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Wise Wheels: New SUV takes on Phuket

On paper Honda’s brand new compact sports utility vehicle (SUV) - the 2015 Honda HR-V - sounds like the perfect car for Phuket’s crowded roads, small soi’s and hilly peaks, capes and headlands.

Monday 30 March 2015, 10:00AM


Richard Jones
richard@pixy.asia

Thanks to Honda Anuphas Phuket we had the opportunity to test-drive the top-of-the-range model (the “EL”) around some of Phuket’s more scenic roads, crossing Phromthep Cape down into Nai Harn Beach and then back through the afternoon traffic into Phuket Town. So, how does the HR-V endure on our growing tropical island metropolis?

The interior of the HR-V is rather luxurious, especially when you compare it with the competition – namely the Nissan Juke and Ford Ecosport – the finishings, design and features of the HR-V are a class above them all. The use of leather is abundant, extending from the seats up the doors and all the way along to the centre console.

Sitting in the driver’s seat you immediately know that this is a driver-oriented vehicle, the centre console design is directed towards the driver with every switch, nob and button in easy reach and intuitively arranged. There are paddle shifters, cruise control, tilt & telescopic steering adjustments and a speedometre that changes colour depending on your driving style.

The driver aids don’t stop there; push-to-start/stop engine with remote keys and keyless entry, electric parking brake with Auto Brake Hold – a feature especially useful on Patong hill when you’re stuck behind that ageing tour bus, simply press the button and the vehicle will hold itself until the bus driver finds the right gear, then apply the accelerator and you’re off again. In the scenario when that bus driver doesn’t find the right gear and his brakes aren’t suffice, in the EL model we tested, there’s six airbags available to protect both driver and passenger.

Wait, there’s more; Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA), economy mode (ECON) and a seven-inch touch screen head unit, Apple’s SIRI and smartphone integration along with two USB and HDMI ports and a massive panoramic sunroof.

We had the luxury of all these features with the top-end ES model we test-drove, though the specifications for the other models on offer in Thailand are still impressive. There’s the entry-level “S” and the mid-level “E” which share many of the features mentioned, though with the S the head unit screen is only five-inch and not touch-screen and the paddle-shifters and cruise control only come with the E and EL. The sunroof is reserved for the EL only.

BRITISH INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL, PHUKET

One last noteworthy feature of the HR-V’s interior is the highly versatile space-saving seating arrangements, comparable to that of the much-applauded Honda Jazz where you can fit a small elephant in the back when the seats are folded down.

Under the hood all models are powered by the same 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that you will also find in the Honda Civic - plenty for the vehicle’s size and if you’ve ever driven the new Civic, the HR-V feels very similar to drive. A standard Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) auto gearbox comes standard across the range which we found very smooth to use.

As for the pricing; the top-of-the-range EL model we tested costs B1,045,000, the mid-level E B975,000 and the entry-level S B890,000. When you look at the competitors you can see the HR-V is not going to win on pricing with the Nissan Juke priced from B819,000 to B858,000 and the Ford Ecosport starting from as little as B696,000 up to B829,000.

With Honda predicting a domestic annual sales target of 20,000 units, that’s double the 2014 sales of the Nissan Juke and three-times that of the Ford Ecosport, Honda doesn’t seem to think that their pricing will affect sales and we would have to agree with them. Look-out for the new market leader of the SubCompact SUV / Crossover vehicles in Thailand. The Honda HR-V makes the year-old competition look outdated already.

For more information about the HR-V or to book a test-drive, contact Anuphas Vividhkarn located in Chaofa West Road on 076 371 888-9.

Richard Jones is the Managing Director of BuyCar24 and can be contacted through www.buycar24.com

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