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Honda’s latest third generation HR-V is back, sporting a revised package, turbocharged engine and a CVT to make motoring fun, practical and very versatile. And in today’s cost conscious and very expensive pump fuel prices, the HR-V’s efficiency is a god-send. With careful driving, I was able to eke out 8.8km/liter in the city and an even better 14km/liter on the highway with my V Turbo loaner, with two persons (and our dog) plus some weekend cargo going up to Tagaytay. With time and mileage under its belt, the HR-V should improve further in efficiency.

There are actually two versions of the HR-V, with the US market getting the larger Civic based platform, while Japan and Asian markets get the smaller platform loosely related to the Honda Jazz/Fit and the City. Power comes from a choice of two 1.5 liter VTEC equipped engines: the normally aspirated S variant makes do with 120hp and 145 Newton-Meters of torque, while the range-topping V Turbo gets a fun sounding 175hp and 240 Newton-Meters of torque. Both variants drive the front wheels via a continuously variable automatic transmission.

For the safety conscious set, both variants come with Honda Sensing, the brand’s safety suite of active driving safety aids which consist of adaptive cruise control (which even works in heavy traffic), lane-keep assist, forward-collision detection and braking, and automatic high beam. Cue in ABS-EBD brakes, traction / stability control, four airbags (front and side for), hill descent control should you wish to forage into some tricky terrain, hill-start assist and and auto brake-hold. So regardless of S or V variants, both HR-V’s are very safe.

It feels upscale, solid and refined too, and the Goodyear Assurance Maxguard SUV tires fitted as OEM on the HR-V helped provide a supple ride without detracting from the feel and feedback which mirrors my experience with these tires when I tested them previously in a different vehicle. Of course, aside from the safety gear, you get all LED lighting, with the now very common 3D-effect rear tail lamp / brake lamp emphasizing the HR-V’s girth, and crucially, increases its visibility at night. On a side note, I did find the headlights a bit lacking on unlit provincial roads especially during the occasional downpour but were fine on typical street lit roads. There’s Apple CarPlay Android Auto on the multi-media infotainment system, which I feel is an absolute necessity nowadays as it allows you to be continuously connected to the outside world without being distracted from actual driving duties. Multiple USB charging ports for both front and rear passengers are available too. Of course, leather interior is standard on the V Turbo variant while the S gets a fabric interior.

But the best part is it’s footprint: the new HR-V slots almost into the same typical space as the Honda City Hatchback I had previously but with the added benefit of a taller ground clearance, easier entry/exit, a more upright driving position which gives confidence to shorter drivers, and allowing a more commanding and therefore, more confidence-inspiring view of the road ahead. There’s oodles of legroom, and the acid test for interior passenger space is if I can fit comfortably behind the driver’s seat if the driver were of comparable size as me. The HR-V had room to spare, and I could even sit cross-legged if I wanted to. The cargo space at the back, 304 liters is modest and comparable to a typical B-segment sedan, but fold the rear seats flat to the ground and it increases to a very useful 1,274 liters, more than enough to carry my assortment of car parts (an extra set of wheels and tires) I was hauling around while I had this.

On the road, there’s a sense of ease and fluidity missing in the previous HR-V but is very much apparent with the new one. It feels smooth, refined, solid and all grown-up, but the turbo’s grunt adds character, and to people like me who can’t help but modify everything, the prospect of increasing power through some careful hardware upgrades and a reflash of the engine control unit is exciting. Steering is light but offers very good feel, the brakes powerful and progressive (though a bit grabby when cold) and the CVT is silky smooth, if needed a bit of persuasion at lower speeds and throttle inputs. It’s no sportscar by any stretch, but is the type of vehicle a one-car garage should have that almost has it all: space, pace, versatility, ease of use and highly enjoyable, if not exactly super fun to drive.

At P1,250,000 for the S variant and P1,598,000 for the V Turbo variant, I dare say Honda has the best spec’d, best-priced and best-value B-segment cross-over, bar none.

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