Honda HR-V e:HEV L is a stylish hybrid SUV let down by a four-star ANCAP safety rating

The Morning Mails

Honda HR-V e:HEV L is a stylish hybrid SUV let down by a four-star ANCAP safety rating

It may be a mouthful, but the Honda HR-V e:HEV L is a stylish, compact crossover that builds on a popular model which has held its ground for a quarter of a century since it was introduced in Japan in 1998, where it’s called the Vezel, in a play on vehicle and bezel. In 2022 it was Honda’s second-best seller in Australia after the CR-V (4717/8123 sales) but no match for the MG ZS (22,466 sales) in the small SUV segment (under $40,000), the Mazda CX-30 (13,891 sales) or Mitsubishi ASX (12,753 sales). Curiously, HR-V stands for Hi-Rider Revolutionary Vehicle, and CR-V stands for Comfortable Runabout Vehicle — though these extended names are not used Down Under. We had the HR-V e:HEV L for a week (from $47,000 drive-away nationally). The e:HEV acronym is for electrified hybrid electric vehicle and L designates the grade.

It’s a first for the HR-V, with Honda saying it represents the next step in the brand’s commitment to introduce hybrid variants of each vehicle line with the arrival of every model change. Now in its third generation, the HR-V is available in two specification levels with two different powertrains, starting with the petrol-engine Vi X grade, which is priced from $36,700 D/A nationally — so you’re looking at a $10,300 premium for the hybrid, which has two motors, plus additional creature comforts and safety features. Honda Australia says order volumes have been above expectations for the HR-V, which has “extended wait times” — up to nine months for the e:HEV L. Is the e:HEV L worth the extra spend? That depends on how much you’re likely to save in fuel efficiency (more on this later) and needs to be weighed up. Something else that needs to be weighed up is that all HR-V variants with build dates from February 2022 onwards scored a four-star ANCAP safety rating, falling short of the minimum scores needed to achieve five stars in two of the four major areas of assessment, namely child-occupant protection (scoring 77 per cent whereas the minimum is 80 per cent) and safety assist (69 per cent versus 70 per cent minimum).

Similarly, the HR-V was awarded only four stars in Euro NCAP, despite getting different category scores. It did, however, in ANCAP testing get 82 per cent for adult-occupant protection (the minimum is 80 per cent) and 72 per cent for vulnerable road-user protection (the minimum is 60 per cent). It’s worth noting that most new cars today get five ANCAP stars. “A weak head protection score was recorded for the 10-year-old child in the side impact test, and both occupancy detection for rear seating positions and driver fatigue monitoring are not available,” ANCAP said. “Good scores were recorded for the HR-V’s lane-keeping and forward-travel autonomous emergency braking ability.

“AEB (autonomous emergency braking) back-over functionality is not available.” The HR-V has front, side and full-length curtain airbags. ANCAP reported that most child restraints could be accommodated in the second row, with Isofix and top-tether points included on outboard seats (more on this later), but noted a Type A “rearward-facing capsule” (commonly used for babies in their first six to eight months) could not be correctly installed here. In assessing adult-occupant protection, ANCAP reported that “prevention of excursion (movement towards the other side of the vehicle) in the far-side impact tests was assessed as marginal for both the vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pole scenarios”. Safety assist just missed the minimum score by one percentage point, with ANCAP rating various AEB and lane-support features as “good” (the highest ranking) and noting the e:HEV L is fitted with more advanced intelligent speed assistance that’s not available on the petrol Vi X variant, which meant it was not included in this assessment.

There is no occupancy detection for rear seating positions, nor a driver-drowsiness monitor system — both features becoming increasingly common in new cars today. It’s a four-seater — but in the US and UK it’s a five seater. This is because Australian Design Rules stipulate (with one exception the HR-V does not meet) that a rear seat with a seatbelt must also have an upper anchorage for a child seat. Depending on how many passengers you’re likely to transport, this also needs to be weighed up. Keep in mind the MG ZS, Mazda CX-30 and Mitsubishi ASX have five seats.

Cargo space is otherwise 304-956 litres (loaded to the window) and 1274 litres loaded to the roof. Better still, you get a hands-free power tailgate with “walk away” close that uses the smart key to detect your proximity, so you don’t even have to raise a hand. At first glance, you wonder about the rear door handles, which are unobtrusively integrated into the frame for a clean, streamlined look with minimalist coupe-inspired styling that ticks all the boxes when it comes to design aesthetics. “Wow, this is nice,” my 20-something-year-old notes, sizing it up. It’s a forward-wheel drive and a car I like to be seen in — which is more than I can say for most SUVs.

Interior comfort is second to none in this price range, with good visibility down the bonnet, plenty of legroom (35mm more at the rear than previously), generous shoulder room, user-friendly displays that include a 9-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay, satellite navigation and over-the-air updates, an LCD instrument panel, and six-speaker sound system, plus Honda’s legendary second-row Magic Seats with 60/40 split and various folding configurations that dive down to the floor for loading awkward objects you just couldn’t get into any other car of this size. My only aesthetic niggle is the oversized gear lever that looks more like something you’d find on a manual car, rather than an automatic. Honda’s Sensing suite of technologies includes adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, high-beam support, traffic sign recognition, forward-collision warning, lane-keep assist and lane-departure warning. Other features include blind-spot warning, hill descent control and autonomous emergency braking (Honda calls this collision mitigation braking system) with junction assist, which can autonomously brake to avoid crashes when turning across the path of an oncoming vehicle or pedestrian, rear cross-traffic alert, auto-sensing wipers and LED active cornering lights. The e:HEV L also has an intelligent speed limiter, which recognises traffic speed signs and sets the speed limit.

If the traffic sign shows a slower speed compared with what the vehicle is doing, an indicator flashes on the display with an alarm sound and the system gradually decreases the vehicle speed. There is a reversing camera and front and rear parking sensors, but no forward camera or 360-degree view. It’s a self-charging hybrid with a 1.5-litre petrol engine, two electric motors and a lithium-ion battery (the kWh capacity is not stated on the spec sheet). Total output is 96kW of power and 253Nm of torque.

Honda says its e:HEV system constantly cycles between electric drive, hybrid drive or engine drive, depending on which is the most fuel-efficient mode in a specific driving situation. It also promises “EV-like responsiveness” and selectable levels of energy recovery via the paddles on the steering wheel when coasting or braking in “B range”, which can be selected with the gear lever. There is, however, no one-pedal driving option. Otherwise, you just put it into D and go. There are also normal, econ and sport drive modes, plus a fixed-gear transmission that Honda claims achieves a “higher proportion of accumulated electric drive time when in cities than other hybrids on sale today”.

This is hard to gauge without a side-by-side comparison, but for everyday commutes, the powertrain is fine, though the set-up doesn’t like hard acceleration, so you get a “rev up” effect when you put your foot down that’s loud enough to be heard on the other end of a phone conversation — and it’s something I had to explain to the person I was talking to because they wanted to know what it was. To me, it didn’t feel like an EV for the most part, though it did start silently in electric drive, which kicked in intermittently at various speeds, typically under 30km/h but sometimes at 60km/h on highways. Take-off from standstill was unremarkable, but a lot depends on your driving style, and once you’re up to speed, it’s a comfortable ride. Stated fuel consumption is 4.3 litres/100km (the Vi X is 5.

8 litres/100km), which was close enough to what I averaged over a week — ranging from 3.8 to 4.8 litres/100km, depending on the trip. There is no spare wheel on either model, just a tyre repair kit. The HR-V e:HEV L comes with a five-year unlimited-kilometre warranty, a six-year rust perforation warranty, an eight-year IMA (integrated motor assist) battery module warranty and five years of complimentary map updates.

Scheduled servicing is every 12 months or 10,000km or when the engine oil monitor illuminates (whichever comes first), with all Hondas purchased after October 2022 to receive five standard scheduled services valued at $199 each. This does not include items such as tyres, wheel balance and alignment, brake pads, wiper blades and light globe replacements. Great design aesthetic, frugal fuel consumption and plenty of creature comforts let down by a four-seater capacity and four-star ANCAP safety rating. HONDA HR-V Variant e:HEV L Price From $47,000 drive-away nationally Engine 1.5-litre 4-cylinder DOHC i-VTEC Outputs 96kW/145Nm Transmission Electric continuously variable transmission (E-CVT) Fuel tank 40 litres/91 RON Fuel efficienc y 4.

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