I’ve had a busy month with my ‘Hormone Replacement Vehicle’, and it’s taken some very varied driving for me to finally start to ‘get’ it. I’m lucky enough to rarely do many urban miles, and because I can avoid rush hour at either end of the day, it’s unusual for me to spend hours in traffic jams (thanks TomTom!). As a result, I can pile on the miles in pretty short order, as I pound the motorways all over the UK. It’s because of this that I was apprehensive about taking on a hybrid, because I suspected that my journeys were unlikely to get the best out of the Honda. Sure enough, it’s not proving to be very frugal, but more about that in my next report.
The HR-V has a naturally aspirated 1.5-litre petrol engine, and with just 106lb ft of torque (from 6,000rpm), it’s the antithesis of my beloved diesel engines. An electric motor adds to the engine’s muscle with an extra 187lb ft, but the 1.1kWh battery pack is soon depleted, leaving the engine to do all of the work. As a result, you have to use the revs to make progress, and the continuously variable transmission works just as you’d expect, changing right down at the slightest prod of the throttle. It’s just as well there’s no rev counter, or I’d be wincing on every drive…
Arrive at a steepish hill and the engine will rev all the way up, sounding unrefined and guzzling fuel; that hybrid powertrain sounds great in principle, but it’s not ideal for every journey. One thing that makes quite a difference to how it drives is selecting the appropriate driving mode, because each of the three offers something different. While Eco seems to provide the worst of everything an enthusiastic driver desires, Normal improves the steering weighting and the throttle response noticeably, while Sport just makes the engine rev even more.
So far so bad, but recently I’ve been doing more urban driving than usual, including a few days in London where 20mph speed limits and traffic lights are everywhere. I must have averaged about 6mph over those few days and the HR-V was in its element. While an SUV is arguably not the best car for city driving, the Honda’s compact dimensions, elevated driving position and automatic transmission actually make it a very attractive proposition. Add in a comfortable ride and decently weighted steering (if Eco mode is avoided), along with strong brakes that aren’t over-servoed and which don’t annoy with over-enthusiastic regenerative technology, and on the right journey, the HR-V could make an ideal companion. The key – as with any hybrid – is to ensure city and extra-urban roads are a major part of the mix, with less in the way of motorway driving.