SOMETIMES I ask myself; why are consumers such fast adopters of new technologies, so much so that they would go crazy whenever new Apple iPhones or Samsung Note smartphones are launched, but when it comes to hybrid cars, they tend to be sceptical about it?
Don’t they know that current hybrid cars are just as (and sometimes even more) fun to drive than the regular cars?
Do hybrid cars sound too unconventional? Or did the myth of having to spend thousands of ringgit for battery maintenance and/or replacement spook them?
Honda introduced the 1.5L Hybrid iDCD to the Malaysian market some two years ago, in the form of Jazz and City.
To me, Honda did a great job in making hybrid cars appear as conventional as ever, and more interestingly, exciting to drive.
These cars are almost indistinguishable from their regular non-hybrid conterparts, with some “hybrid” badges around the cars and hardware such as headlights being the only difference.
In January this year, the Honda HR-V joined the Hybrid i-DCD family in Malaysia.
Oh, did I tell you that Malaysia is the only market outside Japan (at the moment) to be offered with Hybrid i-DCD variant for Jazz, City and HR-V?
Yes. The Honda HR-V 1.5L Hybrid is priced at RM120,800 — which is the most expensive in the range.
For that amount of money, you get a 1.5-litre DOHC i-VTEC engine producing 132hp and 156Nm of torque.
The electric motor gives the car a combined output of 152hp and 190Nm of torque.
The same electric motor is also paired with a quick-shifting 7-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT), sending power to the front wheels.
On the exterior, where other HR-V variants get LED headlights with auto-levelling, the HR-V Hybrid is fitted with halogen headlights with manual height adjustment.
Then in the cabin, the difference includes split leather seats as opposed to full leather seats on other variants, as well as a smaller 6.8-inch display audio.
The rest of the car is largely similar, equipped with fog lights, LED tail lights, chrome garnish, smart entry with push start button, ECON button, multi-function steering wheel, paddle shifters, auto digital air-conditioning system, and infotainment system with four speakers.
ADVANTAGES OF HYBRID CARS
Before we dive further into the HR-V’s driving impression, let’s run through the reasons why people opt for hybrid cars.
Better fuel consumption? You might be right.
I have to tell you that there are some hybrid cars out there that if we calculate the fuel usage over a few years of ownership, are not really worth the extra grand spent on the car, at least in Malaysia. In that case, you would just be buying the hybrid version to be the first group of consumers to own it, just like being the first one to own the latest Gucci Spring or Summer collection.
As for the Honda i-DCD Hybrid, I am glad to inform you that due to the minimal price difference between the Hybrid and the rest of the lineup, you are highly likely to get the fuel savings off-set by the price.
Another advantage would be reducing your carbon footprint. As early adopters of the technology, you will also help lower down the cost of it for future development.
After driving the Honda HR-V for a couple of days over the weekend, I found myself liking the car.
While not to the point of adoring it, I was pleased with the ease of use, practicality and driveability of the HR-V. The cabin was spacious as Honda always nailed it in optimising the available space to be human-centric.
This means excellent driving positions as well as generous legroom and headroom for all passengers.
As for the i-DCD hybrid system, it was quite engaging to drive.
The throttle pedal had good response even with tiny input, while the brake pedal was consistent most of the time.
I particularly liked the display in the instrument cluster where the one on the right-hand side next to the speedometer could cycle through a set of information unique to this hybrid HR-V.
My favourite was the power flow display where you could see whether it was the engine or the electric motor that sent power to the front wheels.
The colour of the flow also changed when the battery was being charged by the engine or the momentum from the wheels.
Applying the brakes also made the charging more effective, very much like the kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) you would normally find on performance cars.
All these subconsciously made me wanted to drive the car efficiently, continuously preserving or trying to charge up the battery.
But this does not make the Honda HR-V Hybrid a boring car to drive. Far from it. The dual-clutch transmission delivered a proper, sporty character with rapid upshifts and seamless downshifts with engine blips.
The sporty transmission also contributed to excellent fuel economy, typical of a dual-clutch unit that has the least power loss compared to other kind of automatics.
In this sense, I think Honda made the right decision in fitting the DCT into the Hybrid i-DCD setup, hence the name Sport Hybrid.
After nearly 400km of driving, I managed to clock an impressive 16km per litre, with normal idling in the traffic, slow driving in the neighbourhood and high-speed highway cruising.
One downside though to this driving aspect is that the whole drivetrain could have a slight delay when applying full throttle from slow speeds, as if the onboard computer is deciding whether to only send power from the engine or adding in some juice from the electric motor.
So, is the Honda HR-V 1.5L Hybrid any good?
I think it certainly is. The car is equally practical as the regular version, drives just brilliantly and injects a bigger sense of driving engagement and satisfaction.
It also does not look that much different from the regular variant, if that is even your concern.
As for the lithium-ion battery, it is covered under an eight-year unlimited mileage warranty by Honda Malaysia.