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Family-centric crossover gets an avant-garde makeover – and goes hybrid-only

You may have noticed Honda beginning to exit the design doldrums, at least so far as its mainstream cars are concerned.

In the electric Honda E, it has created perhaps the most distinctive-looking city car since the original Smart, and even the new Honda Jazz possesses an authentic kei-car charm that the old version utterly lacked. These cars, although of considerably lowlier petrolhead status, today sit more comfortably in the showroom alongside the instantly recognisable personalities of Honda’s sports cars – the Honda NSX and the Civic Type R.

The most recent model to receive its makeover is the Honda HR-V, the hitherto anonymous crossover that’s nevertheless something of an engine room for Honda in terms of global sales volumes. This car lives in the same class as the likes of the Renault Captur, Peugeot 2008 and Hyundai Kona, although its main rivals are the Nissan Qashqai and Volkswagen T-Roc. It’s an overpopulated class, with no shortage of competition for the HR-V, which is why Honda has pulled out quite a few stops for its coupé-mimicking crossover.

Other than the surprisingly sleek design, which we’ll come onto in a moment, the third-generation HR-V is now hybrid only, as denoted by the ‘e:HEV’ element of its name. It drives like an EV at town speeds but uses its engine alone on the motorway to maximise efficiency and it blends the two on routes that fall somewhere in the middle. It follows the hybrid-only Jazz in this sense, and the HR-V is perhaps Honda’s most important step to date on its path to electrifying all of its European mainstream models by 2022.

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Honda isn’t just targeting a fresh aesthetic and exceptional efficiency with this car, either. It also claims this car has class-leading packaging and cabin comfort, and as if all that wasn’t ambitious enough, the HR-V has also been “engineered for the joy of driving”. Just how much of that rings true? Let’s find out.

The Honda HR-V line-up at a glance

The old Honda HR-V (2015-2020) was available with either a 1.5-litre petrol or a 1.6-litre diesel, although neither has been carried over to the new model, which is offered with Honda’s new hybrid powertrain only.

There are, however, three trim levels, rising from Elegance to Advance to Advance Style. All models come with Honda’s ‘Magic Seats’ – the highly adaptable folding rear bench – and parking sensors, but only on the higher two trims do you find LED lights, a powered tailgate, wireless phone charging and the premium audio system.


Honda HR-V First drives