Along with the extra practicality comes a new 1.6-litre VTEC engine producing a range that's grown considerably and now offers manual or CVT transmission, 16-valve or VTEC engines and three or five doors. The five-door grows in both overall length and wheelbase by 100mm, with the increase given over entirely to rear kneeroom. The rear seat folds in steps to add versatility.
On the road, the new VTEC model is noticeably quicker than the base model. What's more, the fuel consumption actually improves over the standard car's 32.5mpg. But sadly, there's not a lot of improvement in ride quality. Choppy and unsettled at the best of times, the HR-V can be teeth-jarringly uncomfortable over bumpy roads, the payoff for handling that's quite crisp and composed off the motorway.
For a sports-utility, refinement isn't bad, however, with low levels of wind noise and a crisp engine note that underlines the HR-V's role as more of a sports-hatchback than a genuine off-roader. Honda's innovative Dual Pump hydraulic-based 4x4 system is retained, giving four-wheel drive when needed and a significant weight-saving over conventional 4x4 layouts.
The HR-V has exceeded all expectations sales-wise, and the five-door is expected to swell sales of the model to about 36,000 throughout Europe, a 37% increase over last year's figures. With 4x4 sales of some 11,000 vehicles annually in the UK, Honda now occupies second place behind Land Rover. It's a deserved performance for vehicles that have captured buyers' imaginations with a combination of value, flair and practicality.