Choices. When it comes to cars that's what we have a lot of, in a manner of speaking. Some models have 5 or 6 variants to choose from; good if we're looking for something that fits exactly what we need. But what of those that have, say, only 2 to choose from? That's the conundrum since we first wrote about the Honda HR-V.
Even before this facelifted version, the HR-V only had two variants, the E and the EL (technically, the Mugen variant isn't any different from the EL, so it doesn't count). This time, the count remains the same with the E being retained, and with the top of the line spec EL being replaced by the RS. The latter had all the bells and whistles going for it, but what about its lower-specced E brother? Does being priced lower mean it lacks and lags behind the RS? Let's find out, shall we?
On the outside, there really isn't much of a difference. The biggest, we'd say, would be the grill, and the wheels. The E has a more traditional horizontally slatted grill. A bit of nip and tuck on it to make way for the wide black chrome center piece and it does look different (and nicer) than that of the previous generation's. The foglight housings have been changed as well. Granted it doesn't look as sleek as it did, but it fits the overall shape of the front end. They're still using halogen lamps, too, so that's one difference from the RS that has LEDs. If there was a staple point-for-improvement for the older HR-Vs, it was always the headlight units. That being said, it's great that the headlights of the entry-level E have been changed as well. Physically, its and the RS' are the same LED units. Given that the older halogen headlights really did need a lot of improvement (or replacement), Honda's choice of bulbs this time is spot-on.
Having mentioned the black chrome grill earlier, the E has body-colored door handles, unlike the RS that uses the darker material. Not an issue, really. It still looks good. As for the wheels, these ones take on a more conventional star-form design. At first, I thought that I like this better than the RS's, but I'm actually starting to think this look is a bit too common already. No, it's not unattractive, but I'd now say that the RS wheels do look better on the HR-V. Also, the wrap-around skirts from front to back on the E are painted in matte black instead of gloss. The side mirrors don't get the glossy black treatment either and are color-keyed to the body instead. That just about sums up the differences on the outside.
As for the inside, the first thing you'll notice is that the E has fabric seats; it's not the top-of-the-line variant after all. Does it take anything away from the overall class and design? Not at all. Another change is that the steering wheel and shift knobs are no longer wrapped in leather. Instead, both of them are now clearly of the urethane sort. Now, this really feels a lot different from leather. Still, it's something we can live with, for sure. The piano black accents are also not included in the entry-level E. A deal-breaker? No, it is not. What does need a bit (or maybe a lot) of attention are the door sidings. Wrapped in black cloth, it doesn't look cheap and does cover the plastic bits well, but it isn't exactly glued taut to the covers. A simple pinch and pull feel like they could rip a hole or the entire bit of fabric off. Despite it being entry-level, a little extra TLC in putting the sidings together would have been nice.
Space for both passengers and cargo are unchanged. If there's one thing that the HR-V has in abundance, it is space. Great headroom, more than ample legroom, and the flexibility to haul a few or a lot of cargo remains a great selling point for Honda's updated crossover. The HR-V does have one of the best fold flat rear seats in its class, so when it comes to space for rear passengers or your groceries, you are not left wanting at all.
Perhaps the biggest omission are the side airbags that come standard with the RS. Safety features ride high in my personal checklist, but despite this, it doesn't whittle down the HR-V E's appeal. Maybe Honda could have included it for a bit of a price bump, but better (and lower) pricing is the name of the game, isn't it?
The head unit is also slightly different in that it is a non-Navigation unit. Like we did say previously, though: having your mobile device connected via bluetooth and having data to run apps like Waze from the phone isn't exactly a cumbersome option, is it? Still no USB or HDMI ports, too, so perhaps these weren't meant to be included right from the start, so no points taken away there as far as less features goes.
On to its performance, of course, nothing really changed since both HR-V variants run on the same engine, same transmission, and same suspension. Call it strange, though, but the steering on the E feels heavier ever so slightly compared to the RS. The weight of the wheels, maybe? The RS's does look heavier, and that could be it. Until we get a clear figure on weights, though, I'll attribute this to nitpicking. The engine still goes up to the 9 km/l range with ease, even with traffic. The ride still is undoubtedly better than that of the previous generation's. In the city or on the highways, the HR-V will not give you a nasty back ache with harsh suspension or make you dizzy from an overly soft ride. It's also as agile as ever, despite the review being a bit on the softer side, but overall, it works with the entire package.
So now comes the real question: does getting the entry-level E variant means you are getting less for your money? No, absolutely not. In fact, it just proves that practicality, in this case, gets you every bit of your coin's worth, a bit of change. Sure, Honda might have excluded LED fog lights, but they more than made up for visibility with LED headlights. Okay, they might have changed some exterior bits, but it still looks just as, if not more attractive than it always has. Granted, the E doesn't have side airbags, but the HR-V runs on a good platform and is a safe vehicle as it is. The side airbags, I dare say, are a nice bonus with the RS, but they are by no means a factor that gives a massive red mark for safety.
With a PhP 1,295,000 tag, what you are getting with the entry-spec E is pretty much what you would have gotten with the top-of-the-line EL back then. Compare it to the PhP 1.5M mark of the RS, there really is a significant difference in the price. Not much so for the performance or the features, though. The HR-V E can very well hold its own against its higher-priced RS brother, and it does so quite convincingly. What it offers is more than basic bits and bobs, and really, it has all that we need, and a good number of the things we want in a car. In this case, practicality does go a long way.