The Honda HR-V is the most popular compact SUV (sports utility vehicle) in Malaysia, and there are very good reasons for its strong appeal.
These include a sporty design, a powerful yet fuel economical 1.8-litre engine, an impressively spacious interior and a best-in-class boot space.
Earlier this year, Honda Malaysia launched the facelifted HR-V and included a 1.5-litre Sport Hybrid i-DCD variant which became the third model in the company’s line-up with such a powertrain after the City Hybrid and Jazz Hybrid.
It is worth noting that Malaysia is the only country outside of Japan officially selling Honda cars with the Sport Hybrid i-DCD system.
The HR-V Hybrid is priced at RM120,800 on-the-road without insurance which is quite competitive compared with its non-hybrid siblings - RM108,800 (E grade); RM118,800 (V grade) and RM124,800 (RS grade).
To keep its price competitive despite the more costly Sport Hybrid i-DCD powertrain, Honda decided that the HR-V hybrid would share similar features with the entry-level E variant.
These include halogen headlights with manual levelling, bulb type front fog lights and 17-inch alloy wheels.
In the rear, you get LED tail lights. The only noticeable exterior difference is the “Hybrid” emblems on the sides and rear.
Like the entry-level E variant, the HR-V hybrid gets dark mix leather/fabric seats and a 6.8-inch touchscreen audio system with four speakers, and HDMI and USB ports.
There’s a space age looking gear shifter (similar to that in the City Hybrid and Jazz Hybrid) and nice chromed interior door handles, and some leather upholstery on the doors.
The HR-V is renowned for its class-leading interior space and while the Hybrid variant has a bit less boot space (33 litres less with seats up/41 litres less with seats down), there is still abundant space for luggage and moving big items.
With the seats up, the HR-V Hybrid still has class-leading boot space at 404 litres compared with rivals.
The reduced boot space is due to the lithium-ion battery under the boot area.
This also means there is no temporary spare tyre like the other HR-V variants, and the HR-V Hybrid instead comes with a temporary tyre repair kit.
The rear Ultra seats can also be tipped up for moving tall items.
Another space saver is the electric parking brake with Automatic Brake Hold function.
The SUV starts silently and there is a slight whining sound, as we drive gently away from the parking bay only on battery power.
The full-electric drive mode is limited to perhaps two or three minutes at gentle speeds, and the switch to petrol engine power is quite seamless without any unpleasant judder.
The 1.5-litre direct injection hybrid powertrain delivers has a combined system power of 152PS and 190Nm of torque, more power compared with the 1.8-litre non-hybrid HR-V E variants that output 142PS and 172Nm.
As such, the extra weight here (43kg heavier in kerb weight compared with the HR-V E grade), thanks to the hybrid powertrain, is not significant.
The seven-speed dual clutch transmission here is a smooth and fluid shifter, and there is no jerkiness even in slow moving or stop-start traffic.
Compared with the non-hybrid variant, we find the HR-V Hybrid to offer a more refined and smoother drive.
On the highway, the interior is quiet and there is little intrusion from wind, tyre and engine noise.
The SUV, fitted with grippy Continental UltraContact UC6 tyres sized 215/55 R17, also handles capably in the corners and winding roads.
There’s also a Sport mode here for better acceleration and paddle shifters for sporty-minded drivers.
Honda claims the HR-V Hybrid can achieve fuel consumption (combined cycle) of 4.4 litres per 100km or 22.73km per litre.
This is compared with the non-hybrid HR-V’s claimed fuel consumption of 6.5 litres per 100km or 15.4km per litre.
Standard on all HR-V variants are six airbags, front and rear disc brakes, Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD), Hill Start Assist (HSA), Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA), Rear Seat ISOFIX points, and a Multi-Angle Rearview Camera.
Honda Malaysia provides a five-year warranty with unlimited mileage, and free labour service up to 5 times within 100,000km or 5 years (whichever is first).
There’s also an 8-year warranty for the lithium-ion battery, with unlimited mileage.
The lithium-ion battery is said to be designed to last the lifespan of the car which is defined as 200,000km.
The lithium-ion battery costs RM7,134 but Honda Malaysia says a 15% discount is available to chop the price down to RM6,064.
A comparison with the entry-level HR-V E grade is in order here, as it shares similar features with the HR-V Hybrid.
You pay RM12,000 more and sacrifice a temporary spare tyre and a little boot space.
And if you are a high mileage driver or plan to keep the SUV more than eight years, you need to factor in the eventual replacement cost of the lithium-ion battery.
Still, the HR-V Hybrid offers a more refined and powerful yet much more fuel economical powertrain.
You get plenty of power on demand, and pay fewer visits to the petrol station.
Honda HR-V 1.5L Hybrid
Engine: 1,496cc four cylinders, 16-valve, direct injection DOHC i-VTEC
Engine maximum power: 132ps at 6,600rpm
Engine maximum torque: 156Nm at 4,600rpm
Combined hybrid system output: 152ps and 190Nm
Transmission: 7-speed dual clutch
Features: Halogen automatic headlights with manual levelling, Daytime Running Lights, Front Fog Lights, LED rear lights, Smart Entry with Push Start Button, powered wing mirrors, Cruise Control, paddle shifters, automatic Air Conditioning, Half Leather upholstery, Electric Parking Brake, 6.8-inch Display Audio, HDMI Port, USB port, 4 audio speakers,
Safety features: 6 airbags, all-round disc brakes, Automatic Brake Hold (ABH), Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD), Hill Start Assist (HSA), Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA), Rear Seat ISOFIX points, Multi-Angle Rearview Camera
Fuel consumption (combined): 4.4 litres per 100km
Price (on the road, without insurance): RM120,800
Honda HR-V Hybrid: Refined drive and impressive fuel sipper