HR-V goes all-paw

Honda’s entry in the effervescent small crossover sector has just picked up a feature the brand once insisted it didn’t require.


AFTER almost a year in the market, the Honda HR-V is now presenting with another engine and a fresh drivetrain option that the brand initially said it could do without.

The arrival of a four-wheel-drive version at $35,600 is an interesting turn.

When HR-V launched last October, it presented in purely front-drive format, yet even though back then Honda was restricting its four-wheel-drive version to Japan, Honda NZ sales and marketing manager Nadine Bell also explained that even if that drivetrain was ready for export it mightn’t have been required here.

She proposed to MotoringNetwork that most Kiwi buyers wouldn’t expect or want it in this model and argued that the demand for front-drive was “much stronger in the sub-compact market.”

Obviously that view has now changed. We sought fresh comment from Bell, without success.

Adding the all-wheel-drive model brings the HR-V model count here up to seven; two more than the brand launched with. It also added a $36,990 Limited edition in June, at $36,990.

The newest entry is less expensive than the three Sport editions but also differs in being the first version not to have a 1.8-litre engine.

In place of the usual 105kW/172Nm powerplant comes a 96kW/155Nm 1.5-litre. Like the larger capacity engine, this one is in marriage with a constantly variable transmission.

The smaller plant is thriftier, with a claiming optimum of 5.3 litres per 100km against 6.6L/100km from the 1.8.

Honda’s Jazz-based model is aimed at the Holden Trax and Ford EcoSport – which don’t afford in four-wheel-drive - the Nissan Qashqai and Mazda CX-3, which offer front- and four-wheel-drive formats.

Honda New Zealand has always foresawn HR-V being a key model in its strategy to pick up pace in a recreational vehicle category that spans crossovers to sports utilities and even – at least in buyer’s minds – four-wheel-drive double cab utilities. All those vehicles have increased market dominance since HR-V came along.

The all-wheel-drive HR-V appears to be the first version here not to offer a reversing camera. It also takes 16-inch alloys; all previous editions have been on 17s or 18s. This version appears not to have the forward collision and lane-departure warnings (ADAS in Honda-speak) and autonomous emergency braking system known as City-Brake Active that are adopted by the Sport models.

HR-V was the first new Honda offered here that specifically divested a factory in-built sat nav in favour of a smartphone-tethered setup. The all-wheel-drive car, however, seems to take a different route again.

According to Honda NZ, customers can choose it with either a 6.2" Touch Screen Pioneer CD/DVD Audio, or ‘Honda G5’ with built in Navigation, or the Pioneer Premium Audio with the latest in smartphone connectivity including Pandora, Spotify, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It’s an intriguing offer – most car brands have infotainment systems that are able to cope with all those functions, though many have now divested from CD/DVD capability.

Although the distributor’s information pack does not make clear where these options are fitted, given the choice we would have to think it is a local inclusion, though the G5 option does appear to be a factory inclusion in other markets.