The Honda HRV entered production as a mini 4x4 in 1999 and was finally pulled from car showrooms in 2006. The concept behind the vehicle was to make it a small compact car, using the platform of the Honda Logo to create a car that had the benefit of traditional 4x4 vehicles. The HRV had such advantages as high driving position, good visibility, all-terrain capability, and an increased load-carrying capacity.
It was first shown to the public in 1997 as the 'Wild and Joyful' J-WJ concept car at the Tokyo Motor show and entered production at the end of the millennium. At first, it was a three-door car, but the following year, the futuristic-looking mini 4x4 was lengthened to accommodate two additional doors, making rear access easier.
The Honda HRV's funky shape, bright metallic colours, and fun feel positioned it as an active, outdoor-loving, younger generation model, and Honda marketed it as such, with the tag the 'Joy Machine.' The introduction of the five-door also saw the demise of the station wagon model, leaving just the two alternatives available.
Apart from the extra length and additional doors, these were the only real changes to the HRV during its manufacture. There were some extras and minor design changes, like fog lights, spoiler-mounted brake lights, and a couple of new colours ' fresh copper and lightening silver ' but it pretty much remained unaltered.
The HRV's demise was caused not so much due to any design faults, but due to confusion with the CRV and the effects of the rapidly developing and changing market.
Powering the HRV was Honda's 1.6L SOHC 16v VTEC engine that could be either hooked up to a 5-speed manual or CVT automatic gearbox. The power is transmitted to the road through Honda's Real Time 4WD system, which includes the dual hydraulic Pump Rear Differential that transfers power to the rear axle should the front wheels lose traction.
The HRV was a revolutionary vehicle for safety features and included such devices as ABS, electronic brakeforce distribution (EDF), and dual front SRS airbags. The engine was also one of the most advanced clean engines of the time with low nitrous oxide emissions.
The HRV accelerates from 0-100 km/hr in just over 10 seconds and produces a smooth ride on all but the most demanding of roads. While it is capable of cross country travel, it is not a ground-breaking all-terrain vehicle but a rugged family car able to take on the challenges of rough weather.
If there is criticism of the HRV, it is perhaps that the 1.6L engine is somewhat underpowered, and the option of a diesel version would have been preferable.
Standard features on the HRV included electric folding mirrors, electric windows, folding rear seats, central locking, powered steering, CD/radio cassette with 4 speakers, air-con, and heat-absorbing windows to regulate cabin temperature. After 2000, there were front fog lights and spoiler-mounted brake lights.
The bulk of the HRV's features come as standard and the only real optional extras are the choice of metallic paint or electric rear windows. Initially only a three-door, but between 2000 and 2003, three- and five-door cars were available. For its last three years, you could only purchase the five-door version.
At the time, Honda cornered the market with the small crossover 4x4, as there was little competition in the market. The only realistic mini, 4x4 contenders were the Daihatsu Terios, the nimble Toyota RAV4, and the sluggish Suzuki Jimny. As always, Land Rover, with the Freelander, gave serious competition, especially as vehicles by Land Rover are designed to eat demanding landscape for breakfast.
With the HRV, comfort is good for those up front but a little cramped in the rear. Its storage space is good, holding up to 285L, double its Toyota and Suzuki rivals, although less than the massive interior of the Land Rover.
The Honda HRV is a fun, get anywhere vehicle. As Honda marketed it, it is aimed at the younger generation who want to get out and about but not necessarily take the world on. It is well provisioned with good cargo space, offers a responsive drive, and is uniquely stylish in a way that appeals to young people.
HRV drivers are not going to be out attacking the back of beyond or portraying a serious family image. It is for getting out and about, exploring the countryside just outside town, and having a fun time spending the day at the beach. If this sounds like you then the HRV will not disappoint.