Last week, Honda Malaysia took us to Langkawi to try out their new HR-V Hybrid. The car was recently launched in Malaysia, becoming the first hybrid crossover in the country. Coincidentally, Malaysia is also the first market to locally-assemble the HR-V Hybrid outside of Japan.
Earth Dreams Engine
Just like the Honda City Hybrid and Jazz Hybrid, the HR-V Hybrid features a 1.5-litre, naturally aspirated petrol engine and an i-DCD transmission. Unlike those other Honda hybrids, the engine features direct injection instead of multi-point injection. It’s a little more powerful (22hp and 22Nm more to be specific).
The same 7-speed gearbox in those Sport Hybrids returns here. The Suzuka-built i-DCD provides quick shifts, and houses the 29hp 160Nm electric motor. While it’s technically a dual-clutch transmission, there’s more to it than that. The electric motor and planetary style first gear are housed within the i-DCD, allowing the electric motor to operate independently of the petrol engine. And unlike many other dual-clutch transmissions, Honda Malaysia has tuned this one for a less sporty feel, which ought to give it better longevity.
Biggest Strength: Dynamism and Efficiency
The HR-V Hybrid’s are a lot punchier than their petrol alternatives. The power is just right for a car of this weight. It’s definitely not ‘sportscar’ fast, but the HR-V now has enough under the hood to not leave you wanting.
That being said, I don’t think Honda intended this to be overly sporty.
Depending on the situation, the petrol and electric motors can either operate independently or in tandem.
When the car starts up, the petrol engine is still left off. You can lurch forward or back with just the electric motor in the beginning. If you’re crawling around in a car park, you can move the HR-V Hybrid without burning a drop of fuel.
But as soon as you’re past about 15km/h, the engine kicks in. When accelerating or climbing an incline, both engines move the car. As soon as you’re cruising, the electric motor turns off and the car’s works on just petrol. This is where internal combustion engines are at their most efficient. The system regenerates energy to charge up the battery when braking. The regenerative brakes aren’t too disruptive because Honda use an electric servo brake system, but when pushing the car hard, larger discs would have been welcome additions. Realistically though, few are going to drive the HR-V Hybrid hard.
Sombre Colour Options
Just like the rest of Honda’s current hybrid lineup, the HR-V Hybrid is being offered with just 3 colour choices: White Orchid Pearl, Modern Steel Metallic and Lunar Silver Metallic. The preselected colour palette shows that the car is being targetted at a slightly more mature target audience, those who are willing to spend extra on a car that reflects their views on the environment.
What you’ll miss
For all its strengths, the HR-V Hybrid isn’t the complete package. This time around, Honda Malaysia has given the HR-V two flagship models. The Hybrid and RS. The RS gets a lot more goodies than the Hybrid, but it’s understandable given the added cost of producing this vehicle’s powertrain and mechanicals.
Buyers might want to get themselves a 12V to USB converter if they’re going to charge more than one device. The 7″ infotainment unit on the RS model is also miles ahead of the Hybrid’s head unit. Halogen headlights are also a bit of a let down on a high-tech model like this.
Thankfully, Honda have not compromised on safety when comparing these two models. You still get the very important 6 airbags and VSC on the Hybrid model.
The HR-V Hybrid is a pretty bold decision by Honda Malaysia. They’re exploring uncharted territory here. Not only is it the first hybrid compact crossover in Malaysia, but also the first compact crossover to be offered with multiple engine options. I think the gamble will pay off. Here’s why:
By being the only manufacturer to give you 4 very distinct versions of the same car, Honda are basically making a statement about the HR-V. It IS the default crossover, the one that makes the most sense. Your decision isn’t between the HR-V and its competitors. You’ve already chosen the HR-V, now pick one that fits you best.
And I think that rounds off my thoughts my impressions of the HR-V Hybrid and where it stands. In spite of the large battery, it still has the biggest, most usable boot. It’s still a jack of all trades, and now it’s moving into niche territory.