It has been 3 years since its second introduction, and we can clearly see that the Honda HR-V will be here to stay. Far from the 1st generation which, by today’s standards, might look more of a prelude to Honda’s 7-seater line up, the current HR-V has gone through a major change both in appearance and performance.

In 2015, the 2nd generation HR-V was introduced and it’s safe to say that it did the market a lot of good. With the boxy edges gone and with a far more attractive front end and shape to match, what limited crossovers existed in the market were given a run for their money.  For this year’s model, Honda came out with a new and refreshed HR-V. Notice that it is simply new and not “all-new”.

Honda has had a penchant for introducing minor model changes to their vehicles, from the Civics and CR-Vs of old. This time around, the HR-V is no different. But what does this change do for their sub-compact crossover? Let’s find out.

Specimen A: the top-of-the-line model in the 2-variant HR-V lineup, the HR-V RS.

2018 Honda HR-V 1.8 RS

Physically, and on the outside, that is where this MMC (minor-model change) becomes evident. Size-wise, it hasn’t changed much. Maybe the wrap-around skirts and chin spoilers make it look wider and little bit lower, but maybe because it is, by the slimmest of margins. Aside from the glossy black trim, the door handles and shiny bits were shed and now make way for black chrome.

For the old-school folks, that’s a shade we used to find in the Civic Type R’s headlights. Having black chrome anywhere on the car always made it look menacing and classy at the same time, but on the HR-V, it did well for the latter. New wheels set the RS apart from the E variant. Personally I think it’s a love it or hate it look, but it’s not a horribly designed set. It’ll grow on you.

At the front is where we see a rather significant chage. Previously, the HR-V’s face was dominated by a lot of horizontal lines. From the grill(s) to the bumper’s bulges, it made it look like a rather healthier Jazz (which its platform is based on). This time around, the massive black chrome single-liner “grill” is what calls attention to the HR-V. The lower portion of the grill was also changed in favor of a honeycomb pattern from the horizontal slats that they were.

To top it all off, the same design of the grill flowing into the headlights was made just more attractive with DRLs, which are now standard for both variants. Speaking of headlights, we are very glad to say that both variants now also have LED bulbs! For those who nitpicked about the previous-generation’s less than ample lighting, Honda now has you covered.

2018 Honda HR-V 1.8 RS

Hop inside, and we’ll see that not much has changed. The dashboard has pretty much been carried over from the previous model. And like the previous model, its design and feel remain solid, robust, and very premium. Gloss black trim was added into the cabin to spruce things up. What gets a major change, though, is the HR-V’s infotainment system. Gone is the old touch-screen and in with a new Garmin stereo headset that comes standard with Navigation. Tech-wise, sure this head unit packs a lot more, but using its menus seem a bit too complicated. Not something we can’t get used to, I’m sure. 

In the seats department, everything is all draped in leather. Having driven the pre-facelift E model, the seats were just as, if not a little bit more comfortable. The bolsters on the HR-V’s seats were always good enough to hold its occupants in, and this hasn’t changed one bit. Given that it’s the same shell, leg and head room are just as abundant in the facelifted model. Interior design-wise, the two-level shifter console is still there, finished in piano-black accents.

2018 Honda HR-V 1.8 RS

What I did notice, though, is the absence of USB and HDMI ports in the lower portion of the console. Not sure if this is the new standard, but it’s certainly a feature most of us can’t exactly do without. What gives?

 Honestly there is not much to say about the people and cargo space of the HR-V. Relative to its size, we really aren’t left wanting for more. Seating is comfortable for 5, and with the ULT seats, different hefts and heights of cargo pose no problem. Something that many people might not have noticed is that the HR-V is the only one in its class that allows us to lift the seats of the back row. Need more vertical space?

This is a nifty way to stow cargo without needing to use the trunk. Speaking of the trunk, a soft and foldable tonneau cover now comes standard. It’s not sturdy enough to support anything heavy, but it keeps prying eyes away from your cargo. There’s no automatic lift, close, or tailgate opener on the HR-V. Not that we require it, but maybe it would be a nice addition.

2018 Honda HR-V 1.8 RS

As to how it drives, the 1.8-liter R18 engine still has enough power to pull the heavy-looking but in-reality-light HR-V. Churning out 142 PS and 172 Nm  of torque, the HR-V is a very capable crossover in and out of the city. It’s not a real hauler like the CR-V or any of the bigger SUV choices, but it has more than decent pull and can be a quick car, relative to how many people or how much cargo is inside. Returning around 9.5Km/L in the city (including traffic) and around 16Km/L on the highway (including a few pulls), economy is something that the HR-V has alongside reasonable power and engine performance. 

Also, it may be our imagination, but the faclifted HR-V seems to ride more comfortably than the pre-facelift units. This was always a major selling point for us. Regardless of how many people are inside, or how many things you might be hauling, the ride remains the same. It might lean towards the softer side, but it is a very comfortable ride nonetheless. Seat cushions or suspension, Honda did a good job in this department, definitely.

2018 Honda HR-V 1.8 RS

Same as before, it proves to be a nimble vehicle, too. A spirited drive on twisties is something that can be fun in the HR-V. One thing we did notice, though, is the sometimes too-light steering feel. Not a deal-breaker, but hey, electronic power steering, people. Maybe we’re just nitpicking. 

Priced at PhP 1,495,000, do the new bits and bobs justify the price tag of the Honda HR-V RS? I say yes. And no. It bearing the “RS” badge, its sporty, safety, and luxury updates do justice to the overall package. Sans the said updates and at a cheaper tag, the E variant’s inclusion list may be slimmer than the RS, but if you are okay with bare basics, then it may also prove to be a more economical choice.

2018 Honda HR-V 1.8 RS 

Overall the HR-V RS boils down to a matter of choice and preference. If you have the extra coin, then by all means it’s a good choice, no doubt. If you want something more low-key with almost the same features, then maybe the RS can take the sidelines in favor of the E variant. But then again, that’s another story and review altogether.