THE scene was set: before us, tantalisingly close, on a lush valley floor with a backdrop
THE scene was set: before us, tantalisingly close, on a lush valley floor with a backdrop of the beguiling Malvern Hills, a large spring flower show was unfolding.
We sat in a traffic queue that curled endlessly through roads that took us to the event — the Royal Horticultural Society’s Malvern Spring Festival 2016.
Earlier, in a separate queue, dutifully we got in line, as the Americans say, to leave the motorway en route to the Malvern show.
Overall, a car journey of some 40 miles from our home in Gloucestershire that should have taken about 50 minutes took two hours.
Such is modern-day car travel. Why do we do it? Well, we have all I’m sure asked ourselves that question before.
And yet, once parked up in this great open space that forms the Three Counties Showground in Malvern, Worcestershire, we enjoyed an event that sparkled with diversity and colours galore. There were flowers aplenty with a floral marquee housing displays from 68 world-class nurseries; top-name experts such as Mary Berry, Alan Titchmarsh and Carol Klein each did their individual thing; and there were countless stalls selling arts and crafts, clothes, pots, baskets, wicker chairs, lawnmowers — you name it.
And a lot of people can’t be wrong, can they? This 2016 event was a record breaker: more than 100,000 people came on the hottest weekend of the year so far, smashing the previous attendance record of 90,000.
To my delight, there were also cars on display. Some of the top shows of this kind now do not feature cars old or new. And overall carmakers do not seem to think it worthwhile sponsoring such events.
But any show that attracts so many people and interest has to be good for publicity even if on the day we went it was the very devil to get into.
The cars on display were classics: beautiful Rileys and Rolls-Royces all buffed up. Their owners were there too, proud of their contribution to automotive history.
One lovely 1959 Mini in original condition would give the testosterone-filled modern MINI version a run for its money any day in my book.
The car I was in — this week’s drive, the new 2016 Honda HR-V — acquitted itself well in trying circumstances. Its slick manual gearbox handled the constant queuing with aplomb. Though unfussy inside, we were comfortable in our cocoon during the long wait.
The HR-V uses centre fuel tank location to maximise cabin roominess and Honda’s Connect infotainment system has features including a seven-inch touchscreen (great clear graphics), AhaTM app integration and internet browsing. This was a boon during a long wait and the HR-Vs eco-running mode made sure it sipped fuel while on this drawn-out drive.
It is 17 years since the original HR-V was launched and this return to the crossover segment is important for the brand — the new HR-V takes Honda back into a rapidly growing market segment.
The new model is available with a choice of 120PS 1.6 litre i-DTEC diesel or 130PS 1.5 litre i-VTEC petrol engines, both part of Honda’s Earth Dreams Technology series. The diesel has a six-speed manual while the petrol has a six-speed manual or CVT.
I was driving the HR-V 1.6 i-DTEC SE Navi MT. This proved to be extraordinarily good on fuel and impressive to drive in eco mode, even when cruising at speed on motorways.
I liked the design of the car, which I found very appealing with its crisp and slick lines. This is definitely a car that grows on you. And it displayed all the attributes I admire most in Honda products.
In some ways the Japanese carmaker may be playing catch-up with its model range these days, but I find that with Honda — whether it is cars or motorcycles for that matter — you always get that underlying commitment to build quality.
I’ve said before that I think the test car’s “big brother” — the Honda CR-V — is now on the money with regard to design. This new HR-V looks the part too, but I think Honda does not have time to pause and rest on its laurels. The car industry is so fast-moving these days that everyone has to play catch-up.
The HR-V is moving in the right direction but let’s hope Honda keeps pushing the envelope. On the evidence of this new HR-V there is much more to come.
For information on upcoming events at the Three Counties Showground, Malvern, visit www.threecounties.co.uk
Honda HR-V factfile
Honda HR-V 1.6 i-DTEC SE Navi MT
Price of test car: £23,575
Colour: White orchid pearl
MPG: 69.8 on combined cycle
0-62mph: 10.2 seconds
Top speed: 119.3 mph
HR-V Honda CONNECT consists of six-speaker system with CD player, seven-inch touchscreen, AM/FM, DAB, internet radio, AhaTM app Â integration, internet browsing, two USB jacks and two HDMI jacks
Choice of 1.6 litre i-DTEC diesel and 1.5 litre i-VTEC petrol engines