EVENTS of medieval nature unfolded in Tasmania this week.
Firstly, it was a warm sunny day. That was followed by a resurrection.
The Honda HR-V is back, after the first generation was sold in Australia between 1999 and 2001 before promptly falling on its sword.
Now it makes a triumphant return with impeccable timing. Sales of compact SUVs are climbing rapidly, gaining ground in an otherwise flat market.
With prices starting just below $25,000 plus on-roads, Honda has equipped the HR-V with a decent features list and an automatic transmission which throws it within the mix of a new legion of contenders, including Renault Captur, Peugeot 2008, Ford EcoSport, Nissan Qashqai, Holden Trax, and soon-to-arrive Mazda CX-3.
Thoughtful and spacious, the HR-V cabin has an airy feel despite a dash with a basic colour scheme.
Seats are nicely supportive, both laterally and at the base.
Using a similar colour touch-screen to what we have seen in the Jazz and Odyssey, it's easy to use although some of the functions can be slow to access. Dials and knobs are our preference for air con and stereo controls for rapid use, the touch-pad style buttons just require more patience.
Driver instruments are clear-cut. Adopting an analogue speedometer, tacho and fuel gauge, there is also a digital trip computer with various modes available at your thumbtip on the steering wheel.
Around the speedo is a coloured hue, which turns green during friendly driving and blue when things get more spirited.
Four adults should have no issue finding enough space with ample allowance in the rear for leg and knee room. Fitting three across the back pew is more challenging, but possible.
On the road
Well planted with a quiet ride, the moderate performance from the HR-V will please most drivers.
The 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine gets the job done with minimal fuss as long as you don't expect sports car prowess. Handling changes in direction well, the steering is light and geared for easy metropolitan parking and commuting, but the HR-V proved itself an adept performer on twisty roads used in Targa Tasmania.
Press for rapid acceleration and typical automatic continuous variable transmission flaring occurs. Engine revs race ahead of the desired velocity as the engine works hard to meet driver expectations.
Steady driving maintains impressive composure and everything behaves seamlessly. Some mid-corner bumps and lumps caused some concerning ride quality moments, but we'll reserve judgment when we get a steer in local conditions.
What do you get?
Basic equipment includes cruise control, CD stereo with 17.7cm colour touch-screen and HDMI/USB/auxiliary jacks, full Bluetooth connectivity, reversing camera, 16-inch alloys, climate controlled air con, six airbags (including full length curtain) and a full safety suite which helps achieve what Honda calls an "equivalent ANCAP" five-star safety rating. It's yet to be tested here.
Spend the extra coin for the VTi-S and it adds automatic wipers/lights, leather wrapped steering wheel and gear shifter, 17-inch alloys, LED headlights and daytime running lights, blind spot monitoring system and an active braking function which can automatically help avoid or lessen collisions at low speed.
Opt for the VTi-L and you get all the fruit, like front and rear parking sensors, steering wheel mounted paddle shifters, panoramic sunroof, dual cone air con, black leather trim with the front seats gaining a heating function, rear arm rest and auto up-down windows on all doors.
There is also the Advanced Driver Assist option, which throws in key safety features such as forward collision warning which alerts the driver to an impending obstacle with an instrument light and audio alert, lane departure warning which highlights if the vehicle is straying outside the lines, and an automatic high-beam function.
Honda has excelled with a functional and simplistic cabin.
For those who love a cup holder, Honda may well have nailed the market's best system. With a base which can be lowered or raised depending on your drink size, the arm which holds it in place can also be adapted for a bottle or cup.
Each door has space for a bottle, and there are some great storage spots, with a centre console along with a useful space beneath the shifter next to a 12-volt plug, HDMI and USB ports.
Open the boot and there is a surprisingly cavernous space. All hail the "magic" seating system from Honda. It's simply brilliant. The space is competitive with mid-size SUVs and there is a 1180mm opening to make fitting gear inside easier.
Drop the rear pew with seat-top buttons and they fold into the floor to unveil a flat load space. There are 18 different configurations of the seats, including a tall mode for things like TVs and plants.
One interesting feature is the soft boot parcel shelf, which folds up with a circular motion like the old-school windscreen sun protectors.
Our test was close to the official average fuel consumption figure, achieving just above seven litres for every 100km.
Striking without stepping beyond SUV convention, the HR-V is an attractive little offering especially in three-quarter view and in profile. The multi-dimensional lower sides create unique lines, and the tapered rear end with rear door handles integrated into the back pillar gives coupe-like lines.
Seven colours are available with three metallic options attracting a $575 premium.
Honda has lofty sales targets for the HR-V. It plans on selling about 800 units a month.
After a fall from grace in recent times the HR-V could well be the compact saviour needed to entrench Honda among Australia's leading automotive lights once again.
What matters most
What we liked: Outstanding cabin functionality, market-leading cup holder configuration, boot space and magic seats.
What we'd like to see: Dials for easier use of air con, real parcel shelf.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year/100,000km warranty. Capped price servicing is available, and intervals are annual or 10,000km, prices are $284 for the first service and then $298 thereafter.
Model: Honda HR-V.
Details: Five-door front-wheel drive sub-compact sports utility vehicle.
1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 105kW @ 6500rpm and peak torque of 172Nm @ 4300rpm.
Transmission: Continuously variable automatic.
Consumption: 6.6 litres/100km (combined average); 6.9L/100km (VTi-S and L).
CO2: 155g/km; 160g/km (VTi-S and L).
Bottom line plus on-roads: VTi $24,990, VTi-S $27,990, VTi-L $32,990, VTI-L with ADAS $33,990.
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