Torque time: Honda adds a sport trim to its HR-V crossover line-up
Has Honda's attempt to breathe some sporting pedigree into the HR-V succeeded?
What is it?
Honda knows a thing or two about making a hot hatch. There's the legendary Civic Type R, which has repeatedly been at the forefront of the market throughout its 18-year life in the UK (and 21 years globally), while Honda also produced what's widely regarded as the best-driving front-wheel-drive car ever made - the Integra.
Now, in a market dominated by crossovers and SUVs, they've tried to bring a sprinkle of Honda magic to that segment, with the new HR-V Sport. But has it captured the spirit of its forefathers?
OK, we're not going to claim this is some full-blown hot compact crossover 'Type R' etc, but there's certainly more to this HR-V Sport than just a racy-ish looking trim package.
We'll go under the skin - with the Japanese firm strapping a turbo to its 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine, which, at least for the HR-V, is an exclusive to Sport grade. To help cope with the introduction of 'boost', there's been some real fettling of the suspension too.
Of course, there are also visual changes, with new black gloss highlights to be found all round, as well as a honeycomb grille for a more impactful look.
What's under the bonnet?
Powering our Honda HR-V Sport test car is a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine, which develops 180bhp and 240Nm, here sent to the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox (a CVT is also available).
The result is 0-60mph in a respectable 7.6 seconds, with a 134mph top speed also possible. As for efficiency, Honda claims 47.9mpg on the combined cycle while emitting 135g/km in CO2.
Performance is impressive, with strong low-range torque giving the HR-V a real punch when accelerating - although it quickly begins to fizzle out at about 5,000rpm. That said, for a slightly warm-ish crossover, it's surprising and good fun - and has a sound lying on the right side of yobbish for something with the sport moniker.
The six-speed gearbox's short ratios lend well to it when looking for a bit of fun too, although its higher-revving nature can grow a tiresome on a longer cruise.
What's it like to drive?
This may be a bit of a shock - it is to us too - but the HR-V's 'Sport' credentials extend beyond marketing. It's a genuine joy to drive, with steering well-weighted when pressing on and little in the way of body roll under harder cornering, yet its setup is soft enough to ensure it's not overly firm.
Fling it into a corner and the chassis is happily to play around too, with enough slip at the rear to almost convince you this could be a baby Type R and leave you laughing all the way down a B road, but not so much to get into real trouble.
It's not flawless though. It's not a real cruising car, with wind noise and its peaky engine making it harder to pitch as a motorway cruiser - although it's fine around town, an area where the HR-V has always excelled.
How does it look?
To the untrained eye, this is just going to look like any other HR-V in the range - but Honda has indeed made some tweaks to try and make the Sport stand out from the crowd.
Most noticeable is the array of gloss black highlights in place of chrome trim around the car, while a honeycomb grille takes centre stage. That and its 18-inch alloy wheels aside though, there's not too much to separate it from the regular HR-V. A model-specific Modern Steel Metallic paint finish is also available at a £525 for those wanting to go a little bit off the beaten path.
It's a car that simply looks designed to be inoffensive, and that's just fine - but we would like to have a seen a little more aggression for the Sport, considering how well the mechanical changes have come off.
What's it like on the inside?
There are no radical changes to the interior, although a new black fabric and dark red faux leather combination interior is available. It looks great at first glance, although in typical budget Japanese car fashion, that's undone when it comes to the touch.
When it comes to space, five can be seated - although we suspect not particularly comfortably if you're planning for three adults in the back, while the boot offers up 470 litres in capacity with all seats in place. That eclipses the Nissan Juke's 354 litres and Mazda CX-3's 350 litres.
What's the spec like?
On top of all the go-faster bits, Honda has brought a generous level of equipment for no extra cost on the HR-V Sport. Luxury items include LED headlights, 'smoked' taillights, heated seats, automatic wipers, adaptive cruise control and its 'Connect' infotainment system displayed on a seven-inch display with Garmin satellite navigation.
There is also Honda's 'Sensing' suite of safety kit - bringing forward collision warning, lane keep assist and departure warning, traffic sign recognition and collision mitigation braking at no premium.
Honda has made something seriously fun and genuinely interesting in the HR-V Sport. It's a car that was once just another crossover - neither particularly outstanding nor dreadful - which now has an appealing option in its range that will put actual smiles on anyone's face on the right road, just as long as it's kept in mind this is no HR-V Type R, as mad as that concept sounds.
It does come at something of a cost though, so we reiterate that this is only really worth considering above other HR-Vs if performance is on your list.