Forget standalone petrol or diesel, the HR-V is hybrid only, with a 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine, a generator and two electric motors at the front, and a 60-cell battery at the rear. If it sounds familiar then that’s because the new Jazz runs a similar system, but the HR-V’s engine and motors are all more powerful, while the battery pack is 12 cells stronger and the generator smaller and now cooled by water rather than air. Honda was keen to point out how there’s a clutch between the wheels and engine, which means it can be disconnected and situations where energy is lost turning the engine over when it’s off can be avoided, something that unnamed Japanese competitor hybrids are not set up to do.
All in all you have 131PS (96kW) and 253Nm (187lb ft), with power going to the front wheels via a single-speed transmission. The HR-V can be driven on electric power, as a hybrid, either with power from the engine heading to the generator, battery, motors and then wheels or in tandem with the motors et al when you put your foot to the floor, or with the engine only, if you’re cruising on the motorway for example. And as you might expect, lift of the accelerator or brake and the batteries are given a gentle recharge – the HR-V is not a plug-in hybrid.
Performance? Zero to 62mph is over in 10.6 seconds and the top speed is 105mph, but as you might imagine this isn’t a car that particularly encourages speed; bury your foot to the floor and the engine is incredibly loud, and from a powertrain perspective, thanks the single speed ‘box, there’s no joy in attacking a corner-packed road, as the engine revs rise and fall without much rhythm. What the system does for the most part is encourage you to drive with a measured right foot, lifting off and coasting where you can and therefore recharging the batteries, and easing on the gas gently to stop the engine from revving too high or turning on at all. Not everyone will enjoy the challenge, but the system does what it’s supposed to do seamlessly – not once in our time with the car was there a lurch or bad timing from the engine or motor in terms of power delivery.
What Honda has nailed in terms of enjoyment is pretty much everything else. The steering might lack communication but it is responsive, while the suspension, although lacking a degree of wheel control, holds the HR-V’s body more confidently than with the previous car and with a better ride quality. The brakes, meanwhile, are entirely consistent – where the braking systems of some hybrids sap confidence, owing to poorly configured regen systems, you get exactly what you’re asking for from the brakes every single time.