Honda HR-V Hybrid Review: Practicality Now Comes With Electric Efficiency

By electrifying the HR-V, Honda has changed the SUV’s character. But is it for the better?

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Honda HR-V Hybrid Review: Practicality Now Comes With Electric Efficiency

The Honda HR-V is no stranger to any of us. Since it’s launch, Honda Malaysia have been dishing out a steady stream of HR-V to satisfy demand. No surprises here, not when the HR-V is priced nicely given the space and features, albeit the looks. It is Honda’s baby SUV that ticks all the right boxes; only the extremely picky can find faults.

Up to now, the HR-V only comes with one engine choice, a 1.8-litre petrol engine with enough performance to run around city and country without hurting personal finances. Now that the HR-V is electrified and with its smaller capacity engine, your personal budget will take even less beating.

The idea is simple one, a hybrid vehicle can give you more range from one full tank of petrol than a traditional internal-combustion engine could. Where pistons in cylinders would usually increase effort to overcome additional load on the vehicle, electric motors now lends a hand to push the SUV over the hill. The reduced strain on the engine also reduces fuel consumption, which means less visits to the petrol station.

Given the reliability of the Lithium-ion battery pack, concerns that the HR-V Hybrid’s battery will ‘die’ as fast as a smartphone is unwarranted. Furthermore, Honda Malaysia’s 8-year warranty for those energy packs is a statement of the company's confidence in the battery's reliability. And when that warranty ends, you’ll only need RM6,063.86 to replace the battery should that day arrives, if ever.  

However, if you care less for fuel economy but still don’t want to fart out CO2 too much, the HR-V Hybrid can deliver a sporty driving performance. 

This is the only HR-V in the range that has forsaken the 1.8-litre engine and CVT in favour of a 1.5-litre engine with direct injection and DOHC paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, called the i-DCD. Together with the electric motor, the HR-V Hybrid feeds a combined output of 150hp and 190Nm of torque. Although the hike in power isn’t much — just a 10hp and 18Nm increase over the norm — the difference is night and day.

The dual-clutch transmission picks up power almost immediately and sends the SUV down the road just as quick. And there’s no turbo lag to contend with, the hybrid drivetrain simply boosts the satisfying pull-forward of the naturally-aspirated engine under acceleration. That is, until you run out of charge. Braking, or simply lifting the foot ‘off the gas’ puts electric charge back in the battery.

Having that said, the hybrid drivetrain isn’t just useful when you need the extra go. You’ll also appreciate that its engine is not burning up fuel in situations that’s getting you nowhere fast, hence saving some money.

Honda’s i-DCD is intelligent enough to disengage the clutch from the ratios and hand over the reins to the electric motor. The electric motor then pushes power through one gear to the wheels, letting you move slowly in the parking lot or cruise down the highway in EV mode. 

It needs to be said that the battery did put extra weight on the SUV. The HR-V Hybrid tips the scales at 1,300kg to the V-spec’s 1,271kg, or even the 1,291kg of the RS version. The added weight made Honda rejig the chassis and suspension. We not sure if this was done on purpose or not, but the HR-V Hybrid handles and rides better than the standard versions.

You’ll feel the weight, not in under acceleration, but in the corners. Mind you, this newfound heft is a good thing, that somehow the HR-V was always meant to be a heavier SUV. Coupled with the retooling of the suspension, the HR-V soaks up the road better. The body is less busy over bumps with significantly less lateral movement on the straights, resulting in a ride that’s more comfortable. 

But you wouldn’t buy the HR-V Hybrid for its handling prowess, the competition can do better, albeit at a higher price. But what Hybrid does offer is an adequately quick steering with just enough feedback to let you feel the wheels on the road. 

Ultimately, it would be the HR-V’s interior space that decides your purchase, despite the battery pack taking up boot space. Although it is down from 437 litres to 404 litres, the difference of 33 litres might seem much. In reality, your things just sit a few centimetres closer to the roof. 

If there is one noticeable change to the interior, it has to be the gear lever. The standard stick makes way for a sculptured knob that looks futuristic but simple in operation.

The rest of the interior is how you expect the HR-V to be — plenty of legroom, should shoulder space for three at the back and a headroom that only the very tall might complain. Just as important, all necessary touchpoint remain soft, the switch-gears feels tactile and the materials are of quality. 

You can’t go wrong in buying a HR-V Hybrid. It has all the hallmarks of Honda’s compact SUV — spacious, practical and comfortable — with an extra helping of power and efficiency. If you want a compact urban SUV, then choosing this over the rest is a no-brainer.

Specification: Honda HR-V 1.5L Hybrid

Engine 1,496cc, 4cyl., 16 valves, DOHC, direct injection, i-VTEC | Transmission 7-speed dual-clutch i-DCD transmission | Power & Torque Engine - 130hp @ 6,600rpm / 156Nm @ 4,600rpm,  Motor - 29hp @ 1,313-2,000rpm / 160Nm @ 0-1,313rpm | Combined Output 150hp / 190Nm | Price RM120,800 on-the-road without insurance | Score 7/10

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