Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The HS’s 1.5-litre engine proves strong enough in normal driving, but not much more than that; a 1.2-litre Citroën C5 Aircross is actually more flexible from low engine speeds. That said, while it’s slow to gather speed from below 2000rpm, it actually feels pretty brisk when you work the engine hard.
The good news is that, when driven in a restrained manner, the HS’s engine proves hushed whether you’re building speed or cruising, even at motorway speeds. Pass 3000rpm and it becomes far gruffer, with a rather coarse edge revealed if you take it past 4000rpm. Thankfully, the standard six-speed manual gearbox is rather pleasant to use, with a precise action that's far more enjoyable than the 5008’s, if not as snickety as the Mazda CX-5’s.
The seven-speed automatic gearbox suits a slower driving style, proving smooth when pulling away from a standstill and when changing gears – if you’ve got a light right foot. Try to pull away quickly, though, and the HS stumbles forward clumsily as if a clutch pedal has been released a bit too quickly. However, it is, at least, less hesitant than many other modern autos, such as that found in the Kodiaq. In fact, it even beats the far more expensive Audi Q5 in this regard.
Meanwhile, the HS’s suspension strikes a good balance between ride comfort and handling prowess. Although the ride isn’t as pillow-soft as the Citroën C5 Aircross’s, it takes the sting out of potholes and pimples, dealing with undulating road surfaces pretty well, with only a small amount of float at times. The HS is certainly more comfortable than the firmly sprung CX-5.
Body lean is certainly well controlled, although it does roll a bit more than the CX-5. Driver confidence is built further by steering that builds weight in a manner that feels natural and even gives you a few hints as to what the front tyres are doing. The HS’s brake pedal also proves easy to modulate, whether in start-stop urban traffic or stopping from higher speeds. Even so, the CX-5 will still put a bigger smile on your face on a twisty road; it feels keener to turn in to corners or carve through S bends.