The new Honda HR-V Sport arrives with styling tweaks and 180bhp, but is it worth the extra money?Verdict3It's hard to imagine who this new Honda HR-V Sport is aimed at. Cars like this spend most of their time in town, where our car’s handling and powertrain benefits remain impossible to exploit. The harsh ride will be challenging to live with on all but the flattest and smoothest roads, too. None of this should detract from the fact the HR-V remains a practical small SUV, but, as ever, there’s better value lower down the range.
The original Honda HR-V was one of the very first compact crossovers. The self-proclaimed ‘Joy Machine’ sold in relatively modest numbers between 1998 and 2006, before taking a near-10-year hiatus as the brand looked to realign its model portfolio.
It disappeared until 2015, when it returned based on a platform shared with the Jazz supermini. Four years later and Honda has gifted the HR-V a much-needed mid-life nip and tuck – introducing an all-new Sport model featuring extra kit, special damping and a powerful turbo petrol engine from the Civic hatch.
• Best crossovers and small SUVs
It’s lucky there’s more to this facelift than a few styling tweaks, as the aesthetic improvements are limited almost exclusively to a new ‘solid wing’ grille and some extra chrome trim. The rear light clusters have also been updated, but that’s your lot.
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The new engine is the big news, then. Boasting 180bhp and 240Nm of torque, it’s the only turbocharged petrol engine in the HR-V range. Available exclusively in Sport spec, these versions get a dynamic styling pack with high-gloss accents, a subtle body kit and 18-inch wheels.
You’ll pay for the privilege, however – as the car we’re driving here is £2,565 more expensive than a top-spec (non-turbo) 1.5 i-VTEC EX. Look a little further down the range at a 1.5 SE Navi, and that gap swells to more than £5,500.
The Sport a lively performer, and you’d rarely want any more power in a car of this shape or size. It accelerates strongly, and while it isn’t the most tuneful motor, there’s always plenty of torque in reserve for overtaking. Despite this, Honda claims the new 1.5 Turbo is fractionally more economical than the normally aspirated i-VTEC.
The short, notchy gearbox is a pleasure to use, too, even if the clutch pedal does sit a little high. The driving position is a little awkward, actually, with seemingly little movement in both the seat and the steering wheel.
Thanks to the HR-V Sport’s ‘Performance Damper’ technology, body control is good. There’s very little roll through tight bends and the car changes direction with purpose. But the trade-off here is a firm ride that never truly settles. An SUV that requires endless correction on visibly smooth tarmac doesn’t make for a relaxing car to drive.
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In fact, around town the suspension set-up borders on intolerable. Most HR-Vs will spend their time running errands in urban environments, and few buyers will put up with such a stiff low-speed ride for the knowledge that it could safely handle a Swiss switchback once in its lifetime.
Thankfully, the Sport’s performance add-ons have done nothing to affect the car’s practicality – and the HR-V remains one of the most versatile cars in its class. The innovative Magic Seats are unchanged, while the 470-litre boot puts it on par with cars from the class above when it comes to outright carrying capacity. Space in the back is pretty good, too.
The cabin is nicely laid out and more than matches rivals like the Toyota C-HR when it comes to quality, fit and finish. The HR-V’s infotainment system isn’t perfect, however, and you can’t even bypass it using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto – as neither is currently available on the updated SUV range. This, despite the fact both comes as standard on all but the most basic Civic hatchback.
- Model: Honda HR-V Sport 1.5 VTEC Turbo
- Price: £27,840
- Engine: 1.5-litre 4cyl turbo petrol
- Power/torque: 180bhp/240Nm
- Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
- 0-62mph: 7.8 seconds
- Top speed: 133mph
- Economy/CO2: 42.4mpg/151g/km
- On sale: Now
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