Let me start this by saying I am a latter-end millennial cohort – the generation of people born from 1981 to 1996. I grew up in a time when life was turning from an analog to a digital age. I've experienced the period where phones had keypads, personal computers had CRT monitors with dial-up internet, and cars were equipped with carbureted engines and manual windows.

As a late 20-something millennial, people in my age group are in the adulting phase. We're not old, but we're not getting younger either. Activities like binge drinking, partying and random late-night trips may no longer be happening on a regular basis because we now have responsibilities like going to work, paying unending bills, and for some, kids to take care of. Not to mention, those activities turn into quiet weekends, coffee store visits, and sleeping – stuff that I honestly am starting to enjoy.

First Drive: 2022 Honda HR-V goes full adulting image

But when we millennials get the chance, it's just like the good old days. The innate young energy is still there to come out and play. Now some might be wondering why I'm talking about millennials when I'm supposed to be writing about my first ever media drive, well it's because that's what I think when I see the all-new Honda HR-V. It has become a millennial.

The subcompact crossover has matured and leaned over to the safer side of things, but is still very much youthful with its neat bag of tricks. To figure those out, Honda took us on a two-day trip to drive both variants of the HR-V from BGC to the blue seas of Anilao, Batangas.

Classy, but ready to party

Age-wise, the Honda HR-V is only two years shy of fitting the millennial narrative, as the first one came out in 1998. However, when it comes to its design though, I'd like to think the crossover is worthy of the term, as it has gone from funky, then hip, to prim and proper, just like an individual turning into a young corporate professional.

When I first saw the bunch of HR-Vs parked along Serendra, I said to myself, “I'm gonna look real good driving this car”. The crossover fits the urban setting of BGC, and it's unique enough to not just blend in, but also stand out. It's not flashy, but it's worth a second glance.

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The Honda HR-V traded away its bold, sporty design for a more contemporary one in the new model, much like how a man swaps his sneakers for a pair of oxfords. That's not to say the third-generation model has totally gone the suit-and-tie way, as the HR-V still gives hints of sportiness in its exterior, especially on the V variant with a mesh-type grille in front, and that nice Amp Up Line design below it for added character.

Its coupe-like profile, tucked door handles, dark-colored 17-inch wheels, and the LED taillight bars bring back that line from Talladega Nights and the tuxedo t-shirt. It wants to be formal, but it wants to party too. 

Interior ergonomics on point

After a couple of presentations and a few last-minute reminders over breakfast, it was time to experience the all-new HR-V. For the route from BGC to CALAX, we were handed the keys (remote, rather) of the lower S variant. And just like a little boy with a new toy, I called first dibs on taking the driver's seat.

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Once I got inside, I found the interior as properly neat and straightforward. Honda's 'Simplicity and something' design concept meant I found it very easy to spot all the stuff I wanted to tinker with to get myself acquainted with the crossover. I immediately got myself in an ideal driving position thanks to the tilt and telescopic steering column plus the 6-way seat adjustment.

The gauge cluster in the S variant has an analog tach and speedometer compared to the 7-inch digital display of the V variant. But other than that, the 4.2-inch digital display still gave me all the information I needed, like resetting the fuel consumption and the trip meter back to zero.

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I was able to adjust my side and rear-view mirrors, set the climate control, strap in my seatbelt, and connect my phone seamlessly to the 8-inch touchscreen display with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Before the lead car even radioed us to get going, I was already blasting my Spotify tunes through the 6-speaker sound system while my elbows felt at home on the leather armrest and sidings.

Once we did start rolling, I immediately noticed the crossover's excellent driving visibility which I found useful throughout the drive. The side mirrors have been pulled further back to eliminate blind spots when cornering, so you don't need to peek through the A-pillar anymore.

HONDA HRV DRIVE image

At the back, I noticed that the 2nd-row seat cushions had a raised part in the middle, which I think would make an adult sit in a less than ideal position. Quite simply, there's enough space for three passengers, but with the way the seats were designed, the HR-V looks more like it has a 4+1 seating configuration, and the middle part may be more reserved for a child.

Nevertheless, there were plenty of cupholders to store our drinks for the long drive, and there were USB ports placed below the second-row air-conditioning to keep our phones charged.

Different engine, different character

We had a mixed route of expressways, winding roads, and provincial highways during our drive, and this was where I noticed the different driving characteristics of the all-new HR-V's variants.

I started out driving the 1.5-liter, naturally-aspirated DOHC i-VTEC with 121 PS and 145 Nm of torque. Having driven the smaller City sedan and the previous GK Jazz with the SOHC L15 before, I knew the S variant's engine is rev-happy and needs to be driven that way to reach its powerband.

First Drive: 2022 Honda HR-V goes full adulting image

You have to be a bit more liberal with the throttle to maintain momentum, especially since there were four of us inside and the trunk was packed with our gear. The 1.5 N/A, when driven on a specific style, could pull the HR-V's weight going uphill. I said that because it's not as effortless compared to the other variant.

When we switched over to the top-spec V, the 1.5-liter turbo with 177 PS and 240 Nm, as expected, had no problems dealing with uphill sections and overtaking. It doesn't take much throttle for the VTEC turbo to kick in, and definitely, there was a significant advantage when it comes to acceleration. I didn't really need to switch into Sport driving mode, as the Normal mode was more than enough for my needs.

First Drive: 2022 Honda HR-V goes full adulting image

The sporty and comfy side

Days before the event, I was already looking forward to driving on the twisties of Tagaytay. And true enough, the HR-V did well for me to have a nice time behind the wheel.

For a subcompact crossover, the HR-V remained composed in the tight turns and hairpins even when driven at a spirited pace. The suspension is on the firm side, but not to the point where it's uncomfortable. Body roll was kept in check, and I really liked how the brakes had a progressive feel, which meant I could slow down and accelerate back up without my passengers getting nauseated.

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The electric power steering was light on low speeds but was weighted enough to give me feedback as I went through turns and bumps. Together with the excellent driving visibility, I felt like the HR-V was an extension of my body, as it responded to my inputs instantly. The driving dynamics were that good for a crossover.

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When it comes to riding comfort, let me confess that I'm a light sleeper. And usually, I have trouble falling asleep even on long road trips. However, when I sat at the back after handing over the wheel in the Petron Malvar station, I was able to get some nap time on a hot afternoon. The bad pavement on the Ibaan to Batangas City section of STAR Tollway disrupted that, but soon I was able to resume my sleep until we reached Anilao.

An extra sense

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Now on to the main activity of the drive, and that is to experience the HR-V's Honda Sensing – an advanced driver-assist system. Both variants come with smart features such as lane-keep assist (LKAS), adaptive cruise control (ACC) with low-speed follow (LSF), collision mitigation braking system (CMBS), lane departure warning (LDW), road departure mitigation (RDM), auto high beam (AHB), and lead car departure notification (LDN). All these features work thanks to a wide-angle camera fitted on the windshield and a radar-based system.

We were able to test LKAS, ACC, LDW, and RDM along CALAX, and I have to say it's quite impressive. With all those turned on, it basically gives the HR-V a semi-auto pilot mode. Why semi? It's because the system is only designed to assist, so you still need to pay attention to your driving. If you don't, the HR-V will give an alert once you try to take your hands (and mind) off the wheel.

HONDA HRV DRIVE image

Operating all these doesn't require witchcraft, as all it takes is a press of a button on the right side of the steering wheel, and you're good to go. The LKAS keeps the HR-V within a specific lane, while the ACC adjusts the cruising speed and distance when you're following another car. The LDW basically gives you an alert to always use your turn signals when changing lanes, and the RDM would steer the car back in the lane if you're being stubborn.

Perhaps the only thing I see that Honda could improve is the speed where LKAS becomes active, as it requires you to speed up to 75 km/h for it to go live. Maybe dropping it down to 60 km/h would make it more ideal for PH roads, especially in areas like Skyway Stage 3. Other than that, the advanced systems work smoothly, and I wouldn't mind turning these on regularly if I owned an HR-V.

First Drive: 2022 Honda HR-V goes full adulting image

We tested the LSF and LDN on the village roads of Tagaytay Highlands, and it's just as equally impressive as the other assists I mentioned. With a 30 km/h activation point, the LSF is designed to take away the stress when driving in congested city streets, and the LDN saves you from being honked by the car trailing behind you during a traffic stop.

Honda is gunning for zero traffic collision by 2050. And with the Honda Sensing technology, they definitely made significant strides towards that goal.

Safe fun

After spending two days driving the all-new Honda HR-V, I can say that it's a great crossover to have for young professionals, and those young at heart. You can engage the HR-V's fun part when you need to, but most of the time, it's safe, calm, and collected for the everyday drive and the occasional road trip. Plus, its Honda Sensing system not only prevents accidents but is also a neat trick to show your tech-savvy friends. Fun and safe? Honda proved that's possible.

We'll plan to do a thorough review on both variants of the all-new HR-V. Make sure to stay tuned. And safe.