Honda HR-V (e:HEV) review: Halfway house - MrLiambi's blog


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Thursday, 27 January 2022

Honda HR-V (e:HEV) review: Halfway house

Say hello to the third-generation Honda HR-V. So what's so special about this baby crossover SUV? Well, it's now called the e:HEV, meaning it's got a proper hybrid powertrain.

That means, without the faff of ever plugging it in to charge, you'll get the benefits of an electric motor powering the vehicle along - well, some of the time. That's unusual in a car at this end of the market, helping smoothness on the one hand, but efficiency on the other.

But does that make the Honda HR-V e:HEV feel as advanced as its truly modern looks suggest, or is it more halfway house between combustion and all-electric without the true all-in benefits of either here?


It was back in 2016 when we reviewed the second-generation HR-V, and what a difference the five-or-so years since has meant for the third-generation model. The HR-V in 2022 just looks so much more modern and considered, a real contemporary Japanese vision of a modern crossover SUV. It's only really from a side view that there's much similarity to the old model.

collection: Honda HR-V details

It's really this visual flair that will help set the HR-V apart from many of its similar-priced competitors - Toyota Yaris Cross as a hybrid rival springing straight to mind; the Mazda MX-30 having some appeal as a short-distance all-electric runner - with its horizontal grille lines cutting through the front, framing those squinted headlights; while the rear echoes the horizontal theme, with a full-length lightbar looking the part.

Little details further the contemporary look: the rear doorhandles are tucked from view, for example, opening higher up the body frame from the rear window intersection, unlike the more traditional handles on the front pair of doors; the way the headlights are sunken into the body to add extra pop too; while the eye-catching five-spoke alloy wheels that our review car is riding upon help its good-looking appeal.


Open the driver door and it's a medley of relative modernity inside too. Not to the luxury extent of, say, an Audi, but maintain your expectations at this price point and we feel Honda's struck a fair balance.

Key points are that the seats are comfortable, there's ample room both front and rear - an insignificant sounding 4cm of knee room has been added to the rear seats for this generation, but this makes all the difference - and the boot offers 316-litres of space (which isn't exactly massive by any means).

collection: Honda HR-V interior

The gearstick is a fairly conventional style for an automatic car, using up a fair wedge of space, but it's easy to use and there's a drive mode adjustment toggle nearby too.

That's a clue as to Honda's take on the HR-V's interior's more classic hands-on approach with its finish, utilising physical buttons and dials rather than going ultra-modern with touch panels everywhere. We're just fine with that as hitting the heated seat button or twisting the aircon dial brings rapid results - none of the endless digging you have to do in certain other modern cars (such as the VW ID3).


There's a 9-inch display mounted on the dash too, bringing the HR-V's infotainment system into a far more up-to-date state than Honda's outgoing system too. That's a sigh of relief, as Honda has been really quite behind in this department in the not too distant past.

collection: Honda HR-V tech

As we said above, the ability to make quick adjustments with buttons and dials is welcome, but this 9-inch panel is touchscreen and feels intuitive to tap and select your desired area. Whether navigation, music via tuner/Bluetooth, or apps via a smartphone connection - it's all here.

We used Android Auto much of the time, plugging into one of the pair of USB ports below the dash, as there's no wireless version available - which is a bit of a shame. Still, having the ability to plug your phone in (Apple CarPlay is also available) makes using all your favourites a breeze.


So the third-gen HR-V is clearly a step-up in many regards compared to its predecessor. The same can be said of its drive style, too, albeit that has to be taken with a pinch of salt really. The e:HEV's use of a hybrid powertrain brings both benefits and downfalls.

Under the hood the HR-V e:HEV has a 1.5-litre petrol engine, which most of the time acts as a generator for the battery, which then powers the motor. Hence it being a true hybrid powertrain.

That has some big benefits to efficiency: we've been easily achieving approximately 50mpg in mixed conditions driving without even trying. The electric motor also means smooth acceleration from standing and that can really help the car feel that bit more futuristic and well thought-out.

However, in this setup, which delivers just 106bph of power, it quickly finds its limits: the HR-V e:HEV isn't fast, if you push it too hard it'll bypass the electric motor, handing over to the engine, which is whiney, overstretched, a bit like a lactic acid explosion where you're still trying to go all-out.

And this is the point where the HR-V e:HEV leaves us feeling a little perplexed. Successful as it can be for city driving, get to a motorway sliproad and it'll be a bit of a struggle to ramp up to speed, much like driving a 1-litre Ford Fiesta. That engine gets all shouty and bombastic, which is just irksome - especially as it's so at odds with the initial calm.

Given its a £26,000 car at the entry point in the UK, the HR-V is knocking on the door of similar hybrid rivals that seem more attuned - the Toyota Yaris Cross - and all-electric options - the Mazda MX-30 - the latter format which will never have that 'handover' or noise issue (except, in the HR-V's defence, won't get nearly as far on a single 'tank').

collection: Honda HR-V drive modes

There are drive modes available - Normal, Eco, Sport - but there's really not a great deal of difference between them. It's just not that kind of car, really, which we're totally fine with, but more of the calm and less of the ear-thrashing please.

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