The Honda HR-V
The new HR-V from Honda is a truly unique concept in vehicle design that challenges conventional thinking and even promises to establish a new sub-sector in the market.
A 'clean-sheet' approach to styling means this innovative, niche-creating vehicle cleverly blends elements from a variety of sources, ranging from the sporty profile of a performance hatchback to the bold on-road presence of a sports utility vehicle (SUV). Add to that the option of Real Time four wheel drive, chassis dynamics that provide sporty levels of handling and outstanding interior packaging and you have a truly distinctive vehicle that refuses to be categorised.
The agile, 3-door HR-V is set to appeal to young, style-conscious customers who will readily appreciate its individuality and a range of features that cleverly mix fun and functionality. With its compact dimensions, semi-elevated driving position, sporty performance and outstanding manoeuvrability it makes a stylish urban runaround; equally, its versatility and an excellent cargo capacity for its size, make the HR-V ideal transport for a wide range of active leisure pursuits. Whether clubbing at night or surfing by day, the HR-V fits the bill supremely well.
Tough on the street
A 105 PS 1.6 litre engine that provides excellent low speed torque characteristics means the HR-V is fun to drive, yet it still provides good economy - 8.6 l/100km in the Combined Cycle (for the Real Time 4WD manual transmission) - and meets the EU2000 exhaust emissions regulations. Complementing the responsive performance is a coupe-like driving appeal and suspension characteristics that are firmly biased towards crisp handling and high roll stiffness. Power steering is standard.
Further versatility is provided by a Real Time four wheel drive option which uses the highly-acclaimed Real Time arrangement of the Honda CR-V. This advanced system only engages four wheel drive when needed and does so automatically for maximum convenience. As well as a 5-speed manual transmission, customers also have the choice of a unique driveline combination - Real Time four wheel drive plus a continuously variable transmission (CVT) for notably smooth performance at all speeds, plus unsurpassed ease of use.
The Real Time option is aimed at customers who may require the occasional security and practicality it can provide. It is not intended for serious off-roading, rather it is designed to give additional grip in light snow, on grass and on gravel. A respectable ground clearance of 190 mm and approach and departure angles of 29 degrees make it eminently practical in such conditions. Large 15" wheels are offered as standard and 16" wheels are available as an accessory.
The HR-V provides exemplary levels of safety and as well as meeting all current and anticipated impact regulations, incorporates a number of world-pioneering features designed to minimise pedestrian injuries in the event of an impact. SRS driver and front passenger airbags plus front seatbelt pre-tensioners are part of the standard specification. ABS anti-lock braking together with Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) are also standard items.
Honda has gone to considerable lengths to optimise the noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) characteristics of the HR-V, and a comfortable, spacious interior able to accommodate four adults and their luggage is complemented by outstanding refinement. Furthermore, the MacPherson strut front and five-link rear suspension have been engineered for excellent ride comfort.
A 285 litre (VDA) cargo area comes equipped with four cargo hooks, an underfloor compartment sub-divided for wet and dry items, and 50:50 split-fold rear seats. The cabin boasts numerous storage areas for odds and ends and there are no fewer than five cupholders.
A wide range of accessories, including a number of external trim items, is available for those customers who wish to personalise their HR-Vs. The optional sports pack, which comprises body colour roof rails and a large rear roof spoiler, perfectly complements the HR-V's raked lines.
The HR-V range goes on sale early 1999 and will be available in both two wheel and four wheel drive specification and with either a five speed manual transmission or CVT.
The HR-V has its origins in the J-WJ, one of the three J-Mover series concept cars unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show at the end of 1997 and first seen in Europe at the 1998 Geneva Motor Show. While most concept cars tend to be fantasy, crammed with interesting ideas which rarely reach the dealership, the J-WJ is one that has turned into a production car with few major changes.
The motive behind the J-Mover series was Honda's desire for a greater presence in the small car market, and just as the J-BX spawned the new Logo, so the J-WJ has formed the basis for the HR-V. The European small car market continues to grow and it is Honda's firm intention to become a significant player within that market.
A key element in Honda's approach is the creation of distinctive and innovative niche models - an acknowledgement of the fact that customers are demanding ever greater diversity as a means of expressing their own individuality.
It's in the mix
As befits a vehicle in a new market niche, the HR-V combines some of the finest ingredients from a wide range of different vehicle types, in a new compact format. While it has no direct competitors this very fact means it will prove attractive to customers contemplating a diverse range of contenders, from small coupes, to small sports utility vehicles. Equally, demand is expected to come from customers considering both B- and C-segment hatchbacks but looking for something more trendy and more stylish.
Not surprisingly, given the ethos of the HR-V, Honda sees its appeal among 'innovators and early adopters' - marketing-jargon for those individuals who create trends rather than follow them. Such customers will be intelligent and independent thinking, style- rather than fashion-conscious and seeking more than just a standard hatchback. They will have an active lifestyle - to use a time-honoured phrase, they tend to work hard and play hard - and the HR-V's clever design enhances that lifestyle. 'Respectable rebels', their attitude is more important than age.
More specifically, Honda has identified two target groups:
First so-called Dinkys - dual-income-no-kids-yet - aged around 25 to 35, town or city dwellers who are likely to be young professionals on a defined career path, enjoying a healthy lifestyle, with lots of socialising and sports participation.
Then there are the Sinkys - single-income-no-kids-yet - of a similar profile to Dinkys, but perhaps with greater participation in demanding or extreme sports, and heavily into the club scene. They will certainly be into new technology, but style is as important as functionality.
The design goal: urbane, cool, futuristic
The HR-V is the result of a totally 'clean sheet' styling approach, so while it incorporates a number of classic Honda design cues, its overall design is fresh and innovative and the ultramodern 'concept car' looks are like nothing else on the market.
To put the HR-V into dimensional context, it is the same width as a Honda Civic 3-door, 185 mm shorter, and 215 mm taller. These proportions give the HR-V its distinctive appearance; and while some SUVs are of a similar size, none has the sporty, sleek appearance of the innovative HR-V.
The low slung, wide-track design, which contributes to increased cornering stability and more responsive, coupe-like handling, means the HR-V is relatively wide. It also incorporates an above average ground clearance and semi-elevated driving position, yet does so without being overly tall, while overall length is only slightly over 4 m.
Its well-balanced proportions make it ideal for both city driving and occasional off road use, and cramped multi-storey car parks can be negotiated with ease.
When the HR-V is taken off road, its 190 mm ground clearance is a major benefit over grass and gravel terrain, while the incline it can tackle moving forwards (the approach angle) or when descending (the departure angle) without any part of the underside touching the ground are both 29 degrees.
A body of distinction
The HR-V is characterised by well-defined, crisp body edges, a clean-edged waistline which sharpens the side profile, and flared wheel arches which emphasise its wide-track stance. The distinctive frontal aspect incorporates an under-guard integrated with a front bumper to give a clean, muscular appearance, while the high-tech, jewel-like twin headlights render it instantly identifiable. Each unit comprises a main beam-only inner lamp, a dipped/main beam outer lamp, and front indicator with side repeater inset. The sub-reflector within the light unit is gunmetal in colour adding further distinction.
The clean tail design incorporates a high-mounted, vertical light array which allows for a wide loading aperture and a finely sculpted bumper assembly. The tailgate is hinged conventionally from the roof and its three-dimensional curved window wraps stylishly into the roof line.
A 'wide-vision' cabin is a key feature, and while the body sides of the HR-V taper towards the roof line, the reduction in width is not significant; together with an A-pillar set well forward, this provides a panoramic view, a light and airy feeling and excellent interior accommodation.
Large 15 inch x 5.5 diameter steel wheels are standard, shod with 195/70R15 tyres. Optional 16 inch x 6 alloys with 205/60 R16 tyres are visually impressive, and enhance handling. Both feature spoked designs, perfectly complementing the flared wheelarches to give a slightly aggressive, wide-track vehicle stance.
A fashionably short, stubby 'bee-sting' aerial can be mounted in the centre of the roof above the windscreen, as an optional item.
Fashion shades dominate the HR-V colour palette and include milano red, clover deep forest green, new vogue silver, starlight black, supersonic blue pearl, and sunburst yellow (a green-gold tone).
Versatile interior packaging
A highly practical, impressively roomy interior recognises that HR-V owners will enjoy a wide range of activities, and require a car that is above all easy to live with.
Despite an overall length of around 4 m, the HR-V offers a substantial 285 litres (VDA) luggage capacity. Particular attention has been paid to ease of use and folding the 50:50 split rear seatback simply involves pulling a lever and pushing the seatback forward in a single-action to create a superbly practical and flat load area floor, complete with four cargo hooks.
Such is its length, that with the rear seat in its upright position, it is possible to carry two golf bags and with one half of the rear seat folded, it is possible to carry two snowboards or three golf bags. It is also designed to have a high level of visual appeal and both the rear seat back and spare tyre lid, which forms the load floor, feature a quality needle-punched fabric covering. Lift up the floor and there are two individual storage areas which could be used to separate wet from dry clothing, for example. An emergency warning triangle is stowed securely alongside.
The HR-V's relatively high seating position and therefore high H-point (hip point) makes getting in and out an easy affair, without the climb of a sports utility vehicle or the drop down of a conventional hatchback. It also ensures excellent all-round visibility, and the eye-point for an averaged sized driver is 1300 mm. Easy entry and exit for rear seat passengers is ensured by a walk-in mechanism on the front passenger seat. The large, sporty front seats, with two-tone upholstery, have prominent side bolsters padded with multiple density foam, providing excellent lateral support during cornering. Tall seat backs and long seat squabs give a high level of support to backs and thighs respectively.
Interior accommodation is generous and compared to a conventional C-segment hatchback the HR-V boasts significantly increased shoulder and hip room. Furthermore, the clearance between the head of a front seat occupant and the side roofrail is 90 mm, benefiting both comfort and safety. Vertical headroom is excellent at 73 mm in the front and 47 mm for rear seat passengers.
The versatile, sporty interior design concept matches practicality with style, creating a cabin which perfectly reflects the HR-V's twin goals of fun and functionality. The two-tone facia centres on a dual-cowled instrument binnacle shielding the speedometer, tachometer and other gauges and the sports design, three-spoke steering wheel has a dimpled, leather-like rim and a distinctive centre logo. Blue coloured instrument dials enhance the light and airy feel inside the cabin.
The heating and ventilation controls - three rotary knobs - sit above a double-DIN slot for the audio/navigational equipment in the centre console. 16 cm door speakers are fitted in the front. Door centres are cloth covered and the sunvisors carry a large vanity mirror and ticket holder. Front power windows are standard.
Clever interior storage
For most of us, accumulating an assortment of items, whether they be drinks, maps, cassettes, sweets or cigarette packets, seems to happen in a car with very little effort, yet finding a home for them is another matter. The HR-V has a multitude of storage areas to solve the problem.
The glove box, is a double-decker design with two separate stowage areas, each with a lid. The upper one at 3.2 litres is large enough to hold items such as a mobile 'phone or a portable CD player and its opening knob is offset to place it within easy reach of the driver; the large lower compartment has a capacity of 7.4 litres to accommodate a multitude of items.
On each door there are handy net pockets which can hold a B5-size road atlas or, say, a can of de-icer, or even a 500 cc bottle, without obstructing the 16 cm diameter front speaker for the in-car audio system. The pocket at the front of the centre console can house up to six CDs, or eight cassettes, or a compact camera.
Seatback nets on the front seats can store a B4-size map, while a net attached to the outer edge of the side bolster of the front passenger seat will hold a mobile 'phone. Four CDs or five cassettes can be stored in a receptacle between the front seats.
And, of course, cupholders. Five in fact. Two located in the centre console ahead of the shift lever, one at the rear of the console for rear seat occupants, and two housed in the right rear interior panel. All will accept a 350 cc drinks can and the three centre console cupholders can accommodate a large-size plastic cup.
An ashtray you can move
As a final touch of inspiration, Honda has provided a movable ashtray which is of the utmost practicality. It's large in size - 260 cc - and its cylindrical shape means that it cleverly and conveniently sits in any of the cupholder locations. Neat, simple and effective.
Controls close at hand
The steering column stalks have come under close scrutiny with the aim of making them easy to use. They are close enough to the steering wheel so the driver doesn't have to lift a hand from it to operate them, they work through a short arc for the minimum of effort, and they have large, highly visible markings. Small detailing, maybe, but during everyday, long-term use such considerations take on a wholly different significance.
Customers can specify an optional pollen filter which is a highly efficient design capable of trapping around 40 per cent of airborne debris approximately the size of diesel particulates and almost 100 per cent of pollen. Its service life is one year or 15,000 km of average driving, and removal and refitting within the optional air conditioning condenser housing is a quick and easy task.
The sound of silence
The in-car experience should be about refinement, with noise levels low enough for unstrained conversation and not so obtrusive that turning up the volume on the audio system is a necessity rather than a deliberate action. Noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) can be tackled in two ways: by designing the car in such a way that resonances and vibrations are largely eliminated during the computer-aided design process or by applying heavy, complex and expensive countermeasures.
With the HR-V, Honda has gone back to first principles and 'designed-in' extremely low levels of NVH by painstakingly investigating the sources of specific noises and vibrations and eradicating them during the design and prototyping phase. Key NVH countermeasures include:
Engine: The combustion chamber is designed to provide a tumble ratio that cuts engine noise throughout the rev range; a dual mass crankshaft pulley damper brings significant engine noise reduction, and a low noise air conditioning unit has been specified.
Inlet system: An oversized air cleaner and intake silencer slash intake noise; together with the resonator total volume is 13 litres.
Exhaust system: The rear silencer has a new diffuser pipe which increases its efficiency without increasing its external size, while exhaust mounts restrict pipe movement and cut noise.
Engine and transmission mountings: The five-point engine location system, including a hydraulic side-mount and a transmission mount, provides a damping effect as well as reducing the amount of noise and vibration fed into the main body structure.
Drivetrain: The rear differential on four wheel drive models is attached to the body by a three-point mount which supports it over a greater longitudinal span but with minimal vertical compliance; this provides smoother acceleration and deceleration as well as reduced NVH characteristics; the propshaft also includes a dynamic damper to reduce vibration.
Steering: A high-strength tubular steering column hanger - running across the car behind the facia - reduces steering vibration at idle and during driving.
Sound-deadening materials: These include a bonnet insulator; aluminium sheet/butyl rubber laminate damping sheet on the dashboard; asphalt sheet in all four footwells and over the rear wheelarches; urethane foam/synthetic rubber sandwich dashboard insulator; double-structure door seals; and sound-absorbing felt lining on front floor, rear side panels, tailgate and centre console.
High body rigidity brings with it a number of benefits and Honda places a high emphasis on achieving favourable characteristics in all its models. This contributes significantly to overall refinement, making the car particularly resistant to low-frequency noise and vibration and also provides a solid platform from which the suspension can work effectively. The HR-V is no exception and exhibits both excellent bending and torsional stiffness. Specific measures to achieve this include additional gusseting around the front bulkhead/side-frame rail meeting point; integrated rather than independent side sills and rear frame; improved integration between the rear frame end and the rear (C-pillar) thanks to an additional gusset; and tailgate opening strengthening.
The Honda HR-V provides an outstanding degree of protection in the event of a collision. SRS driver and front passenger (optional in some markets) airbags, front seatbelts with pretensioners and load-limiters and seatbelts on both rear seats play a vital role. However, bodyshell integrity is a key element in the HR-V's passive safety performance and makes use of Honda's New Safety Body technology which allows even small cars to meet world safety standards. The use of progressive deformation technology, allowing the controlled collapse of the front and rear side frames on impact, allows the G-forces exerted on the passengers to be managed more effectively.
By making the bodyshell rigid, and integrating front and rear crumple zones, side-impact protection and head impact protection, the HR-V meets all the essential European crashworthiness criteria including: frontal impact into a 40 per cent offset deformable barrier at 64 km/h, and frontal impact at 56 km/h; rear impact at 50 km/h, maintaining fuel tank integrity; and side impact at 50 km/h. The HR-V also passes the FMVSS201 test, a measure of the impact forces imposed upon the heads of the occupants.
Furthermore, and an indication of its easy repairability, the HR-V successfully meets the necessary criteria in the light collision test, a 15 km/h, 40 per cent offset impact both front and rear, stipulated by the GDV in Germany and the ABI in the UK for insurance classification purposes.
The key structural elements of the bodyshell that ensure the HR-V's excellent impact performance include:
Honda's attention to passenger safety also extends to smaller, less obvious detailing. There are, for example, a number of features designed to reduce the risk of head injury, most important of which is the substantial clearance between the side roof rail and an average-sized occupant (see Interior above). In addition, the roof rails, the A-pillars and the B-pillars all feature an impact absorbing structure behind the roof liner and pillar garnishes, respectively. These are specially-shaped plastic pieces which include concealed ribs to control deformation and offer additional head protection; the grab rails play a similar role.
Attention to detail
Further side impact protection comes from the provision of polypropylene pads located in the inner door panel at approximately waist-height.
Other safety features of the HR-V's cabin include impact-absorbing covers for the front seatbelt upper anchors; seat rails that have a T-shaped cross section with no exposed sharp edges, as well as a plastic cover concealing the rail bracket; and a rear seat back that conforms to DIN bulkhead strength requirements. The driver's window features 'one touch' automatic opening and closing and in this mode, if the window detects an object trapped between the edge of the glass and the door frame, it automatically retracts to a safe position.
Pedestrian safety is important, too
An important consideration in the design process is the question of pedestrian safety and how potential injury, particularly to the head, can be reduced in the event of an accident. It was an aspect that Honda carefully considered during the HR-V's development, and follows extensive research by the company into the subject. This has included the development of a safety research prototype vehicle, the ASV3, the analysis of a large number of road accidents and the concurrent development of a new pedestrian dummy and a computer-assisted accident simulation programme. The ASV3 is a Honda research vehicle specifically designed to study pedestrian safety through accident avoidance and injury reduction, and developed within the ASV (Active Safety Vehicle) project, which is under the guidance of the Ministry of Transportation in Japan.
The results of this continuing research are a number of innovative technical solutions employed on the new HR-V, including wiper pivots that slide along their axis when struck and bonnet hinges that compress on impact, so dissipating energy. Strategic parts of the bodywork, specifically the top of the front wings and the bonnet, have also been designed to crumple, so offering a degree of cushioning on impact. The bonnet's characteristics are helped by a compact engine intake system which creates a large space to allow for deformation.
Owners will undoubtedly wish to personalise their cars and Honda is therefore making available a wide range of accessories that complement the HR-V's individual character.
A sports pack comprising fully integrated, body colour roof rails and a large rear roof spoiler subtly emphasises and perfectly complements the HR-V's flowing wedge shape in side profile. The roof rails are wholly practical items with load carrying ability, and sufficiently long to accommodate items such as a roof box or skis without fouling the rear spoiler.
Other accessories include front sports trim; centrally-mounted under spoilers both front and rear in either carbon fibre- or metal-look finish; rear sports trim; side skirts; wheelarch trim; body side mouldings; front window visors; bumper protectors; exhaust pipe finisher; alloy wheels in both 15 x 5.5 and 16 x 6 sizes; load bars; ski holders; bicycle holders; ski box; luggage box; fog lights; side step trim and audio navigation system.
Honda also continues to work towards highly competitive insurance ratings across its range and consulted closely with the GDV in Germany and the ABI's Thatcham research centre in the UK during the development of the HR-V. It's been designed to be easy to repair, particularly following low-speed accidents which cause minor bumper damage. The front bumper is formed around high-tensile steel beams and the rear bumper is filled with crash boxes, which aid low-speed impact performance and facilitate bumper repair. Similarly the elimination of stiffeners and the introduction of progressively deforming front side frames means they too are easier to repair. Together with the HR-V's outstanding security measures, it means particularly low insurance costs for owners.
The bodyshell is extensively galvanised to provide excellent corrosion resistance. The bonnet, front wings, tailgate, side panels, doors, front and rear floor pans, front side frame, rear panel and numerous internal structures are treated in this way.