Honda know how to do a small sport utility vehicle–they invented the class.

The arrival of more and more small sport utility vehicles will be one of the strongest motoring trends in Australia this year. High-riding little city wagons from numerous makers will be pouring on to our streets—if not the beaches and bush tracks.

It might be said Honda invented the class 15 years ago with its likeable HR-V, sold here between 1999 and 2001. It had a small engine, small dimensions and heaps of practicality.

A new HR-V finally is here, but this time the showrooms are already crowded with alternatives from Holden, Ford, Nissan, Renault, Mitsubishi, Jeep and several other makes. A baby Mazda is coming soon, too.

The new Honda looks much more grownup than the original and packs a heap of safety and comfort features.

Where it fits

Billed as a true five-seater with exceptional versatility for carrying passengers or cargo, the HR-V should suit young families, or couples at both ends of the age spectrum. Honda_HRV_VTi-L_14

Honda says it wants drivers to feel “young and sophisticated” in the HR-V, knowing that less subjectively they will also want something easy to drive, frugal, clean and inexpensive.

The three-model HR-V range is priced from $24,990 plus on-roads, making this practical and pretty runabout accessible to a wide market. It will be judged on value for money, features, looks and driveability.These have been familiar Honda virtues since the original Civic, though they are no longer exclusive to the make once regarded as Japan’s answer to BMW because of its innovative and high-quality engineering.

What it offers

All HR-V variants come with a 1.8 litre petrol engine, constantly variable (CVT) auto transmission and, this time, only front-wheel drive.

All the usual comfort, convenience and safety features are included. There are some welcome extras such as a wide-angle reversing camera, large in-dash touch screen, steering wheel operation of Apple’s Siri voice-command system if you have an iPhone and Honda’s innovative ‘Magic Seats’ system.

Magic Seats offer 18 ways to fold the seats and configure passenger or cargo accommodation.

First introduced in the Honda Jazz, it allows anything from a bed for two to a bicycle or a spot where a tall potted plant will stand upright on the trip home from the nursery.

The VTi-S and VTi-L add key-less starting, automatic light and wiper operation, day-time running lights, blind-spot monitoring and automatic city emergency braking.

The VTi-L also gets extra interior spec such as leather upholstery and remote-key window operation. Its optional ADAS (Advanced Driver Assist System) comprises automatic headlight dipping, frontal collision warning and lane-departure warning.

On the road

With plenty of weight-saving technology for a kerb mass of just 1328 kilograms in the VTi, plus electrically-assisted power steering, the HR-V promises to be typically light and nimble on its feet. A low centre-of-gravity relative to the overall height will make the Honda handy in the corners.

Engine output is around standard for this vehicle class, but performance will be determined by overall weight and the efficiency of the CVT transmission.

Honda_HRV_VTi-L_ADAS_79The CVT—operated ‘manually’ by paddle shifters in the VTi-L, if the driver prefers—undoubtedly aids the average petrol consumption of 6.6-6.9 litres per 100 kilometres.

Brake-holders aren’t unusual any more, but unlike most which release after a few seconds, the HR-V’s keeps the car still for up to 10 minutes without having to use the brake pedal. After then, it automatically applies the electric parking brake.

The HR-V looks sharply designed and loaded with value. Drivers who like Honda’s trademark style of light and lively cars with good forward vision and quality finish will welcome this new arrival.

SPECIFICATIONS

PRICES: VTi $24,990; VTi-S $27,990; VTi-L $32,990; VTi-L ADAS $33,990; plus on-road costs.
ENGINE: Petrol 4-cyl 1.8 litre, 105 kW, 172 Nm.
TRANSMISSION: CVT automatic, front-drive.
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 6.6-6.9 litres per 100 kms average; tank 50 litres.
WHEELS/TYRES: Alloy 215/60/16-215/55/17
DIMENSIONS: Length 4294 mm; width 1772 mm; height 1605 mm; wheelbase 2610 mm; weight 1328-1366 kg; tow capacity 500 kg unbraked trailer, 800 kg braked.