Honda’s best selling compact crossover has been around since 2015, and has pretty much captured the market segment by storm. Four years on, it’s about time that the HR-V gets a makeover for it to feel fresh once again before the arrival of an all-new model. Relatively to many of Honda’s models, the HR-V is one of the few models launched absolutely new in the mid 1990s along with the bigger CR-V and Odyssey, while phasing out the CR-X Del Sol and Prelude.
HR-V stands for “Hi-rider Revolutionary Vehicle”, and has been around in Malaysia since 1998 albeit in small numbers brought in by ‘gray importers’. Then came the locally-assembled second generation model and everything else that follows after is history. Today, Honda Malaysia has invited us over to the Putrajaya Recreational Airport to have a closer look and sample the upcoming mid-life refresh HR-V.
At first glance, nothing much has changed structurally wise, but what’s new are its front bumper, larger foglamps, updated Solid Wing Face design, a widened front grille, re-profiled front bumper, and new headlamp clusters.
The ‘E’ trim level you see here in pictures still comes with 17-inch wheels as standard, but comes with the Continental Ultra Contact UC6 tyres replacing the old Bridgestone Turanza but retains the same 215 section width. Also, the headlamps are now projector halogen with LED daytime running lights, which replaces the old reflector halogen type.
The refreshed HR-V is also the first Honda model to carry the ‘RS’ badge, which is equipped with all the bells and whistles with full LED headlamps and LED fog lamps, wheel well garnish and side skirt trim finished in gloss black, and new tube-style LED rear lamp cluster making its debut for the first time in Malaysia on this model.
The RS also however is fitted with a size-up 18-inch alloy wheels with 225 section width, similar tyre brand and model.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing much for us to say about the interior of the refreshed HR-V, which Honda Malaysia tells us to patiently wait until its official launch in the near future. All we know is that the upcoming mid-life refresh RS variant will come with Honda LaneWatch as in the Accord and CR-V as standard.
Nothing much has changed here either; the refresh HR-V still runs on the same naturally-aspirated 1.8-litre SOHC 16-valve i-VTEC making 140hp at 6,500rpm and 172Nm at 4,300 rpm, mated to the same CVT transmission fitted in the current model. What’s new in the RS variant is the Variable Gear Ratio (VGR) electric power steering system. However, the base E variant will not come with VGR.
The steering rack features a normal gear ratio near the straight ahead position with the steering ratio quickening as the steering wheel is turned farther. On the road this translates into smooth, confidence building high speed lane changes and increased maneuverability at lower speeds or when parking.
Besides the VGR electric power steering system, the brakes of the refreshed HR-V has been revised, which the much improved initial bite and progressiveness can be felt on the test course.
We tested both the current 1.8L V variant and the refreshed RS on a closed course which put both cars in a ABS brake test and lane change with ABS, a low speed and high speed slalom, Honda Lane Watch test and lane change test. Cutting to the chase, the RS variant together with its new upgrades made a big difference with its handling characteristics which feels much more sportier than before.
In the ABS braking and lane change with ABS test, the refreshed model is able to stop at a much shorter distance. The brake feel is much improved, feeling much more natural and progressive during emergency braking scenarios. The ABS is much smoother and a lot less jittery as before.
The VGR electric power steering system makes steering effort a lot less and makes the HR-V much more agile to handle. As driving speed increases, VGR virtually adds more weight to the steering, which provides the driver better accuracy and feel, while reduces weight at lower speeds to aid agility in tight bends.
With the larger wheel size and wider tyres, refreshed HR-V RS has much improved lateral grip and with the VGR added into the mix, the refreshed RS does inspire confidence in the driver to carve through corners spiritedly within a much higher limit than the current model.
To put it simply, the mid-life refreshed HR-V get its much needed upgrades that not only looks much better and grown up slightly, but with the larger wheels, VGR, and the revised brakes, the RS variant would be the one to go for to feel the effect of the changes made. However, the entry level E variant (and probably an S variant sitting in the middle) could also benefit from these changes. There are no announcements made on the prices and launch date of the mid-life refresh HR-V as of yet, but bookings for the new HR-V are still open at Honda showrooms nationwide.