The SUV has seen a massive surge in popularity; during the last decade in particular. In fact, you’d do well today to go out on a drive and not see one – we’d even be willing to bet you wouldn’t get out of your road without spying one on a neighbour’s drive. That said, Honda may have a fairly unique prospect in its recent launch of the Sport variant HR-V model. You’d normally need to step up to the class above the HR-V’s segment to see anything remotely close to its power offering.
The Sport variant is Honda’s latest addition to the recently-refreshed 2019 HR-V range, which went on sale toward the tail-end of last year. To the outside, new exterior details helps it to stand out against the rest of the range. Features such as a new front splitter, LED daytime running lights with new projector lenses, round fogs, new side skirts and wheel arches give the model an aggressive presence from the front, while the back hasn’t been forgotten receiving a sporty rear bumper, complete with duel-exit exhausts, a matching dark chrome trim and darkened rear lights. The unique 18-inch alloy wheels set the look off a treat, too.
Powered by the very same turbocharged 1.5-litre V-TEC petrol engine from the latest Civic model, the front-wheel drive SUV has four cylinders and features output figures of 180bhp and 177lb ft. of torque, propelling the 1340kg motor to 62mph from standing in 7.8seconds, before reaching a top speed of 133mph. Fuel economy sits at 42.4mpg coupled with the manual gearbox (as is our test drive model) and 47.1mpg for the optional CVT automatic), while CO2 levels stand at 151g/km and 163g/km respectively.
And it’s that engine that’s the real talking point with this particular model launch. The Sport HR-V is the fastest SUV that Honda currently makes! And it’s not just a new heart for the new model; revisions have been made to the suspension, along with the addition of bespoke performance dampers.
So, what’s it like on the road?
Well, upon getting into the cabin, it has a nice, spacious and airy feel to it. There’s a flurry of bespoke soft-touch materials that give the new Sport model a premium feeling. It didn’t take much to set up my preferred driving style, either, thanks to the many controls to get my seat and steering set-up just so. And I was off. Our test model was mated to the six-speed manual gearbox option and it does move lovely through the gears, each gear change being somewhat of a pleasure. The steering is lightweight, but doesn’t lack feel and the brakes are extremely responsive.
The new dampers (or ‘synaptic damping control’) do make for a firmer ride, but overall the car has a lovely blend of stability, performance and comfortability on the road. There’s also retuned variable-ratio steering and road noise has also been kept to a minimum (even at high speeds of 60mph) thanks to added sound-deadening all round, making for more pleasant long road trips and further adding to the model’s overall refinement. There are even a couple of microphones that monitor interior low-frequency noises which acts to cancel them out when detected.
Space is decent. The centre console has a great deal of space, with plenty of storage. It gets a good size boot, along with Honda's 'magic’ fold rear seats, which are crazy useful if you’re having to pick up bath panels and random gardening bits from Wickes at 7am on a Saturday morning (don’t ask!)… The door card pockets, however, could be bigger and better designed. Being right-handed, I myself like to have a drink in the door pocket, as opposed to in the centre console. Naturally, this feature will come down to personal preference but for me the door card pockets are too small.
Standard equipment on both the manual and automatic models is extensive, too, featuring half-leather upholstery in the form of wine-red leather and black fabric seats, with dashboard accents to match, leather steering wheel, electric parking brake, sport mode, cruise control with speed limiter, parking sensors to the front and rear, remote close mirrors and windows, three accessory sockets, Bluetooth connectivity, six speakers and auto high beam technology.
All in all, the new Sport HR-V is a nippy little number contained within a sporty package with space, style and practicality, making it more than a match for the likes of rivals such as the Peugeot 2008, Mazda CX-3, and even recently-launched Hyundai Kona and Skoda Karoq.