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2020 Honda HR-V 1.8 RS Navi CVT: Orange-Glazed Subcompact Simplicity

In our review of the 2019 Honda Jazz 1.5 RS Navi CVT, I stated that I was a big fan of the Jazz because of its intelligent and functional design, its performance and handling capabilities, its fuel mileage, and of course, its affordable price. But, after driving Honda’s HR-V, I’m beginning to be a bit inclined towards subcompact crossover vehicles instead of subcompact hatchbacks. Please allow me to explain.

First, let’s get one thing straight. This subcompact crossover vehicle that I’m reviewing is known officially as the Honda HR-V 1.8 RS Navi CVT finished in Phoenix Orange Pearl. Sure, the complete model name, as well as the paint, is quite a handful to write or say but Honda Cars Philippines (HCPI) has a good reason for that, which will be evident as you read on. The HR-V model line-up had a facelift last year so the model simply soldiers on into post pandemic 2020 without any significant changes.

Engineered for Power, Economy and Driving Convenience

By itself, the standard HR-V is already a good vehicle. Under the hood is a 140-horsepower 1.8-liter single overhead camshaft (SOHC) 4-cylinder gasoline engine equipped with Honda’s proprietary intelligent variable valve timing and lift electronic control or i-VTEC. What it does is it improves the volumetric efficiency of the engine to achieve higher performance at high engine revolutions and lower fuel consumption at low rpm. Simply put, the i-VTEC engine provides the HR-V with sporty performance while keeping an eye on fuel economy.

The “CVT” in our HR-V’s name refers to the continuously variable transmission, or officially, the Honda Earth Dreams CVT. Simply put, it is an automatic transmission with electronic controls that communicates with the engine’s ECU and flawlessly sends the engine’s torque to the front driving wheels without the hesitation or clunky shifting that older CVTs were plagued with. Just put the selector in “Drive” and just, err… drive. With today’s crawling stop-and-go traffic, this CVT, combined with the i-VTEC engine, is a godsend.

Whenever I See Your Smiling Face

In the automotive industry, the initials “RS” normally stands for Rally Sport, which may be a performance or trim package. In the case of the HR-V, the RS package simply adds some sporty aesthetic trim and a set of 17-inch 5-spoke two-tone alloy wheels shod in meaty 215/55R17 tires.  Glossy black accents adorn the front and rear bumpers, side sills, door handles and side mirrors to provide a sportier image to an already sporty subcompact crossover. Additionally, the RS trim includes extra parking sensors at the back, side airbags, and a seatbelt reminder for the front passenger.

However, if you’re a fan of the Disney movie “Cars”, the façade of our HR-V RS seems to provide a different definition of “RS” – Radiant Smile. The shiny chromed corporate “H” emblem in the middle of the dark-chrome wing grille looks like a nose; the headlamps, which incorporates the LED daytime running lights, looks like the eyes; the dark-chrome accents on top of the headlamps, which continue the design flow of the wing grille, look like eyebrows; while the large U-shaped air opening with the honeycomb mesh grille underneath looks like a smile lodged between the leading edges of the fender that look like rounded cheeks. Squint and the HR-V looks like Lightning McQueen’s twice-removed friendly, smiling Japanese cousin.

It’s Cozy, Cool and Comfy Inside

The 2019 upgrade of the HR-V carried over the interior of the previous model with a few Noise, Vibration and Harshness (NVH) updates while the 2020 version is more or less a continuation of the same. The black leather seats, black plastic trim and dark-colored interior of our RS makes the subcompact space look even more compact, although it is a comfortable cocoon to while away the traffic. The touch panel climate control system provides great cooling comfort for the front and rear occupants, which negate the need for rear air-conditioning vents, while the infotainment system can handle music, video, hands-free phone calls, HDMI, USB and Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and satellite navigation. (Aha! So that’s where the “Navi” comes from!)

The driver grips a chunky leather-covered 3-spoke steering wheel with paddle shifters behind it and faces an instrument panel with three round dials with an 8,000-rpm tachometer, 220-km/h speedometer, and a digital message center. There are basic control buttons for the infotainment system and the cruise control on the steering wheel so the driver doesn’t really have to take his hands off the wheel. Every control is ergonomically positioned for easy reach and optimized function. As an added cool feature, the angle of the infotainment system’ touchscreen monitor can be electronically adjusted to suit the occupants. However, the exposed USB cables looked like an afterthought and could be easily snagged by a careless front seat occupant.

A Taller Chunkier Jazz

I’m a big fan of the Honda Jazz because of the intelligent use of its subcompact interior space and its clever flexible seats that can accommodate cargo. I’m now a big fan of the HR-V because it does the same things as the Jazz but with added confidence of a higher ground clearance, which we need in our less-than-perfect and occasionally flooded road network. And just take a look at the cargo area behind the rear seats: It can accommodate 431 liters with the seats up and 1,665 liters with the seats folded. The lower cushions fold down to the floor when the rear seats are folded to create a large almost-flat cargo bay. Now, if only the edges of the hatch opening were squared instead of rounded, it would have been perfect!

A soft cover keeps the contents of the 431-liter cargo bay away from prying eyes.

Removing the soft cover allows the loading of tall items or stacking of boxes.

The 60/40 rear seat can accommodate cargo and a rear seat passenger or two.

With the rear seat folded, the rear cargo space expands to 1,665 liters.

I have to admit that the current post-General Community Quarantine (GCQ) travel bans and curfews enforced in various degrees by local government units (LGUs) restricted me from the usual test drive route that I take to evaluate the ride quality, driving performance and the fuel mileage of this HR-V RS. But, as expected of a sporty Honda, it’s safe, pretty quick, agile, comfortable, and economical. My wife Shawie and I shared driving duties and we were only able to bring the fuel gauge from full tank to quarter tank in the eight days that we had the test drive vehicle. The built-in computer showed that we averaged about 8.9 kilometers per liter in city driving, which is about the same as what we normally do with our own automatic transmission-equipped 1.6-liter 4-door sedan.

If we were in the market for a new brand-new subcompact vehicle, I’d now be hard pressed to decide between the Honda Jazz 1.5 RS Navi CVT and the Honda HR-V 1.8 RS Navi CVT. After the drive, I’m gravitating towards the HR-V RS but its price is the only thing stopping me. At P1,508,000, it costs P420,000 more than the P1,088,000 Jazz RS. I know that it’s like comparing apples to oranges, or in this case, a Rally Red Jazz RS versus a Phoenix Orange Pearl HR-V RS  (even my 81-year-old mom loves the color) but P420,00 can go a long way in this post-pandemic economy.

I’m just glad that I’m not currently in the market right now so I simply don’t have to choose.


Price: P1,508,000.00

Classification: 5-door subcompact crossover vehicle

Engine type: Liquid-cooled inline-4 SOHC i-VTEC

Capacity: 1798 cc

Maximum power: 140 hp @ 6500 rpm

Maximum torque: 172 Nm @ 4300 rpm

Transmission:    CVT with Earth Dreams Technology

Length: 4294 mm

Width:  1772 mm

Height: 1605 mm

Wheelbase: 2610 mm

Ground clearance: 185 mm

Turning radius: 10.6 m

Fuel tank capacity: 50 liters

Maximum load space volume behind 1st row – 1665 liters

Maximum load space volume behind 2nd row – 431 liters

Contact Details

Honda Cars Philippines, Inc.

30/F, The Trade & Financial Tower, 7th Avenue corner 32nd Street,

Bonifacio Global City, Taguig 1634 Philippines

Tel: (632) 857-7200 to 19 / 1-800-1000-HONDA / 857-7240

Fax: (632) 857-7288