IF YOU appreciate a bit of charming sophistication in your life then you’ll like the latest Honda HR-V compact crossover.
The Japanese marque’s practical family car not only has touches of elegance and coupe styling, it also features clever self-charging hybrid technology.
Moreover, as you travel in an eco-friendly, money-saving way, you will also appreciate the quality of the cabin as well as the driver engagement on offer.
And yet the beauty of the whole set-up is that, as the motorist, you don’t have to worry about how the car is being powered.
Honda’s clever e:HEV electric/petrol powertrain self-charges, so there is no need to plug it in, and the technology all works seamlessly behind the scenes.
So, electric power from two motors and the battery pack provides great acceleration from a standing start, while hybrid drive also engages the engine for everyday travelling.
At higher speeds, the engine takes over to not only propel the car but also recharge the battery pack – and then there is regenerative braking via the motors to recharge the battery cells.
Nonetheless, you can make the drive more entertaining by switching between three drive modes, selecting either D or B on the automatic gear lever and using steering wheel paddle shifters.
A centre-console switch allows a quick change between Eco, Normal and Sport settings that alter the acceleration and fuel-efficiency of the HR-V.
D for drive is the normal gear selector mode but B can be used to enhance the regenerative braking capacity – especially on long downhill stretches.
Meanwhile, the paddles can be deployed to affect regenerative braking in either D plus Sport or B mode – almost allowing one-pedal driving, which is a feature I love about electric power.
Who needs a clutch or brake pedal when a quick flick of a switch and your foot on or off the accelerator will pretty much do all the work for you?
And the 1.5-liter petrol engine, electric motor and e-CVT automatic transmission combine to develop a decent 131PS power output.
That results in a 0-62mph sprint time of 10.7 seconds and a top speed of 106mph, with an official average fuel economy of 52.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 122g/km.
During my week with the car driving around the lanes, towns and motorways of the Central Belt and south-west Scotland, I found it lived up to expectations.
If I put my foot down, there was a sporty buzz from the powertrain and it was easy to overtake slower vehicles. But I also enjoyed the serenity of quiet country pootles or relaxed cruising along the motorway.
Unlike some rivals, the Honda always felt stable and unruffled going around corners or encountering unexpected bumps created almost overnight by bad weather.
A superb suspension set-up and the underfloor placing of the electric battery pack and motors undoubtedly helped matters – but so did the comfort of the high-quality cabin of the top-spec Advance Style model I was driving.
The faux leather/fabric seats (heated up front) were very supportive and there were plenty of soft-touch finishes all around, as well as good room for four adults to stretch out.
A hands-free powered tailgate gives access to a boot with a minimum capacity of 304 litres, which is plenty big enough for the weekly shop or a golf trolley, for example.
Fold the 60/40 split rear seats and include the sub-boot/luggage floor box and there is a massive1290 liters of practical space available.
The high-end HR-V was also packed with goodies, starting with the smartphone-compatible nine-inch infotainment touchscreen with sat nav, as well as a wireless charger below it.
Other creature comforts include keyless entry and start, auto LED lights (including high beam) and wipers, adaptive cruise control, very effective dual-zone air con and a heated steering wheel.
Among the driving aids are front and rear parking sensors plus a rear-view camera, electric parking brake with auto hold, and a huge array of collision avoidance systems – including blind-spot and cross-traffic monitoring.
Then there is also traffic sign recognition, an intelligent speed limiter, lane keep assist, road departure mitigation and an emergency call system among other features.
I particularly liked the sleek, coupe-inspired design of this crossover, too, with a reduced roof height over the previous model, clean surfaces and a crisp horizontal shoulder line.
Highlights for me included the body-coloured front grille, striking 18in black cut alloy wheels, neat rear spoiler, contrasting gloss-black roof and the way the rear light clusters were linked by a narrow band.
I also appreciated the way the doors wrapped over the sills – preventing clothes from getting dirty when climbing in and out.
With the Advance Style test car priced from £33,835, I reckon you really do get a lot of premium-quality value for money from the Honda HR-V.