(images posted at the Cohort by Don Andreina)
I was scrolling back a few pages at the Cohort, which is really overwhelming. So many incredible finds; I hope you all visit there from time to time. Now this one may seem an odd one to take and post here, given the many exotics there, but there’s two reasons: I’ve never seen one in the wild, and now that Honda has a new HRV, and for the US too, I thought it might be appropriate to take a quickie look at Honda’s first shot at a really compact CUV.
I remember reading about the HRV back in the day, although it wasn’t exactly all that well covered even in the European press. It was originally a concept shown at the 1997 Tokyo Motor Show, called “Wild and Joyful” or something like that. Due to an enthusiastic response, the HRV was put into production in 1999, and sent to Europe as well. It’s based on a platform that is essentially unknown to me, the Honda Logo, which in turn was the predecessor to the Fit. So just like the new HR-V is based on the Fit, so the original HR-V was based on Honda’s smallest non-kei platform.
The HR-V was powered by Honda’s 1590cc D16W family of engines, a 105 PS base and 125 PS VTEC version. The Real Time AWD system was borrowed from the larger CR-V.
Although this was a quite compact car, with only 92.5″/2350mm wheelbase, the HR-V also came in a four door version. There was a mild face lift in 2002.
I don’t have detailed sales info available, but I do know it wasn’t exactly a big hit in Europe, despite being a quite competent little CUV, and rather a pioneering one, back in 1999. The lack of a diesel engine undoubtedly held back its appeal. I could see this as being quite popular in places like Italy, if it had a diesel on tap.
Since we’re on the subject, any thoughts on the new 2015 HR-V, called the Vezel in Japan? This time, there is a diesel for Europe, along with a six speed stick. US-bound HR-Vs apparently will only come with the Fit’s 1.5 L four teamed to a CVT.
Someone in Europe can provide more background on this, but as I recall the HR-V came out in response to a European model (From Citreon or Peugeot?) that used a wider cabin than normal, providing three abreast seating in a small platform.
It seems the competitors vehicle had a good initial run, but I’m guessing it was a bit “flash in the pan,” since the HR-V is long gone, and I’m not familiar with any currrent examples of this approach.
Was that a response to Citroen’s Xsara Piccasso which is a people mover version of my hatchback the Piccasso is credited with great handling and road manners but honestly if you think the CUV version drives well just imagine how brilliant the hatch is.
You’re thinking of the FR-V, a 3+3 seater MPV, along the lines of the Fiat Multipla. It’s quite a bit bigger than the HR-V.
Ah, yes- Right you are.
Wait, wasn’t the Pacer “The first wide small car”?
I’ve seen pictures of the Honda HRV. I think it’s better looking than the current 2015 version. I’d buy an HRV here in the USA if it was available with a turbodiesel engine.
Part of the fun of foreign culture is how PR phrases like “Wild & Joyful,” which sound sillly to Western ears, are considered plausible by their originators. Maybe it’s a kawaii thing, I don’t know.
A couple yrs. ago, Honda’s home website had an English graphic labeled “Happy Pack.” Now who wouldn’t want that option? “HondaDog” is their current campaign, not so interesting.
Sometimes silly can be a good thing. We all need humour in our lives.
Granted, but does it sound silly to the Japanese? Or maybe kawaii (“cute”) is what they’re aiming for here. There’s plenty of Internet psychologizing on that subject.
Now cute Germans are hard to imagine.
Here they are.
yea, Gremlin, etc. sounds so much better, don’t you think??
This is really not a Japanese vs. non-Japanese issue: English-language press packs, particularly for concept cars, are often every bit as silly. As a case in point, I would invite you to look at the option packs and trim levels for the European MINI, the Opel/Vauxhall Adam, or the Volkswagen Up, which are awash with ludicrous attempts at whimsy. Not that the Japanese attempts at this aren’t silly, but there’s a broader context to consider of middle-aged PR and marketing executives embarrassing themselves in an attempt to appeal to a desired audience of hip, ironic 20somethings in a climate where almost every other word or turn of phrase is already claimed as a trademark by someone.
In the case of the HRV, as I recall, the original show car was one of three vehicles shown at the same time, each of which was intended to express some set of emotions. So, it was a set of vehicles that was supposed to illustrate the range of (putative) expressions of a particular platform or set of pieces. Not any sillier than, say, the press kit for the Vectra calling it “taut and distinctive” or words to that effect. (I don’t have it handy, but along those lines.)
AUWM, just a quick note – I always love reading your input on this site (and your incredibly deep analyses on your site). Next to Paul, you two are like the Yodas of CC…
Always a pleasure to hear your thoughts…
MotorAteUpWith he is.
Lol, +1 😀
JDM car nomenclature can be hilarious.
The “Daihatsu Naked” has to be one of my favorite car names of all time. Plenty of advertising possibilities.
Then there’s the “Mazda Bongo Friendee” and “Honda Life Dunk”
I never knew of this one, and I have been kind of a Honda guy. As for the new one, I wish they had kept it in Japan and sent us the JDM Odyssey instead. This one looks too much like a Nissan Juke to me.
I think it’s better way looking than the Nissan Juke.
That wouldn’t be hard.
I agree with Jason, WAY better looking that a Juke. The new HR-V gives me a Pontiac Vibe vibe. (Sorry, couldn’t resist the pun.) I rather liked the look of the 1st gen Vibe.
Once again Europe gets a diesel AND a stick and North America is stuck with a gas engine and an automatic… or even worse, a CVT. (sigh)
LOL! I know what you mean. 🙂
Out of curiosity, what is it that you especially like about the JDM Odyssey?
I just compared NA Odyssey with JDM Odyssey specs on Wikipedia. The NA version is 10″ longer, 4″ longer wheelbase, 8″ wider, and a 3.5L V6/6spd auto versus 2.4L I4/CVT.
I had a first generation 96 Ody and just liked the package. I am at a place where I like the utility of a minivan, but do not necessarily need the full sized package. I have always had a thing for the JDM Odyssey ever since, rational or not. I am probably like one of the guys Syke talks about who wants a brown one with a stick shift, but would only buy it used. 🙂
Ha ha! I resemble that remark. There were rumors in 2008-09 that Honda was going to introduce an Accord wagon, and that it might get their diesel engine from Europe. (Woo hoo! Diesel stick wagon!) If that came to pass while we were still shopping to replace my wife’s Civic, I would’ve seriously considered buying one NEW. Instead they unveiled the Crosstour. Ugh.
Another note about the Odyssey: The JDM version kept the sedan-style rear doors, but the current generation has finally adopted sliding doors like the NA version.
The first-generation Odyssey made the terrible mistake, in marketing terms, of giving buyers what they actually needed rather than what they wanted. I recall that Honda did extensive research into how prospective customers actually used their vehicles and tailored the Odyssey that way (which of course ended up being basically a slightly bigger, taller Accord wagon). Unfortunately, American minivan buyers weren’t thinking about their normal day-to-day requirements, but rather about being prepared for those days when they might have to stop to pick up little Timmy’s new iron lung while ferrying four kids to soccer practice. A common dilemma…
The North American Ody and other minivans aren’t THAT big. You more accurately describe the fullsize GM van that I used to drive.
I don’t believe it was a case of “giving buyers what they actually needed”, unless you’re talking about buyers in Japan and possibly Europe. The original Ody was designed initially for the Japanese market. Honda needed something quick to cash-in on the popularity of minivans in NA, so they started shipping them over.
The original Ody lacked sliding doors, a defining trait of minivans, and I think it was one of the only minivans with a 4-cyl engine versus a V6 in most others. It was really more CUV than minivan, but CUV didn’t exist as a market segment at the time.
I remember reading that the US Honda product planners drafted requirements for the 2nd gen Ody, but the engineers in Japan were reluctant to implement them.
I remember reading that the secondgen Odyssey was the first Honda ever to be conceived by focus group, and what people said they wanted was a Chrysler minivan made by someone other than Chrysler. And that’s what they got, fixed side door windows, weak transmission and all.
I too see a Juke, that has been run through the “Matrix” which toned down all the ugly bits 🙂
My initial thought was that in some Bizzaro universe, GM owned Volvo and made them rebrand one of their Korean cars. Especially looking at the rear tail lights.
This is the first I’ve heard of the older model, but I rather like it. The crisp rear styling with that gently rounded 90’s Honda nose works well.
The new one? Ack. Looks too much like the Accord Crosstour, which I also find unattractive. Honda’s design language is losing me…
The new one, based on the Fit platform, might be halfway decent if they use a wider choice of color for it than they use on the Fit. The new Fit has 2 silvers, a charcoal, and a black…I think. The red they are using for the Fit borders on the ugly.
I like the Juke’s unusual styling but I’m not sure I could live with it long term but I think the HR-V looks kind of plain.
The new Fit can also be had in white, yellow, bright blue, and deep purple.
And the interior is available in any color you want, so long as it’s black. (c:
When will they EVER learn? Black is SOOOOO 1920s!
The original HR-V was an interesting vehicle at the time, but was largely overshadowed by the superior second generation RAV4. The car it was based on, the Logo, was considered incompetent in its class and very out of touch for a Honda by the European press I was reading back then. Considering that, the HR-V wasn’t panned in the same manner as the Logo. One small detail I hated about the HR-V was the blue-faced gauges they had; I thought they looked very tacky. I think if the four door was released at the same time as the two door, it would’ve been a bigger success. From what I can recall, the 3 door was viewed somewhat as a vehicle bought for the image it projected, and less so for the overall merits it posessed.
As for the new HR-V, I think Honda will be able to sell them as fast as they can build them. The interior is very modern, and if it is large as a Fit inside, it may very well end up being a better seller than the CR-V.
The Juke is a polarizing niche vehicle along the lines of Honda’s own Element. The HRV is a mass market car exactly one size down from the successful CRV. I don’t think it is appropriate to compare the styling, each is going after a different audience.
The HRV will do well enough but I wonder how soon “cute-ute” will go out of style. The car looks rather old and pregnant to me. I can’t see a young married woman in one when she can step up to a CRV for a little more money. I can’t see a young single woman either, they have better taste and are looking for something fresh. I see these women in Jukes and Mazda 3s here in LA.
You won’t see young guys anywhere near this thing which is no loss, Honda has them covered with the Civic and Fit. I wonder who Honda is expecting to get? Older people is my guess… but most of those probably would have bought a CRV.
Well, this ‘older people’ (north of 50) bought a Fit recently. The Element was also popular with older folks. But yeah, they are generally aimed at the younger demographic.
There seems to be a massive marketing disconnect between what automakers thinking buyers want and can afford and the reality of both, followed by the companies wringing their hands about their would-be Hip Youth Market products appealing to the “wrong” buyers. (I think my parents may still hold a grudge for being turned away from a Scion dealership for not fitting the demographic.)
From a marketing perspective, it’s actually clever to advertise cars like the HRV as a hip, trendy, “young person’s” car, even if the customer demographic is skewed older. Many people want cars that appeal to their inner youth. People don’t want to be relegated to Buicks just because they have reached a certain age.
That’s true, Brendan. I’m still digesting the fact that a Scion dealership turned Aaron’s parents away, though.
I lived with a guy who bought an HRV new. He was a rugby-playing country boy, mid 20s, whose other car was an SWB FJ40 Landcruiser with spotties. He introduced me to a magazine called ‘Bacon Busters’. Can’t unthink that magazine.
Sometimes you will see a car clearly aimed at an older population, at least in terms of the design. The hint is usually the size of the meters in the dash. Here we have a Toyota Avalon.
You should have seen the large print Reader’s Digest font speedo on my late Grandad’s Cierra. Oddly the circa 79 climate control sliders’ print and the dim Delco head display were hard for my middle aged eyes.
“(I think my parents may still hold a grudge for being turned away from a Scion dealership for not fitting the demographic.)”
Anybody with money to afford a product fits the demographic.
I would have raised a major stink if that happened to me.
That’s how a BMW dealer nearby missed the opportunity to sell a new M5 to an ex-farmer loaded with cash. He showed up at the dealership in his “daily outfit”. BMW’s dressed up talking suits were not amused…
Instead he got himself a brand new Audi RS6 Avant. His outfit was perfectly OK to the Audi guys.
I wish the Scion dealer turned me away instead of letting me buy that POS XB, I think I would have been better off.
I agree with you regarding the massive disconnect car makers seem to have on this.
The average under 25 year old driver most likely is ether bogged down with student debt or does not have a lot of credit so chances are they are ether driving something used or something their folks might buy them. If they are buying new then it is usually a Civic or a Corolla.
Scion had a hit on their hands with the first generation XB but the complaints folks gave them (no power, no room etc) caused Toyota to redesign it in 2008. The younger generation turn their nose up on it and the older generations took to them. Those 08-14 XB’s have loads of room. and I was always impressed that I could sit in the back with plenty of room to spare with the front seats push all the way back and I am 6-1
I remember first seeing the Honda Element, an thinking it’s the ugliest looking vehicle Honda produced. I don’t mind boxes on wheels, but this thing looked like a sedan with the trunk chopped off, and someone forgot to chop off the front of the car. The more I saw it, the more I liked its styling. I didn’t care about the changes in appearance of the front grille by the time the Element was discontinued.
A co-worker drives one of these, it is not as shiny though, and has yellowing headlights. I dont think the Honda awd system works well either because it allows too much wheelspin before the rear wheels engage.
I’ve heard that too complaint. Can’t comment directly because I don’t think we’ve ever been stuck badly enough to need the AWD in our CR-V.
A jacked-up wagon based on their smallest non-kei car. Put four wheel drive in it and I’m in.
Well I will be dammed, I never knew there was an original HRV.
I like the look of these. Comparing it with the new one reminds me that we’re in another age of gorp.
I always thought the HRV was cute. A girl at work bought one to replace a Civic, and let me have a drive.They were usually front-drive , 4×4 was an expensive option that few buyers could justify. The problem was that these were supposed to project a “youthful” vibe , but the HRV became known as the Hip Replacement Vehicle because of its’ appeal to older folk who couldn’t bend their legs too much.The Juke tends to appeal for the same reason.
Hip Replacement Vehicle. I’m going to have to remember that one. 🙂
Will this sell in the USA? The days of everything that Honda makes selling in droves is long over. The Insight and CR-Z don’t sell well and there is too many offerings in the crowded cute ute segment.
I don’t even think there is a market for this. You can get a good deal on the popular CR-V which is compact, roomy and very fuel efficient and I can see folks going to the show rooms to look at this vehicle and leaving with a CR-V
The Insight and CR-Z are odd examples, but the Civic and Fit are doing pretty well. I haven’t looked at recent CRV sales.
Wow, a Honda Bronco II, hopefully without any tipsy Boris Yeltsin shenanigans.
One of the rear views up there is strongly channeling a Volvo wagon. And here I thought Subaru was the Japanese Swedish car…
I also wonder if it had some Honda/Rover influence, it could have been an junior level SUV Sterling, if they hadn’t somehow ruined the 825. And the RSX styled headlamps and front clip don’t help with the boxy rear area. Or maybe it was intended as an entry Acura SUV, but the Bronco II, Navajo and Samurai killed that show. I’m surprised there was a 2 door Rav4. People were scared of short wheel based SUVs, Jeep notwithstanding.
I doubt it — it does have some broad proportional similarity to the Freelander, but the Honda/Rover relationship had been over for three or more years when this was designed.
You’re right: I get emotional about Sterling/Rover/Honda. Just imagine a reliable 2nd generation Legend based Sterling in some parallel universe. I had such high hopes of a Honda drive train British leather picnic tabled Grey Poupon wooded wonder.
Not this universe. Try the next one over.
The first-generation CRV had the same taillight theme, albeit not quite as pronounced.
The original HRV was kind of cool looking. I miss when CUVs still looked faintly truck-ish.
As for the new one, it’s okay looking. No new ground broken in terms of styling, but I’m sure it will sell very well. I’ll have to wait and see it in person to form a definitive opinion. I do miss the LEDs and wheels of the concept though.
I really like the original HR-V and have been keeping an eye out for a good one as a first car for my daughters.
I’ve also read that the 4wd was slow to engage, but there are videos on u-tube of these driving very well in snow and mud. Maybe the system did not work well as a handling aid at speed? (not likely to be a problem for my kids).
In Australia, the Vtec engine was not offered as an option but abs brakes were. Most cars were sold here without abs so finding one with (essential in my view) is harder – but not impossible.
Another option was cvt or manual. I believe that the cvt was a weak point and prone to failure. Otherwise they seem a well made, practical, long lasting car suitable for a younger person – not high performance and relatively fuel efficient.
Those for sale here often seem to have been well kept and the asking prices quite reasonable.
looks like a two door Volvo V70 xc
We got the 2-door HRV new in New Zealand, but never the 4-door. It wasn’t popular new, I’m not sure why. The pricing was excellent as I recall. I had a client buy one in 1999, so had a good look at it at the time. I suspect the 2-door’s styling was the reason it sank without trace in our market – the 2-door does look frightfully tall and narrow and resultingly tippy-overy from most angles. Reminds me of the Bronco II in that respect. While checking our Trade Me auction site for current HRV listings, this ’02 popped up; it must be a candidate for the most inappropriate car to dress up as a woody wagon!
I rather like it!
Can anyone confirm or remember that this Honda came with a shower system ? I vaguely remember a TV-commercial that it had a shower system in the back and that someone took a shower under its opened hatch, at the beach. Probably not a domestic commercial, then I would have vaguely remembered seeing her nipples too.
Does the antifreeze have any unpleasant effect on the skin?
No, no…she looked rather pleased with the shower package. It had a separate water tank in the back.
I did some searching, can’t find anything on the web. But I’m pretty sure it was this car.
I think you’re thinking of the gen1/2 JDM Odyssey Johannes. It was available in a camping package with numerous options (including several expandable roof styles that gave sleeping space a la VW Kombi). Alternatively it could be the Mazda Bongo Friendee, which is a van but has similar tall&narrow proportions to the HRV. The Friendee was also available with multiple camping packages. We have both the Odyssey and Friendee campers here in NZ (as used JDM imports), and although unlikely choices for camping vehicles, they’re actually very efficient space-wise.
Scott, it must have been either this HR-V or the next one. The JDM Odyssey was never sold here (to be honest, I had never heard of the Odyssey, so I had to look it up first). It certainly wasn’t a Mazda Bunga-Bunga.
Apart from the shower it didn’t have any other camping items.
Meanwhile I found a Dutch review, it says that a handshower was available as an option on the 2002 model Honda CR-V.
These are still a common sight here in Japan…and this is a country where cars are commonly traded after 5 years due to tax/registration fees. They are really nice-looking and apparently their owners don’t want to let go of them.
As I understand it, a large part of what put these dead in the water on the European market was that the 5-door Civic hatchback offered slightly more vehicle at around the same price point.
In the early 2000s, my mother was shopping for a replacement for her 1989 Civic hatchback; the HR-V was one of the vehicles she was considering. She drove both it and the then-current Civic 5-door; what sealed the deal for her was when the dealer (who had sold and serviced all of her cars for 20-odd years) mentioned that they sold somewhere in the region of 15 Civics for every HR-V that rolled off the lot.
Between the lower sales volumes translating into dealers not stocking the same level of parts as for a Civic (making servicing a pain) and the overall feeling of it being a Jazz on stilts with almost the price tag of a Civic, the Civic won out.
She ultimately defected from Honda to Subaru a few years later, but that’s another story. The HR-V fit into a niche that was too small for its own good, and where the in-house competition made it not as attractive a proposition as it might otherwise have been.
New HR-V? Not for me, I like the Fit itself much better.