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Interview with Yosuke Sato, Assistant Large Project Leader of the Honda HR-V

Honda Malaysia targets to sell 700 units of its recently launched HR-V.

Honda Malaysia targets to sell 700 units of its recently launched HR-V.

By Oon Ee Seng

1) Is the CVT used in the All- New HR-V similar to the Jazz? 

The CVT used is the same as the City and the Jazz.

2) In the City and Jazz, the CVT is very direct. For the All-New HR-V, during standing starts, acceleration is a bit weak, lagging a bit? Why?

The Jazz is lighter, so it feels a bit faster. From stand starts, it may feel a bit different due to its size.

3) In terms of the engine, the Thailand version, even as for the City engine, it has things like cylinder cut, which we don’t have. What is the difference in the engines for Thailand and Malaysia?

In terms of drivability, they are almost similar. The overall structure is slightly different. For example, in the Thailand version, 1 valve is deactivated (elective) for E-85 usage

-The structure / block is different?

Yes, the block is different (ALPL TBC)

 -In terms of performance, it should be the same for Thailand and Malaysia? 

Yes, it is almost the same as the one in Thailand.

4) The All-New HR-V is powered by 1.8L engine, same as the Civic. Why is there only the 1.8L and not 1.5L?

At Honda Malaysia, we conducted some studies before bringing it to the market. For this model, we looked at the drivability, customers’ needs and overall local requirement. So the 1.8L proved to be the best engine for the Malaysian market.

5) Honda has the VTEC engine, which we think would make a good engine for SUVs. What about the 1.0L 3-cylinder turbo engine? 

It is too early to comment on this. We will keep on studying if it suits the customers’ lifestyle. For now, we believe the best option for the Malaysian market is the 1.8L.

6) The choice of the 1.8L engine, is it because the All-New HR-V is a 4WD? Because of additional power loss? Is that one of the reasons?

From our study, the 2WD for 1.8L is the best combination for our market. We feel it is the best in terms of overall package i.e. users needs, affordable price. We also conducted 4WD tests in both West and East Malaysia to find out what features they need in the car. From this, the 2WD, 1.8L is the best combination.

-Was this a regional decision?

 Not really. This is our decision for the Malaysian market.

7) Just to clarify for the 4WD  is there a package for 2WD in other parts of the world? 

 Yes.

8) In our local market, is the Jazz substantially better than the Thailand jazz? Is it the same with the All-New HR-V? Any improvements to our local HR-V? 

There are differences but the structure is almost similar. The combination may be different.

9) Are there any additional upgrades in terms of sound proofing, like the Jazz, for the All-New HR-V? 

This one is the same for the three variants.

10) For the All-New HR-V, wind noise is lower than the Jazz and City? Did you do anything to the sound proofing?  

There are certain enhancements to the All-New HR-V. For example, the door mirror, we avoided having a small hole that makes a whistling sound. Basically, we looked at the details. On the door mirror – there is reduced wind noise.

11) Any changes to the interior? 

A bit hard to answer that. Basically it’s the same. But we can’t exactly compare (it’s not apple to apple). But basically, it’s the same specifications.

12) Why is the All-New HR-V not fitted with rear air cond vents? And why are there three air cond vents in the front?Of course, it depends on how they drive their cars. But the front air cond vents are more than enough to create that comfortable air flow. It has nothing to do with structure. For the City, the requirements were different and since the two models (City & HR-V) have different USPs.  

The air can circulate throughout the cabin. The air volume is different for each vent (high, low, mid). So that creates balanced air flow throughout the vehicle. In the All-New HR-V with that air con ventilation, it is good enough to circulate the air for the entire cabin.

13) What is the optimum way to direct the vents so passengers (front and rear) can feel the air circulation? Is there an air cond setting for optimum comfort for all passengers?

The air doesn’t directly go to the back. But it is designed to circulate. It creates a ‘wrap’ like feel for the entire cabin itself. It is designed in such a way to achieve optimum comfort.

-Can you adjust the air-cond (off and on)?

Yes, you can switch it on and off.

14) Is the cabin space similar to the City?

Overall, the All-New H-V is bigger, slightly bigger than the City.

15) The shoulder room feels tighter than City? 

Compared with the Jazz, the All-New HR-V is wider. Due to the coupe-like cockpit design, it may feel slightly tighter. But in terms of figures (measurements), it is actually bigger.

16) When will we see the hybrid version of the All-New HR-V? 

Currently, we are still studying the need for the hybrid version in Malaysia.

17) Why is paddle shifter not available in the All-New HR-V in Malaysia?

Back then, we introduced paddle shifters for the Civic.  But for the All-New HR-V, we made a vehicle for customers based on what they want. So we created a car to meet the needs. We want to provide a product that is suitable, appreciated and affordably priced.

Less than 10 per cent of customers use the paddle shifters. So we want to provide a product that is highly appreciated by customers and one that meets the customers’ needs. If there is demand, maybe for the future, it may be considered.

18) Why not introduce this as an accessory package? 

There is a lot of technical details that go into this.

19) Compared with Thailand, we also noticed that the Malaysian version is missing the 17-inch wheels, full leather seats, sunroof, and in the Australian version, the City Brake, LaneWatch to name a few. Why were these features dropped out for Malaysia?

When we introduce some things (features), we will study from all aspects. For example, the sunroof – it looks nice, but usability? Maybe not so good for Malaysia. So we replaced it with six airbags. We don’t simply cut, or remove. But consider what will be the highest priority for Malaysia. We choose safety features first. We want to stand out in our safety features.

20) Would you say it is partly due to price?

The price comes with the volume. But we study the needs of the market. If you are willing to pay, we will put it in.

21) Actually I am referring to the active safety systems? Why not introduce those in the All-New HR-V?  

For safety also, we see what is required for Malaysia. It will come with a price. So we made a model that is the best balance for this vehicle requirement. But if Malaysians need or want these features, we can add it, maybe later on. Even for these features, we are already at the best.

22) Are you leaving it for the MMC?

We don’t think like that. We make sure the first batch is well equipped, but if the demands for the features increase, we will definitely consider them for the MMC later on.

23) How will you judge if the market needs it? 

We actively conduct surveys and we engage focus group discussions (clinics) to find out the needs of customers in that segment. We create the best package for that price to suit those customers.

24) You have an AWD version overseas. Although AWD is not offered in Malaysia, does it mean that your suspension has to be configured to accommodate AWD? How did you accommodate AWD in a vehicle with torsion beam rear suspension? 

It has a different setting and the torsion beam structure is different. The layout is also different. The mounting points are the same.

25) What was the inspiration for All-New HR-V and how long did you take to design this model? When developing, we didn’t even plan for a SUV, but what (plan for what) is really required by the customers.

When this model was developed, we looked at the customer and what they want in a car. Not just a car to drive from A to B, but has to have some specialty. The key words that were derived during the concept stage – sense of safety and security and status.

26) The steering feel. The All-New HR-V has very good steering wheel. How did you achieve this and can we anticipate similar tuning for future Honda models? (During twisty roads, it feels more stable/safe) 

As you know, the SUV has higher gravity. So we had to figure out how to get rid of it. It is different from a sedan. We needed to improve that. Hence we improved the body rigidity. So not only steering, but we took a holistic approach to improve the overall body rigidity. So we can’t easily transfer this to other models because this is a SUV.

27) What were some of the challenges in designing the All-New HR-V? 

From the concept stage, achieving the combination of a minivan, coupe and SUV was the biggest challenge. Combining the utility and space.

28) The CVT in All-New HR-V, originally when we asked for the Accord and CR-V, you mentioned that you wanted to stick to the 5 automatic transmission. Malaysians want the direct feel that conventional transmission provided. So why this change of direction? Especially since 1.8L works well. 

Throughout the years, the CVT has also been improved and the requirement from our market also changed. The characteristics of the 5 automatic transmission is almost similar to CVT. So we decided to go with the CVT.

 29) What is the CD (drag coefficient) for the All-New HR-V? 

For the SUV segment, we are at the top of the class. Actually two class higher than the SUV category. The CD is substantially better. It is almost the same level as a sedan. The almost flat underbody helps to reduce the drag coefficient of the HR-V.

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