Meet Harvey, my Honda HRV.

2009 update,
28'th May,
Harvey is now nine years old and has driven 130,000 Klm. Apart from a very minor oil leak which has been there since 2004 or so it has been quite mechanically sound. At the last service a split in the main bearing seal was noted and it needs new rear shockies.

However this week I had a major hassle with Harvey. On Monday the engine immobiliser wouldn't let me start the engine. It was about to be towed back to honda on Wednesday  when I decided just to keep trying for a while. I just kept turning it on a off without trying to crack it. After a half a dozen goes it accepted the key and it hasn't missed a beat since. 

I noted a few other people on the net with honda immobilzer problem had them after wet weather and we just  had  1/3 of our annual rainfall in one day or so. So it may just be the damp. At this point I'd rather not have an immobilizer but when the car was newer and more valuable it made sense.

If HRV were still being sold here I'd be tempted to get unother one. I'm not interested in a CRV or any other honda on the market at the moment.

Original page...

Maybe that should be Harvette? Cars usually seem female to me, I thought that might be a "boy thing" but I've had girls agree with me one that one. When I began looking for a car - Honda was not on my short list. Replacing my old 1982 Subaru 4WD wagon with a newer (second hand) Subaru was my preferred option. When I bought the Roo, I thought my next car would be radically different technology. Fuel efficient, fuel injected two-strokes looked like they would hit the streets in a big way within 5 years but this never happened. Now in Y2K, hypercars are just around the corner but not quite here yet, maybe next time :)


The only hypercar like car I seriously considered was the Toyota Prius. The Prius is a petrol/electric hybrid with about twice the fuel economy of the HRV. I really wanted off road capability but had the Prius reached Australia in time and at the right price I probably would have bought one. Subaru and Honda also have hybrids but I wasn't too impressed with them for my needs (they were also unavailable).

Most of my driving is on-road but I do go off-road fairly often. This is usually at Nimbin Rocks, access to the community house there is 2WD, it still requires fair ground clearance. Most of the other roads and tracks at Nimbin Rocks require 4WD in the wet and even 4WD is sometimes not enough. A conventional looking 4WD sedan such as the Subaru Liberty appealed to me but new ones are too expensive and I didn't see anything on the second hand market that said "buy me".

Power, My old car has an 1.8 litre (leaded petrol). This has been quite adequate. I didn't really want anything bigger. My new car would be air-conditioned and possibly need a bit extra but new engines can probably squeeze out a few more kilo-watts per litre than the old ones.

Enter HRV,
I was watching TV at a friend's place when I saw an add for the HRV. It was the first and only time a saw it. I wasn't paying too much attention but that changed when I heard the price, it was in the low $20Ks (maybe AU$22,800), at least $10K lower than I expected. It said "buy me". Searching the web filled in the picture but most sites I looked were highly biased - basically adds. One exception was a review posted by the RACQ. My largest concern was (and still is) the 4WD system. The HRV (and CRV) are normally front wheel drive and use a dual pump hydraulic system to detect wheel slip and engage the rear wheel drive clutch (more later).


First Impressions,
I visited my local Honda dealer and took an almost new (11,000 Klm) 1999 model HRV for a drive. The car was larger than I expected, I'd seen pictures and read the specs but I had expected it to be smaller. It was fairly high, not as high as a "real" 4WD but much higher than a normal road car. It is fairly roomy in the front and reminds me of driving a van. This is partly because you can't see the front of the car from the drivers seat and also vans tend to be high. The engine is quiet and the power steering felt too light the first time (it feels fine now). The 1.6 ltr engine is great, the add I saw reckoned the HRV was a cross between 4wd and a sports car. Initially thought this was stretching the truth but now I agree. With tacho approaching the red it's impressive. It corners well and I particularly noted how well it went through those stupid bends and round-abouts they use for "traffic calming" in this part of the world. It's sort of ironic that traffic calmed roads make good test tracks. I would have bought this car expect I shopped around and found a brand new 99 model with y2k plates for less than $2k extra. On the road with 12 months rego and air-conditioned I paid aus $25,530. This was from Peter Robert's Honda in Toowoobma. This is an hour drive from here but I figured it was worth it.

The 4WD.
If my understanding of the dual pump system is correct - it does not provide a positive clock between front and rear drive. There is always slip either because the front wheel are slipping on the ground or the rear clutch is slipping. The later can lead to clutch overheating and disengagement. I would rather have had a manual or electronic 4wd engagement. The auto-engage is safer for novice drivers who could damage the vehicle by use 4wd on hard surfaces. Also "true" constant 4wd do not have this problem. The HRV has no low range gearbox or traction control. It also does not have limited slip differentials as far as I know. In short it is a street car with some off road ability but not in the same league as 4WDs with the other features. My main need for 4WD is for driving thru mud and I have done this in my HRV with satisfactory results. The lightness of the power steering made it hard to feel what the surface was like. I did get thru and the subaru which went thru ahead of me had as much trouble as I did.
The best economy I've had has been under 8 litres per 100Klm. This was a mix of driving conditions but mostly open road. Doing 700 Klm on a tank (55 ltr) should be possible.
Number one gripe is the power windows only work in the "ignition" position. The annoying seat belt warning rates pretty high as well. I've managed to remember my seat belt for the last 25 years without being beeped at. Another major concern I have is the thinness on the body panels. I live is a place which often gets hail and if the HRV gets caught in even a small hale storm it's going to have more dimples than a golf ball. There is also a bad blind spot behind the driver's side mirror. The mirrors work well but things get hidden by them. This can be a worry when cornering. I was dreading reserve parking because the visibility is so bad but my one and only reverse park was perfect.
Do I want my money back?
No, for the price it's a good car and I'm happy with it.

 The Honda HRV, Joy-Machine


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