Badge of honour, badge of office, badge of pride, badge of distinction… it seems that when it comes to badges, their list of uses and associations go on ad infinitum. From being a simple emblem or signification of merit, to portraying a sign of allegiance or even a statement of authority, there is a lot to be gained when someone or indeed something, carries a badge. With the release of the 2018 HR-V models, for the first time, Honda has added a new ‘RS’ badge to the range and they were kind enough to throw us the keys.
Even without brandishing around such phrases as “the world’s top-selling small, crossover SUV”, with the number of these vehicles spotted on our roads, it’s clear to see that the HR-V has obviously struck a popular chord with Kiwis. Originally launched near the turn of the century, this Hi-rider Revolutionary Vehicle brought together increased space and high visibility with small car manoeuvrability and economy. In 2016, among other things, the second generation boasted more usable room, four doors and in my opinion, a vastly improved kerb appeal.
For 2018, Honda have managed to improve on this generation even further. Offering a more responsive drive and adding extra modern driving comforts such as LED lights, touchscreen audio (with in-built navigation), improved active safety technology (Honda’s City-Brake Active technology—low speed, autonomous emergency braking is standard), and a multi-angle reversing camera, all while still maintaining its class-leading space. However, the RS model is something more again.
First of all, there is the exclusive RS Phoenix Orange Pearl colour option, it is an absolute standout in the Kiwi sun. The RS has a sportier stance, 18-inch alloys, greater focus has been given to the vehicle’s design detail with an RS bodykit that features a black gloss upper grille and honeycomb lower and dark chrome door handles. Honda has also thrown LEDs at it from front to back—DRLs, fog, tail and headlights. But it’s not just cosmetics and badges, the HR-V RS has a more responsive, direct drive feel, thanks to its specially tuned steering and suspension.
The HR-V slipped seamlessly into our small family lifestyle and I spent the first day or so in normal drive mode mooching around the neighbourhood, essentially going about my regular day-to-day existence. The HR-V simply ate this sort of ‘challenge’ for breakfast. Visibility is fine and dandy, combined fuel economy is reported to be around 6.7L/100km and CO2 emissions are a shade over 150g/km. The 1.8L 16v i-VTEC has a nippy feel to it (once off the mark) and although 105kW/172Nm may not be earth-moving numbers, it doesn’t seem to struggle to get the speedo needle to head north.
But I have to admit that driving in ‘Sport’ changes the dynamics for the better. In Sport, the HR-V RS appears more playful and reactive. Less input is required to gain acceleration or turn corners (thanks to the RS variable gear ratio steering). You feel more in charge, more in control of your own destiny (especially if the wife isn’t in the car). Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a massive change, but it certainly is noticeable and anything not tied down in the boot definitely bore the brunt of my increased enthusiasm.
The HR-V’s interior comes complete with gloss and matte black finishes and a sprinkling of exposed stitching, upmarket but not overdone, plus the dark leather sports seats walk that fine line between being supportive enough for those times when corners need to be attacked yet comfortable for those seemingly endless waits in thick traffic. The HR-V’s warm sounding stereo and privacy glass comes in handy for those special times, too.
Obviously, my preference was Sport and that’s where I spent the majority of my time with this crossover. Yes it was a little more ‘jerky’ and I’m sure the fuel gauge needle probably dropped a little faster but to me, it just felt more alive, more involved, more fun. The 2018 Honda HR-V may not be taking part in a rally stage near me anytime soon, but the family and I enjoyed its versatility, nippiness and of course, were very pleased to have an RS club badge on the driveway.
Words: Dave McLeod