Honda has always been at the forefront of car technology and design – but sometimes you can be too far ahead.
And so it was when the Japanese car maker launched the original HR-V back in 1999, well before the trend for crossovers and SUVs was even thought of.
It didn’t sell in large numbers and was eventually phased out ten years ago.
But now a new generation HR-V is back and now the timing is right because compact crossovers are all the rage – think Renault Kadjar and Nissan Juke.
And the car that started it all is determined to take sales from its competitors to make up for lost time. It’s already been voted New Car Of The Year by dealers in the prestigious AM trade magazine’s annual awards.
The latest HR-V is designed for drivers who want a crossover but don’t want the bulk of the Nissan Qashqai or even the HR-V’s bigger brother the Honda CR-V.
But despite the relatively small outside dimensions this newcomer offers plenty of interior space for four, or five if you are happy to be up close and intimate in the back.
There’s plenty of luggage room, too, thanks to a very deep boot which doesn’t have the fuel tank underneath it to take up space. That has been moved under the front seats – just like on the Honda Jazz.
The similarities don’t end there because the HR-V also has Honda’s “magic seats” – created originally for the Jazz – which means a multiplicity of folding permutations as well as seat squabs which fold up like cinema seats to allow you to pack in large items across the width of the car, like a mountain bike or furniture for example.
Like most Hondas this one comes well equipped, particularly if you sample the top of the range EX model as I did.
Standard features on this flagship model include leather seats (heated in the front), a panoramic opening glass sunroof, satellite navigation, rear-view colour camera, LED headlights and roof rails.
The car is available with either a 1.5-litre petrol engine or – as on the car that I drove – Honda’s super frugal 120bhp 1.6-litre diesel.
This engine was originally developed for the Civic and proved to be so good it was decided to offer it in the CR-V and now the HR-V.
It’s one of the few engines that I have tried that actually will live up to the manufacturer’s claimed average fuel consumption.
Honda says it will average 68.9 in the HR-V and I managed, with careful driving, to average a very close 62mpg.
At the same time it’s quite a spirited engine in this model, offering lively, enjoyable acceleration.
In this instance it’s mated to a slick, super smooth six-speed manual gearbox that’s a delight to use.
On the road the HR-V is a surprisingly quiet, refined and smooth car to drive. It’s also very agile, with a small turning circle which makes it easy to park.
There’s little body roll on corners and, while the steering is sharp, it’s also a little on the light side.
Sharp also describes the exterior styling of the car which at first glance you take for a coupe, as the rear doors are not immediately obvious because the handles are built into the window frame.
The new generation HR-V has been a long time coming but this time Honda bosses have made sure they have got it right.
Honda HR-V I-DTEC Ex
Mechanical: 1,597cc, 120 bhp four cylinder diesel engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox.
Max speed: 119 mph
0-62mph: 10.5 secs
Combined mpg: 68.9
CO2 emissions: 108 g/km
Warranty: 3 years/90,000 miles