Most of the clever features which make Honda’s dynamic HR-V Sport stand out from the SUV crowd need time to appreciate.

If you only spend a few minutes at the wheel they are easy to miss but get to know the sleek and mildly menacingly-styled car a little better and they soon win you over.

From the coupé-like cockpit feel of the cabin, to the ‘magic’ seats in the rear and the waterproof-lined boot space, a host of ingenious touches combine to produce a practical, versatile and appealing package.

But for all its spacious usefulness what quickly emerges is the HR-V Sport is above all else a cracking driver’s car.

Under the bonnet on the car driven here was a turbocharged version of Honda’s tried and tested 1.5-litre VTEC engine, mated to an automatic gearbox complete with paddle shifters, which develops more than 180 horsepower.

First seen in the latest generation Honda Civic, it is not the four-cylinder engine’s outright power that is most impressive, but the way it is delivered that makes the car such a pleasure to drive.

A new suspension system improves both handling and ride comfort by constantly modifying damping force according to the road surface and driving conditions, keeping the car flatter through corners, enhancing stability during quick lane changes and reducing vibration over uneven roads.

The HR-V Sport also has a modified electric power-assisted steering set-up which is nicely weighted and delivers a reassuring feeling of solidity.

Powerful and stable stopping comes from large ventilated front discs and solid discs at the rear backed by a battery of electronic aids including an anti-lock braking system, electronic brakeforce distribution, brake assist, vehicle stability assist and hill start assist.

The sporty feel is backed up by a styling pack, with a slim front splitter, side skirts, wheel arch mouldings and a more aggressive rear bumper – all finished in black. It also includes black door mirror caps, dual exhaust pipes and 18-inch alloy wheels.

Both headlight and taillight clusters are fully LED, with a dark ‘smoked’ effect at the rear and a high-gloss panel and black honeycomb finish on the front grille.

Sportier exterior styling is matched by upgrades to the interior with high quality, soft-touch surfaces, gloss black trim finishes for the lower dashboard and centre console panels and black roof lining.

Seats are trimmed in a two-tone black fabric and a wine-red leather combination with the driver and front seat passenger treated to extra support.

Facing the driver, a three-dial instrument binnacle features ‘floating’ illumination rings and Honda’s eco assist function, which changes the backlight colour of the speedometer from white to green during fuel-efficient driving.

Like the Jazz, the HR-V is fitted with nifty ‘magic’ rear seats which allow each of the 60:40 split second-row seats to be flipped up and fixed in a number of ways to make for real load-carrying versatility.

If you want to carry objects up to 1.2 metres tall behind the front seats, the front of the rear seat base rises up and back and is locked in a vertical position. Fold the rear seat back forward and the seat base itself lowers into the rear passenger footwell, creating a flat floor and expanding the boot space to 1.8 metres.

The front passenger seat back can also be folded back to a horizontal position, while the rear seat back folds forward to allow items up to 2.4 metres long to fit in.

Discovering all these neat features takes a while but it’s time and effort well spent.

Auto facts

Model: Honda HR-V Sport 1.5 VTEC Turbo

Price: £29,615 as tested

Insurance group: 18E

Fuel consumption (combined): 39.2mpg

Top speed: 134mph

Length: 434.6cm/170.7in

Width: 201.9cm/79.3in

Luggage capacity: 431 litres/15.2 cu ft

Fuel tank capacity: 11 gallons/50 litres

CO2 emissions: 137g/km

Warranty: Three years/ 90,000 miles