
There are four trim levels offered in the UK: S, SE, SE Navi and EX. As standard, entry-level S specification comes with electric windows and mirrors, DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity, climate control, cruise control, automatic headlights and 16in alloy wheels.
SE trim gains front and rear parking sensors, automatic wipers, dual-zone climate control, a six-speaker audio system upgrade and Honda's 7.0in touchscreen Connect infotainment system. SE Navi adds the firm's satellite navigation system.
Range-topping EX trim further adds full leather interior, keyless entry and start, a panoramic sunroof, heated seats and 17in alloy wheels.
What's it like?
Not particularly refined in this diesel guise. The engine grumbles away under load and sends quite a bit of vibration through the steering column and pedals. Even so, it's not a bad performer, pulling hard if not over as wide a band you might hope for. The short, snappy gear lever is much more welcome.
Few small SUVs are truly fun to drive, and the HR-V also fails to excite. Its steering is light, which is good for town driving, but it never weights up to inspire much confidence in fast corners. There's also more body roll than you'll find in the generally more wieldy Skoda Yeti and Nissan Qashqai.
Honda has opted for a relatively soft suspension set-up, so you get quite a bit of head toss as the body pitches around under braking or pronounced undulations. For all that, the HR-V still struggles to remain settled over broken surfaces. At least the initial bump absorption is less abrupt at motorway speeds.
Inside, this EX HR-V feels premium in the right places, with only a few out-of-reach surfaces still covered in hard plastics. Its 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system is incorporated well into the centre console, and with its control surfaces angled towards the driver, it has a cockpit-like feeling inside.
The HR-V's front seats are comfortable and supportive for long journeys, but while the car's second row of seats will be fine for short journeys, taller adults will find that the EX's tight head room - due to its panoramic sunroof - will become tiresome on longer trips.
The driving position is well judged, though, sitting roughly halfway between the upright style of most crossovers and the lower-set position of a traditional hatchback. Honda's clever and flexible Magic Seats system works as well as ever, allowing the HR-V to accommodate a wide variety of loads with ease. Its relatively low boot lip also means loading objects is easy.
Should I buy one?
Not in this range-topping EX Navi trim, no. It just doesn't make sense when compared with cheaper, more rounded rivals such as the Nissan Qashqai and Skoda Yeti. If you can live with its cheaper-feeling cabin, a Suzuki Vitara is available for thousands less, too.
We'd happily recommend this diesel version over the petrol HR-V, though, and sticking with SE trim would get you a well-equipped HR-V that offers decent performance, emissions and economy at a far more agreeable price.
In short, the HR-V should be on your shopping list, but be aware that there are small SUVs that are more generously proportioned, offer a better driving experience and are potentially cheaper to finance no matter how you end up paying.
Honda HR-V 1.6 i-DTEC EX Navi
Location Surrey; On sale September; Price £24,945; Engine 4 cyls, 1597cc, turodiesel; Power 118bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 221lb ft at 2000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1324kg; Top speed 119mph; 0-62mph 10.0sec; Economy 74.3mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 104g/km, 18%