IF you’re genuinely into cars, then you knew this day would come. The day we needed to have the conversation about continuously variable transmissions, and we think that the 2019 Honda HR-V VTi LX is the perfect platform to transport us on this journey.
But before we get into the CVT ‘thing’, let’s get some formalities out of the way. Honda have a long tradition of building some pretty good cars; take the Prelude, CRX, S2000 and of course the timeless Civic, for example.
But that’s if you’re into fast stuff, or should we say, stuff that can be made to go fast.
We remember heading to Summernats, when the fully sick CRXs would hang out at servos waiting to hunt down V8 drivers, so they could sip salty goodness from their tears after their little 4-banger decimated them. It was sweet.
But don’t forget the great family Honda models, like the Odyssey, CR-V and of course our star of the day, the HR-V. Over the years they’ve all got prettier, with modernised styling, and subtle yet aggressive lines.
The new Honda HR-V the body sits atop 18-inch alloys, and features a sports grille, LED lighting fore and aft, and concealed rear door handles that give it a coupe-style look. There’s accessories too, so many accessories.
Other parents at school pick up will be totally admiring your LED lit HR-V scuff plates, your rear front and side garnishes, and your genuine boot protector, coupled with all those protective plastic bits you can get as well.
What they’ll actually be impressed with is the versatility of the rear compartment, with 18 possible variations.
There’s fold flat rear seats so you can load up the car with all the cra… we mean memories that your family has collected over the years, that may enjoy a better home, okay the tip, but they’re still memories, just don’t let the kids see you.
The HR-V stocks the full complement of connectivity; USB, HDMI, and Bluetooth so you can hook up and play your favourite tunes, or make hands free phone calls. The 7-inch multimedia interface is easy to use.
There are plenty of cool things to muck around with and set up, within the endless menus, but unfortunately there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. All these bits are housed neatly in the good looking interior that features plenty of style.
You’ll find lots of well finished stitched soft bits, and some nice contrasting hard surfaces, coated in piano black to give it some lushness. The instrument tech is a bit dated with the absence of an LCD screen, but you can get some of those stats on the central display.
The seats are comfy too, with plenty of adjustment, and there’s lots of storage, and places to put your cool refreshing beverages. Better yet, they have suitable girth for larger bottles and the centre console ones do some cool stuff.
They have foldy bits that allow for the space to be used for a beverage or storage, but be careful, because we’re sure a child would figure out some way of messing up the fiddly bits. Leg room is not the best in the back, it’s not cramped but it’s not spacious either.
Handling is pretty good, but nothing to write home about. It doesn’t have mad suspension, or unique ride characteristics, but it all works, and works well. With 105kW and 172Nm it will jump off the line vigorously enough to get you into that gap in traffic.
It does it all smooth like as well, and the reason for this may get you a bit unhinged. If you’re like us, it’s about the right car for the right job, sensible cars, if you will. And with that comes the dread of all car enthusiasts – continuously variable transmissions.
Soulless, whiny, screamy CVTs. The HR-V has one and it makes it feel a little unresponsive, and a little down on power. It’s not the worst CVT we’ve ever experienced but its not the best either.
It won’t lead you to sitting there working through ‘solutions’ like changing down gears prior to going for an overtake at higher speeds, or flooring it several years before that steep incline so you can make it up the hill.
But it does sound a little God awful, like it’s wringing the 4-cylinder 1.8-litre motor’s neck, when you turn up the wick. For example, we found ourselves on the freeway to the NSW Central Coast, when the irritation of a slow car in the right lane got to us.
When it finally moves, the natural response is to punch the gas. But when you slam that pedal to the shag pile you feel like you’re in a sci-fi adventure and the captain has just given the order to engage the hyper-drive.
The guy at the helm moves a lever into a maximum looking position, there is music playing to a crescendo and rising engine noises, and you’re looking at your mates like yeah, this thing is going to do something awesome in a second, and it finally does.
It is gratifying, but did we need all of the build-up just to gain 20km/h extra on that steep incline. No, no we didn’t. It just needs to work.
If you need a visual idea of what we are trying to say here, go to YouTube and watch The Last Jedi: Light Speed Scene in glorious 4K. Concentrate on the lady with the purple hair. This is us waiting for the power to kick in once we have buried the pedal.
The rise of the CVT is inescapable though, because when coupled with smaller engines, they provide fantastic economy. The HR-V managed 6.9-litres/100km just as an example. Some brands have even gone so far as to only offer CVT on a number of their models.
If it was still 1999, we’d call it heresy, but it’s not, it’s 2019, and this is the economical future. In Honda’s case though, they go one further, with their ‘earth Dreams’ technology. It’s green, lowering emissions, and focused on being eco-friendly.
Even its Eco-Assist functionality is delivered by the green ring of judgement. Just like the economy bar on any other car, where low is fun and high is driving miss daisy, you drive conservatively to keep the circle around the speedo green.
Give it some gas, and the circle goes white. Gimmick you say. But it’s not, because subconsciously you watch the circle, and find yourself trying to keep it green. In that way, Honda has achieved its goal of getting you to help the environment.
We tested it. We managed 6.6-litres/100km. Without doing the maths, over a long period of time, the green circle could save you loads on fuel costs, and along the way lead to less emissions from your car, and you as its driver.
The range-topping 2019 Honda HR-V VTi LX offers decent value for money too, at $38,103 plus on-roads, and comes with 5-years unlimited kilometre warranty. There’s even a white interior available on some exterior colours.
Those include Taffeta White, Platinum White (Pearlescent), Lunar Silver (Metallic), Modern Steel (Metallic), Crystal Black (Metallic), Brilliant Sporty Blue (Metallic), and Passion Red (Pearlescent).
Our test vehicle was provided by Honda Australia. To find out more about the 2019 Honda HR-V VTi LX, contact your local Honda Australia dealer.