New hybrid-only HR-V revealed as Honda speeds up electrification

Published: 22 April 2021

European version of compact SUV on sale later this year
Hybrid-only powertrain, cleaner new styling
►Roomier interior and improved infotainment 

The wraps have come off the European version of the new HR-V, Honda’s rival to the Nissan Juke, Ford Puma and VW T-Roc.

Like its sister model the Jazz, the Mk3 HR-V will be hybrid-only in Europe.

Honda has vowed that all its mainstream models in Europe will be electrified – either hybrid or full electric – by the end of 2022. 

It looks very different, doesn’t it?

Yes. It’s the same length as the previous HR-V, which went off sale last year, but has bigger wheels (18 inches as standard) and the ground clearance is up by 10mm while the roof height is down by 20mm. The look is entirely new, with a steeper angle to the windscreen giving a longer bonnet, an upright nose with a body-coloured grille, swept-back LED headlights and new daytime running lights. 

At the back, there’s a new full-width LED light interrupted by the central H badge. And the sides of the car are much cleaner, with a hint of Honda E in their simplicity. 

What about inside?

It’s slightly roomier for front and rear passengers – they get 35mm of extra legroom, and their seatbacks have a slightly more luxurious angle. There’s no big increase in luggage capacity but the boot floor is lower and the tailgate reshaped for easier access. 

Honda’s clever ‘Magic’ seating, as also found on the Jazz, is carried over. It makes folding away the rear seats simple, creating a boot space big enough to contain two 26-inch mountain bikes (with the front wheels removed).

The seats themselves are redesigned to take up slightly less space, and the driving position is 10mm higher. Combined with the reshaped bonnet and re-angled windscreen, it’s designed to make it easier for the driver to see the car’s extremities.

The instruments and 9in central touchscreen are nothing like as radical as those in the Honda E electric supermini, with physical buttons retained for functions such as climate control. Honda says the touchscreen is now much faster to react to inputs. It’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible. There are two USB ports in the front and two in the back.

The air vents are a new L-shape design intended to blow air around occupants rather than blast it straight at them. Behind the dash, the heating and ventilation system is more compact, helping make the cabin roomier.

What’s under that long bonnet?

Basically the same e:HEV hybrid powertrain as the current Jazz, but tweaked to deal with the HR-V’s larger size and weight.

So you get a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and an electric motor, both up front, with a battery under the boot floor and a petrol tank located under the passenger compartment. It’s front-wheel-drive only. As a default, the e-motor provides the power, with the petrol engine working essentially as a range extender, feeding the battery. But at higher speeds, the system switches over to conventional engine propulsion. And at lower speeds, charge permitting, the HR-V switches off the petrol engine and uses just electric power. It also pulls away in EV mode.

So there’s no gearbox as such, and Honda says the transition between different power sources – petrol, electric or both – is seamless.

Project leader Kojiro Okabe said: ‘The system calculates the best efficiency that’s most suitable and selects it autonomously. There’s nothing noticeable to the driver.’

There are three modes for the driver to choose between – Sport, Normal and Eco – plus a B mode for stronger regenerative braking, EV-style, to boost the battery.

Peak system output is 129bhp and 187lb ft, so it won’t be a rocketship – but should be efficient and economical.

How much will it be, and what do you get?

UK prices and spec levels haven’t been announced yet. Expect it to be priced from just over £20k – a bit higher than the Jazz, but in line with its direct competitors.

And what’s this about more electrification?

Honda is saying that in Europe all its ‘mainstream’ models – that’s the get-out clause for the Civic Type R – will be electrified by the end of 2022. That will mostly mean non-plug-in hybrid like the HR-V, but will also include full electric, plug-in hybrid and – potentially – hydrogen fuel cell, although probably not as early as next year.

Project leader Okabe said: ‘The idea at Honda is always to come up with the most appropriate technology at the time. At the moment in Europe, that is mostly e:HEV.’

Could there be a PHEV version? ‘It’s technically possible if the time is right and the demand is there.’

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By Colin Overland

CAR's managing editor: wordsmith, critic, purveyor of fine captions