With the second-generation Honda Vezel (or third-generation HR-V if you’re counting with that name) now on sale in its home market of Japan, the HR-V has also been announced for the European market. In the continent, the HR-V will only be available with the e:HEV two-motor hybrid powertrain. There’s no 1.5L NA i-VTEC.

The HR-V e:HEV combines two electric motors with a 1.5 litre i-VTEC petrol engine, with output from the propulsion motor rated at 131 PS and 253 Nm of torque at 4,500 rpm. Those numbers are identical to the JDM Vezel e:HEV. Compared to our City RS e:HEV, the electric motor here makes 22 PS more. The Atkinson-cycle engine that juices the motor produces 106 PS (8 PS more) and 127 Nm.

Basically, the engine functions mainly as a generator with the help of an integrated electric motor, which also acts as a starter. There are three interchangeable drive modes, automatically selected for the situation. The HR-V pulls off in electric mode, seamlessly changing to hybrid mode when the engine is under high-torque demand, with the petrol engine going solo when driving at higher, more constant speeds.

There are also three performance modes – Sport, Normal and Econ – while the B drive mode can be selected through the gear lever for stronger regenerative braking and a more EV-like experience. The level of energy regeneration and the strength of engine braking can be adjusted via the Deceleration Selector behind the steering wheel.

It’s not mentioned in the European press release, but the JDM version has a larger Intelligent Power Unit (IPU) lithium-ion battery, which now features 60 cells instead of 48, thanks to the repositioning of the Power Control Unit (PCU) in the engine bay. In Japan, Honda claims fuel economy of 25 km/l and as with all cars there, AWD is an option.

With the new HR-V, Honda wanted to combine “premium SUV styling” with “exceptional spaciousness”, the latter achieved with compact dimensions and easy entry/exit for passengers according to the manufacturer’s “Man-Maximum, Machine-Minimum” principle.

The design is a big departure from the B-SUV that we’re familiar with. Riding on the same platform as the latest Jazz and City, the new HR-V is a tad shorter (4,330 mm) but 20 mm wider (1,790 mm) and lower (1,590 mm), contributing to the “coupe-inspired exterior”. Ground clearance is higher by 10 mm – combine that with the lower roofline and you’ll get slimmer sides with “noiseless aesthetic” panels.

Also propping the coupe claims is a heavily-raked rear screen. Honda has also improved outward visibility by pushing the A-pillars rearward, straightening the window line and placing the door mirrors on the doors. In Europe, the enlarged 18-inch wheels are standard. Aero measures include an air curtain slit at the front bumper, rear side sill lip and sleek rear light shape. All these help to reduce turbulence, aided by the rear side spoiler.

Inside, the dashboard is similarly clean. Honda claims levels of comfort and practicality unrivalled in the sub-compact SUV segment, plus soft-touch materials. There’s a unique “Air Diffusion System” where L-shaped vents are positioned in the top corners of the dashboard. These vents direct a stream of air along the front side windows to the roof, creating a vortex of air beside and above occupants. This should be more comfortable than air blasting directly at occupants.

The driving position is 10 mm higher than before, and the seats themselves are new – the “body stabilising” front chairs feature mat-structure support, as opposed to the old spring set-up. This helps prevent fatigue on long journeys and increases comfort in everyday use, Honda says. Speaking of seats, Honda’s rear Magic Seat set-up made popular by the Jazz is available here.

Although the HR-V’s exterior dimensions are more or less similar, Honda claims greater leg room and shoulder space. In addition to the 35 mm increase in rear legroom, there’s an extra two-degree of recline compared to the previous generation SUV, enabled by the car’s centre tank layout and smart packaging of hybrid components. Practicality, already very good, has been further improved by a lower load lip and bigger tailgate aperture.

Fold the seats and two adult mountain bikes (with the front wheels removed) can be loaded and stowed upright with ease. Convenience is enhanced by a hands-free “Power Tailgate Walk Away Close” function. As its name suggests, the tailgate will auto close as you walk away from the car. Other new features include a wireless charging pad, a premium audio system and external amplifier, and touch-activated cabin lights. Honda Sensing too, of course.

Now on sale in Japan, the new HR-V e:HEV will reach European showrooms in late 2021. Like what you see?

GALLERY: 2021 Honda HR-V, Euro-spec

GALLERY: JDM 2021 Honda Vezel