I've only gone and bought an SUV. Am I truly giving up on life?
Distinctive looks, arguably a weird Civic on stilts - athough it was based on the Logo platform, the forerunner to the Jazz.
Let me see if I can explain - rationalise this before I go deeper down the well.
Let's start by naming and shaming the culprit. It's a first generation Honda HR-V, a 2005 4WD 1.6 VTEC model - pictured above. It started life though as a funky, Barbie Doll accessory concept car, a very early example of the now ubiquitous SUV breed.
'Wild & Joyful' - The J-WJ Concept Vehicle.
Originally conceived in 1997 as the J-WJ Concept, it was first shown at the Tokyo Motor Show of that year. It's next outing came at the Geneva Motor Show in 1998. In 1999 however, it moved into full production as the HR-V. This was a 'lifestyle' car. It wasn't a car to energise the senses, it was more of a car to transport you into your dreams... 'holy crap', I can't believe I just typed that marketing publicity bullshit - my apologies. Seriously though, and by the end of the article, I'll have you all teary eyed.
Photo courtesy of carstyling.ru - J-WJ a bold concept that would see many features transfer to production.
The Joy Machine.
The HR-V went into production as a 3 door model in 1999. And Honda weren't shy in retaining much of the look of the earlier J-WJ concept vehicle - so evident as the HR-V first rolled off the assembly lines.
Initially it was marketed under the dubious title, 'Joy Machine'. Got to admit, I quite liked that 'Joy' advertising ploy. Told you tears would come - it's a nostalgia thing.
Photo courtesy of playle.com - For your pleasure I give you the Joy Machine - please stainproof upholstery before use.
Seriously, it was like a Honda / Ann Summers collaboration, with the HRV being an aid to instant and intimate pleasure - The 'Joy Machine'. I did Google 'Joy Machine' expecting worse. Instead there were references to some Star Trek book - how positively geekish.
I know that petrolheads frequently use the word 'fizz' when describing a car. But, 'Joy Machine', really, oh dear. Imagine, "Darling I'm just popping out in the Joy Machine". Those are words straight out of Barbarella.
"Darling, have you seen the keys for the Joy Machine?"
...... no, no, no, just sounds wrong. Ok, leave it, just stop with the whole machine thing.
On to the year 2000 and the 'five door' was released. By this time, thankfully, it was simply known as the Honda HR-V.
Photo courtesy of Honda - Now a 3 and 5 door version - Bold and vibrant colours where the order of the day.
And the acronym was?
'Hi-rider Revolutionary Vehicle'
Honda was bold in its vision of the car, stating that the vehicle was a mixture of sport-utility, minivan, hatchback and station wagon. Quite an ambitious list of tick boxes to fill.
The HR-V was aimed at the younger market - a market that, until the Type R phenomenon, Honda had steadfastly failed to capture. A Honda was obviously a car your Grandparents drove, and they did drive them, slowly, oh so slowly...
Photo courtesy of cargurus.com - 1999 Honda Civic - your grandparents car? Just so dull from Dullsville.
As a kid, if you where in the back of a Honda it'd be pointless to engage in the ritual yelling of, "are we nearly there yet", because you just weren't. Hell, you'd not even got to the halfway point. And the lay-by complete with flask of crap tea? Honda therefore had an image problem.
One serious issue with Honda was that it kept the good stuff for itself back home. In Japan Honda meant business, but in the UK Honda was considered a retirement brand.
Arguably the HR-V was Honda's first concerted foray into a younger demographic outside of Japan. Toyota had already proven there was a niche for this style of car with its RAV4.
Time for Honda to follow suit.
I'm always baffled by such marketing, who exactly does it speak to?
Aside from questionable promotions, what of the car itself?
There was a choice of 2 petrol engines - Honda didn't do diesel back then. The D series 1.6 litre gave 102 BHP and a 1.6 SOHC VTEC raised the power output to 122 BHP.
With the VTEC engine, performance was bright enough with a 10.7 sec to 60 mph. But that's not the point of the car. If you're trying to scream away from the lights in an HR-V, then you're in the wrong car.
Inside, the blue colour scheme set out to be different. Somehow this 'devil may care' approach signified fun. But as the model grew older, matured, so the colours became mute. Charcoal greys and blacks with silver inserts on the dash became the order of the day.
The manual transmission was the one to go for. The continously variable transmission, CVT, didn't find many fans with critics.
The 4WD drive was borrowed from its bigger sibling - the CR-V. The real time 4WD system employed a dual hydraulic pump differential, rear wheels only kicking in when the fronts start to lose their grip. Smart 4WD that...
Photo courtesy of pirate4x4.com - A stranded CR-V - The likelihood of the HR-V being in a scene like this - zero.
... I seriously doubt the 4WD will ever be engaged in anger, but might it be tempted by a spot of wet grass or snow?
Image courtesy of YouTube - clearly 'brave' pills where involved, still the HR-V looks plucky, soon to be stuck, but plucky.
I guess the elevated ride height justifies the 4WD. That it might not often be needed in the real world is irrelevant. Honda did release 2WD versions of the vehicle later on.
The 1999 and 2000 European sales figures for the HR-V rivalled that of the Toyota RAV4 at approximately 25k per annum. A good start that failed to blossom. The range had a minor facelift in 2001, but sales declined. In 2003 the three door model was dropped.
Graph courtesy of carsalesbase.com - Rav4 vs. HR-V - Had Honda failed to shake off its retirement image?
In 2005 Honda sold less than 4K in the European market. Toyota's increasingly strong and ever popular RAV4 sold 93K.
It was time for the HR-V to retire.
The RAV4 had gone from strength to strength with multiple generations. The HR-V? It just put on its coat and quietly departed. Another moment for the tissues - told you so.
2006 saw production end. Ten years passed until the second generation came along.
It was quite well liked, the looks charmed.
Gauging opinion across the net it appears largely positive. Some where underwhelmed, others rather keen. On balance it was favourable, though it didn't gain the cult following of the original Toyota RAV4.
There appears to be no owners clubs/forums for the HR-V. It seems a largely forgotten car, but nevertheless one that played a part in the creation of the whole 'Compact SUV' revolution. Yes, I guess the cute HR-V could take some of the blame for the mini SUVs that clog our roads.
All this is well and good, a history of the HR-V, but why did you buy one?
I like that Honda went wild with their concept, that they actually followed through with a unique, 'out of left field' design. Genuinely I think it's a properly good looking vehicle, perhaps even more so today with variations on a theme being the norm.
I find myself taking a second look if I see a tidy HR-V. I like the purity of design in both the 3 and 5 door versions.
SUVs of today seem to have become fat, as if reflecting the state of the nation, dimensions ever growing.
Photo courtesy of audi.co.uk - The Audi Q2 - really not a fan. To my eyes it's more of the same, few more angles is all.
Mechanically the HR-V has more than enough with ABS and Electronic Brake Force Distribution. It has a bodyshell designed to lessen pedestrian injury in the event you might run someone over - not to be advocated. Suspension was set to give you that 'car' like feel. Though, be honest, SUVs will never be as nimble through corners - end of.
The engine is strong and, for the miles I do, the economy will be sufficient. One comment I keep reading is just how reliable the car is. Some early models had an issue with incorrect differential oil, wrong grade, but it was fixable with a visit to the dealer. Outside of that there appears not to be any disastrous problems.
Honda dashboards and interiors of old, say 80s and early 90s, did have a cheap 'plasticky' feel to them. Come the late 90s' and Honda upped their game with a reputation for quality, fit and finish - just right.
Rudimentary controls - why overcomplicate, keep it simple. Quaint OEM CD player, that just has to go.
The uncluttered cabin seems bereft of gadgets. You have the essentials, air con, electric mirrors, electric windows and errrr a CD player. At the moment it's not a smartphone friendly environment. This will change as the car undergoes a period of gentle modifications. In other words I wish to reverse cam, sat nav and surround sound the arse out of this old little SUV, (so to speak).
The bodyshell is fine, the car can be updated/upgraded/modernised. This particular example is extremely low mileage, barely run in. An elevated view of the traffic jam ahead, it'll do the job, and do it with a cute grin on its face.
Protecting the Prelude.
There is another rationale to this seemingly insane SUV purchase - I can keep miles off the Prelude, protect it from the salt of the winter roads. If you've read my previous 'Addiction' articles you'll know I'm somewhat obsessive about the Prelude. If you want to know how obsessive I am watch the video, (I've got worse since then).
An old video, post detailng ready for JapFest Silverstone, 2016 - shakey cam and soundtrack courtesy of Orbital.
Sorry couldn't help but plug the Lude. Back to the HR-V.
For the grind of doing a run to the tip the HR-V is perfect, I can ditch the conundrum of how to fit an old wardrobe door into the boot of a coupe and no longer have an excuse as to why my back yard is stuffed full of crap. I genuinely believe the Prelude to be iconic and thus the HR-V is coming to its aid.
You know, a helping hand...
The standard of our road network is at an all time low.
It's not that the Prelude is incapable of daily duties, that it's somehow fragile. It's just that worn out roads frequently treat our cars with disregard and disrespect. Far rather a workhorse take the brunt than the Prelude.
Photo courtesy bbc.co.uk/news - Is this how government intend to meet air quality targets, by allowing the road network to disintegrate?
Driving of late has seen me shocked at how stressed our road network is. Perhaps that's why the SUV is so popular - more capable of handling our pot holed roads. I say pot holes, but most have become chasms - rant over.
Was I wrong to get an SUV, the arch nemesis of the petrolhead?
INSANE? - If you'd now like to retire and consider your verdict.
Maybe you're like me and a drawn to the designs of the late 90s' early 00s'. Clearly that's another verdict you need to consider, am I an old fart?
The old HR-V, a good workhorse?
I'll get back to you on that one. For the moment I'm sure it will be. I'm sure also that it's sufficiently versatile to be a pleasant, willing and most useful motoring companion and that it'll do what I want it to do. And, after all, it has passed my first test of being different from the herd - that much is obvious.
Thanks for reading,
With contributions from Ray Norcliffe
p.s. if you enjoyed this read you may enjoy further rants: