The new 2021 Honda HR-V isn’t the cheapest of the bunch, but in a tough segment it stands out with neat dynamics and great build quality
A lot is asked of the affordable car. It’s actually at the lower end of the price scale where customers are at their pickiest. We want it all, space, value, tech, performance, style… You look at your generic car brand today, and the line-up includes four or five seemingly indiscernible crossovers, with only dimensions, and prices, to set them apart.
This is good for Honda because the Japanese company’s entry-level model punches above its weight. Which is also good, because at AED85,900 for the new 2021 Honda HR-V EX full-options model, it’s not exactly cheap and needs to punch above its weight in the face of cheaper rivals.
The competition comes from Renault, Nissan, Kia, Hyundai, and the usual suspects. While Honda’s HR-V range does kick off from AED69,900, the others are all available from AED62,000 or thereabouts, with the Nissan Kicks even cheaper, from AED59,900.
Fortunately for the HR-V it boasts class-leading cargo room, and a rather nice interior for a cheap crossover, which should go a long way in convincing demanding consumers to choose the more expensive Honda.
For 2021, there’s also a new screen on-board the HR-V with improved graphics like you see in the latest Honda Accord, plus seven exterior colours to choose from and two interior combinations. Our test model is in Brilliant Sporty Blue, and looks pretty neat on the newly designed 17-inch wheels.
What remains unchanged is the 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine delivering 140 horsepower and 172Nm of torque. It’s not much to write home about in terms of performance, but the engine is peppy and responds pleasingly to the throttle. I didn’t even mind the continuously variable transmission seeing as this solution has been undergoing development by Honda for years now, and it’s no longer nearly as annoying as the early generations of CVT..
This being a compact crossover Honda doesn’t offer all-wheel drive for the 2021 HR-V, which is fine because front-wheel drive is all you need for 99 percent of the time, and all-wheel drive would only burden the car with unnecessary weight and inefficiency. In any case, the HR-V will deal with elevated kerbs just fine, and get you across any sand parking lots you come across.
As it is, with just two driven wheels the 2021 HR-V is quite lightweight, about the same as a Mini Cooper, which means it actually feels quite sprightly on the move. It’s perfectly pleasant in the way it drives and the tech is right up there. On our top-spec HR-V EX tester, the panoramic sunroof is standard kit, as is a load of airbags, hill-start assist, but only four speakers for the sound system…
All in all the 2021 Honda HR-V is a compelling everyday runabout, and after spending two weeks with it all the family-car boxes have been ticked. Would I be thrilled to have one? Not exactly, but does it get the job done? Yes, definitely.
2021 Honda HR-V
1.8-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder | continuously variable transmission, front-wheel drive | 140 horsepower and 172Nm of torque | AED85,900