New Honda HR-V launched with e:HEV hybrid powertrain

Honda has pulled the wraps off its new Nissan Juke and Hyundai Kona-rivalling HR-V.

The Mk3 Honda HR-V gains a bold new look, extra technology, a more spacious interior and a reworked version of its clever two-motor e:HEV hybrid powertrain, adapted from the latest Jazz.

The new Honda HR-V’s powertrain uses the same Atkinson cycle 1.5-litre petrol engine with two electric motors, although it’s connected to a slightly larger battery pack, mounted under the boot floor. The system also has a slightly higher combined output of 96kW and 253Nm, to cope with the car’s added bulk.

Like the Honda Jazz, the HR-V’s petrol engine works primarily as a generator for the electric motor system. However, the petrol engine can also drive the wheels directly at higher cruising speeds.

Despite the powertain’s focus on electric running, Honda hasn’t actually confirmed an maximum electric only range figure for the HR-V. But Kojiro Okabe, one of the head engineers for the new HR-V project told us that EV running isn’t a priority.

“We haven’t very much focussed on how long you can drive purely electric in one go. It’s more about the total balance of how efficiently you can produce the electric power.

“In city driving, most of the time you can drive in pure-electric mode. However, we haven’t actually determined and measured, and also focussed our development in terms of maximising the pure-electric range in one go.”

New 2021 Honda HR-V: design and interior

The Honda HR-V has always offered a more coupe-like look compared to its competitors; something this third-generation model has advanced even further, borrowing some light design inspiration from last year’s Honda e:Concept prototype.

Like the concept, it features a broad radiator grille and a rakish profile, with a roofline that’s 20mm lower than the old car’s. Honda has also increased the HR-V’s ride height by 10mm and fitted larger 18-inch alloy wheels as standard, adding to its bold new stance. The rest of the car has clean and simple surfacing.

Honda says the cosmetic changes aren’t just for the sake of design, though. There’s an air curtain along the lower edge of the bumper, as well as a subtle lip for the rear edge of the side skirts, both of which help to improve the car’s aerodynamics. The new spoiler also helps to clean up the turbulent air in the HR-V’s wake, reducing drag and improving fuel economy.

Inside, Honda has adopted the same minimalist design language. The dashboard is clutter free, comprising only a seven-inch instrument cluster, a nine-inch infotainment system and some simple rotary climate control knobs above the centre console.

Honda has fitted its new Air Diffusion System in place of traditional air vents mounted in the centre of the cabin. It uses two L-shaped outlets by the A-pillars, which direct air down the inside of the crossover’s windows to adjust the interior temperature.

Despite being the same length overall as the old HR-V, Honda says it has improved the new car’s interior space, thanks in part to the new drivetrain. In the rear, there’s an extra 35mm of legroom and a further two degrees of seat recline.

Honda has also managed to retain the old car’s versatile Magic Seats, which allows you to either fold the rear seat backs flat, or keep them in place and flip the seat bases up (like a cinema chair) for extra practicality. Honda says the system allows the HR-V to easily carry two adult mountain bikes with the front wheels removed.

New 2021 Honda HR-V: safety technology

Honda’s “Sensing” safety equipment makes its debut on the Mk3 HR-V, adding a host of extra driver assistance technology. The biggest update is a new front camera and image processing chip, which improves the car’s pedestrian collision mitigation steering system and collision mitigation braking system.

The new camera can better detect pedestrians during night-time driving, while the improved software can now recognise oncoming vehicles which stray into the path of the HR-V, including cyclists and motorcycles, and automatically apply the brakes.

There’s a new adaptive cruise control system, too, with new software which Honda says can better perform overtakes. The vehicle can now calculate the smoothest steering angle and acceleration mapping required for the overtake. It also accelerates earlier, to make sure there’s an adequate amount of speed for the manoeuvre.

The new HR-V will also be offered with Hill Descent Control which can operate from speeds as low as 3km/h . Honda says the system can assist drivers in a range of conditions, from “navigating slippery outdoor car park ramps to tackling steep snowy roads.”

Luke Wilkinson

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