Nothing soft about

Honda HR-V

Honda HR-V, front static
Honda HR-V, full front static
Honda HR-V, side static
Honda HR-V, rear static
Honda HR-V, boot open
Honda HR-V, dashboard

I HAD a lovely uncluttered trip up through mid-Wales a couple of weeks ago - the Welsh marches are a haven for people who enjoy their driving.

It was a Friday afternoon - but one devoid of the usual traffic snarl-ups and, for once, I was in no hurry as I enjoyed the latest soft roader from Honda - the HR-V.

I was driving the excellent 1.5 petrol HR-V with CVT automatic gearbox, which accomplished the journey with great ease.

The 1.6 diesel is likely to be the best seller I expect, but in case you're thinking of buying one bear in mind that the extra cost over the petrol means it will take four and a half years before you break even.

The petrol engine is quiet until revved, but then becomes quite raucous while still remaining smooth. It's well suited to the CVT gearbox, which seamlessly and smoothly takes care of acceleration unless you opt for the manual setting.

This artificially sets up a set of seven gears that are changed with up and down paddles behind the steering wheel. It works well enough and also gives the best economy, but why buy a dog and bark yourself?

Acceleration is good in either case and in full automatic there are three settings - Drive, Drive Eco and Sport - but Sport is the only one that seems to make much difference, giving a more immediate response to the accelerator and holding lower gears for longer.

The engine's power is mainly in the top half of its rev range and things are quite pedestrian if you don't push it.

The ride is rather jittery in town at slower speeds and sometimes on rougher surfaces at 40 or 50 miles an hour.

But the road holding and handling are very good for a high vehicle, with excellent grip and balance.

Navigation and stereo are controlled from a large touch screen but this did not work well for me. It's hard to hit the buttons on the move and sometimes when you do, they don't work.

In SE Navi spec, the HR-V comes with a DAB stereo, keyless entry and starting, alloy wheels, parking sensors front and rear, Bluetooth, audio controls on the steering wheel and climate.

FAST FACTS

Price: £22,420

Mechanical: 128bhp, 1,498cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via automatic gearbox

Max Speed: 116mph

0-62mph: 10.9 seconds

Combined MPG: 52

Insurance Group: 18

C02 emissions: 125g/km

Bik rating: 22%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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