Honda HR-V | Shed of the Week

Remember Honda's Hi-rider Revolutionary Vehicle? Shed does. In fact, we couldn't shut him up about it…

By Tony Middlehurst / Friday, November 27, 2020

Before all cars started to look the same, journalists had two special words they liked to call upon when something a bit different looking came along and they had to knock a story out in the last few minutes before lunch. For all French cars, that word was 'quirky'. For cars from any other country, it was 'funky'.

The Honda HR-V of 1999 was called funky a lot, which was odd because when you looked at it dispassionately it was a pure two-boxer and about as simply styled as a car could be. Autocar called it an 'unapologetic matchbox of right angles', which could be taken as a compliment or an insult.

When these Logo supermini-based HR-Vs came out, Honda UK was in the middle of a desperate campaign to drag the average age of its owners down from 87. The HR-V was accordingly billed as a 'Joy Machine' to attract those mysterious young folk who liked to strip off and jump naked off seaside piers while being filmed for TV ads. The plan utterly failed, of course. The HR-V was bought by the same blue-rinse brigade who dutifully bought every other Honda bar the NSX and Type R. Young folk refused to be associated with it.

Being far from young, Shed bought one of these HR-Vs. As such he would have been one of the very few owners who knew or even cared that it was all-wheel drive, a hydraulic pump activating the rear diff when the 103hp output became too much for the front tyres. You could get a VTEC version of the 1.6 SOHC engine, lifting power to a scorching 123hp at 6,700rpm, but the 2002 specimen that's on sale here is in full granny spec.

If you're interested, HR-V stood for Hi-rider Revolutionary Vehicle, although under the sharply drawn skin (which made quite a splash when it made its debut at the Tokyo Show in 1997 and at Geneva the year after) it was about as revolutionary as a flat iron. Still, Shed takes the view that the design of this model of HR-V is more likely to stick in the memory than the current HR-V, which sneaked back onto the market in 2015. There's a pleasing neatness about the design, and a wry humour about a 103hp car fitted with a roof spoiler.

Before you rip into it, bear in mind two things: the gen-one weighed just 1,200kg or so, and even the 2015-on second gen HR-V only produced 128hp from its 1.5 i-VTEC engine. Okay, we're grasping at straws now, it's dog slow, but winter is here and this would surely be a safe and super-reliable station car.

The other thing to note is that gen-one HR-Vs are hardly ever sold privately in the UK. That may be because British owners still believe that they are contractually obliged to return their Hondas to the dealerships after three years, where they will be issued with a new one along with some confusing paperwork to quickly sign.

Or the shortage of private cars for sale could be because people like them. They can't be all bad because they stuck around here until 2006, with a facelift inside and out in 2002. Shed thinks that our 2002-er is a facelifter based on the driving lights in the front bumper panel. Talking of which, the vendor of our Shed notes that it's in a great colour, though looking at the interesting match of both bumper panels, the rear one of which has been liberally pre-scraped for your convenience, 'colours' might be more accurate. Maybe the facelift bumpers were applied later, the originals having been eroded away by errant octogenarian parking manoeuvres.

For the last three years of its life the HR-V was only available as a five-door. Shed always preferred his three-door, not just because he loved the stylishly long side windows but also because the lack of rear doors gave him the excuse to manually boost the village postmistress up into the back seat for the odd after-hours special delivery. And as someone who occasionally has to send parts by post, Shed has always appreciated the postmistress's ability to handle a bulky package.


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