New fuel-sipping hybrid SUV lands in Oz

This Japanese brand has launched its new small hybrid SUV that will save you a lot of money on your annual fuel bill, but there’s a catch.

We generally regard Toyota as the pioneer of hybrid technology in Australia, and the 2001 Prius can rightly take credit for pioneering hybrid technology as a viable and affordable alternative to pure petrol and diesel.

However, it was Honda that actually brought hybrids to Australia with the Insight, a weird little sci-fi style three-door hatch that beat the Prius to market by around six months.

I remember driving it with a colleague on the Hume from Melbourne to Sydney marveling at this wonderful new technology which seamlessly and efficiently combined battery and petrol power, allowing fuel consumption figures up to 50% lower than conventional configurations.

Honda only sold a few Insights. It was too much for the time, especially with a price tag of $49,159. You could buy a Toyota Corolla for $19,750 in 2001.

Honda’s second-generation 2022 HRV uses the same technology, but with two decades of refinement and research that makes a big difference. The Insight was, in truth, quite awful – as slow as an election campaign, noisy and uncomfortable – and when we finally got to Sydney we were happy to park it.

HRV’s e:HEV system includes a 1.5-liter gasoline engine and two electric motors, one for propulsion, the other for generating electricity to maintain the charge of the lithium-ion battery of small capacity. You don’t need to plug in to charge. A CVT transmission spins the front wheels.

The HRV is a true series/parallel hybrid in that the battery alone can provide power – enough to get you out of your driveway, at least, or launch you a few feet from the headlights with a slight throttle – before the gasoline engine only starts and does most of the lifting thereafter.

A surge adds extra punch when you put your foot down.

The car’s software decides where and how much driving power is needed. You cannot select EV mode, as it would be useless. The battery does not have the ability to be the sole power source for driving.

Honda claims a mixed consumption, on ordinary unleaded, of 4.3L/100km on the outdated and optimistic Australian standard. In Europe, where the more realistic WLTP standard now applies, the demand is 5.4 L/100 km. You should be able to reach 5-6L/100km.

The HRV e:HEV L (that’s code for hybrid, in case you were wondering) is $45,000 drive-up, which is expensive for a small SUV, but hey, it’s also cheaper than the Insight 21 years ago. A non-hybrid Vi X model, with a 1.5-liter gasoline engine, costs $36,700 drive-away.

Standard is the nine-inch touchscreen infotainment with navigation and wireless Apple CarPlay, four USB ports (two in the rear), 18-inch alloys and pivoting LED headlights.

This second-generation HRV is new from the wheels down, and underneath its big Volvo-esque sheet metal is a roomy, practical and very comfortable wagon.

It’s not fast. The 0-60 mph journey takes a claimed 10.6 seconds, but performance obviously isn’t the focus here and it’s adequate for everyday driving. The Honda is also serenely quiet around town and cruising.

The suspension is set up for comfort rather than sporty handling, again in keeping with the overall design specification. The front end can slack off on choppy surfaces at high speeds and it leans heavily on the outside front wheel in tight corners, but dynamics are generally confident and predictable and the ride is considerably more luxurious than most small SUVs. .

A simple analog-era dashboard layout, comprehensive safety tech for driver assistance (including ‘Smart Speed ​​Limiter’, which reads speed limit signs and adjusts your speed accordingly) , comfortable, supportive seating (for four) and plenty of legroom are complemented by a mid-size trunk with a hands-free power tailgate that automatically closes when you walk away from the car.

Honda’s clever split rear seats fold flat for a cavernous extended cargo bay, or upright so you can haul tall items.

The HRV is pricey, but it marks a return to the high-quality, Japanese-made credentials that earned the Honda brand premium status in the ’80s and ’90s.

Honda’s problem is that rivals such as Mazda, Hyundai, Kia, Toyota and Subaru now meet those standards, often at lower prices.

OPINION 3.5/5

A good thing, but hybrid technology doesn’t have to be so expensive.

HONDA HRV e: HEV L

THE PRICE $45,000 by car

GUARANTEE Five years/unlimited km; $625 over 5 years

SECURITY Six airbags, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, lane keeping assist, speed sign recognition

ENGINE 1.5-litre petrol/electric hybrid, 96 kW and 253 Nm

THE THIRST 4.3L/100KM

STARTUP 304 liters

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