Masaki Kobayashi is passionate about the new Honda HR-V. As the lead designer for the project he knows every line and curve, the feel of every material in its interior space and is proud of how it fuses pragmatism, precision and emotional design to create something unique. Here he provides an insight into how the HR-V was conceived and developed.
“We didn’t want to just create a downsized SUV,” explains Kobayashi. “Honda already has the CR-V, which combines the virtues of an SUV and a lighter, more nimble conventional car, so the HR-V needed to offer something different. The development team set a goal to create a new value or theme from the very start of the project.”
That new theme was to combine the elegance and fluidity of a coupé with the utility and strength of an SUV.
“Combining high eye-point and toughness — core values of an SUV — with a new level of emotion was the key,” Kobayashi says. “So we came up with an exterior concept encapsulated by ‘emotionality and toughness’ and an interior concept called ‘personal cockpit and expansiveness’. We wanted to fuse apparently conflicting values to create something fresh.”
This approach was tailored around a dynamic and demanding buyer profile. Kobayashi and his team targeted “active people who enjoy both their work and home life. These people have a high sense of the balance between fashion and practicality,” he says.
Achieving that balance in the HR-V was a challenge. “It was very difficult to create the desired interior space, ease of use and sheer capaciousness hand-in-hand with dynamic and emotional design,” Kobayashi notes. “However, the process is relatively simple: Package designers take charge of determining the space and layout of the vehicle and set hard points. From there the exterior and interior designers take over to bring the concept to life within those hard points.”
If the theory is simple, the intense period of melding a dynamic but versatile interior with an aerodynamically efficient, exciting and innately tough profile is hugely demanding.
“Of course it’s not so straightforward in reality!” Kobayashi says with a smile. “The designers and engineers discuss everything on a millimeter level… You might even call them arguments! But by having these open discussions the project can really take shape.”
Once this conceptual phase is complete the job of modeling the HR-V began.
“We spent the longest time on this process,” says Kobayashi. “Designing, modeling and then repeating the verification using full-scale models to get a real sense of how the HR-V would look out on the road.
“This is where the design starts to come to life and we can experiment with shapes and forms that still let the interior space breathe but also create a tension and fluidity in the design.”
The cohesiveness of the HR-V design is a testament to that intense and highly detailed process and something of which Kobayashi is proud.
“Fusion of a cabin shape with good aerodynamics and a strong lower body became the basis of HR-V’s dynamic form,” he says, “And what’s satisfying is that we were able to create a product with no compromise in terms of size, function and design.”
This translates into an interior packed with functionality but also a sense of personal space and fun.
“The driving position is very much like a coupé and engenders a sense of agility and dynamism, yet because the architecture features a central fuel tank layout and elements like the ‘magic seats’ the HR-V offers masses of space for passengers and great flexibility. This combination gave the design team a great deal of satisfaction.”
“For the exterior, we are very pleased with its dynamic shape, the high quality of the surfaces and the intricate but seamless detailing,’” says Kobayashi. “I can say that when the whole team first saw the prototype vehicle together, we felt proud and special that we were able to realize our targets with this new car.
“I believe that the HR-V possesses the elegance to look attractive in any scene and yet a sense of toughness at the same time. And my determination to make it look like a real ‘driver’s car’ was achieved.”
The new HR-V is a product borne of the determination to offer something fresh and innovative but with the real lives of real people and families at its core.
“Honda is a place where we use our will to create new values without being bound by the past,” explains Kobayashi. “That is our driving force. From a creator’s perspective, it is an interesting and stimulating environment. That sense of moving forward and also listening to the users who live with our products around the world is very exciting.”