WITH the clock ticking towards curbs on new petrol and diesel cars, more and more buyers are switching to hybrids...as a sort of ‘half-way-house' to full cream electric power.
One of the most recent recruits to the hybrid gang is Honda's latest HR-V, a follow up model in this fierce fought sector of compact crossovers which includes such shining examples as the VW T-Roc and Toyota C-HR.
Powered by a 1.5-litre petrol engine linked to a couple of electric motors, its performance is a bit sharper with more torque while economy has benefited by more than 10 per cent. Despite a healthy 129bhp on tap, it's not exactly sporty with acceleration to 62mph in around 10 seconds, about average for its class.
In fact practicality and family appeal are the Honda's main attractions rather than performance. At least until a warmed up version arrives, that is.
Certainly, the cabin feels much more spacious than the previous version, with plenty of elbow room up front and legroom in the rear is aided by the ability to slide your feet under the front seats, adding valuable inches.
Taller rear seat passengers may find the rakish roofline restricts headroom somewhat.
The boot is smaller than average though, thanks to the electrification below the platform. Just 319 litres of luggage can be carried, noticeably less than most rivals. When the rear seats are folded this expands to 1,289 litres.
Honda's own ‘magic seat' design allows the rear seat bases to be flipped up to provide extra room for awkward shaped loads - a really useful innovation.
Cabin design is smart and of good quality with a nine-inch touchscreen in the centre of the fascia. Robust rotary knobs control the temperature which is better than having everything operated via a touchscreen. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard features, as are heated front seats, all-round parking sensors and rear view camera.
Leather upholstery is available as an extra, albeit an expensive option at £1,700.
Saloon drivers swapping to buy their first SUV will feel quite at home in the HR-V. It's easy to manoeuvre, handles neatly with little roll and you get a better view of the road ahead thanks to its greater height.
There are three drive modes - econ, normal and sport - which do more or less what it says on the tin. You tend to notice the sport mode most easily as it sharpens up responses a tad and makes the steering a little heavier.
The engine is generally quite silent unless revved, when a mechanical coarseness becomes evident. This is particularly noticeable under hard acceleration when overtaking, the automatic CVT gearbox adding to the frenzy. Slacken off and the general air of refinement is restored.
The HR-V is frugal to run with most owners easily attaining around the 50mpg mark. Emissions are appealingly low at 122g/km. The mid-range Advance model tested falls into insurance group 31.