Honda’s all-new HR-V hits the ground running.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
Click on any picture to see a larger version.
Pricing: 2016 Honda HR-V
Base price (LX trim): $24,290
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $26,085
The brand-new Honda HR-V is one of the most attention-grabbing vehicles I’ve reviewed in a long time. It garners a lot of looks from a lot of different people, and I ended up fielding a ton of questions and had a lot of people walk over to ask what it is and to have a look inside. I found this quite interesting as the outside shape, while a slight departure for Honda, isn’t really ground-breaking on any level.
You’ll notice the HR-V’s styling at the same time as its tidy size, which makes it nice to dart around town in and allows it to fit nicely into any parking space you can find. Honda claims that they’ve combined the styling of a coupe (I’ll wait a minute for the giggling to settle) with the versatility of an SUV. The roof line is a bit bold, to be sure, as is the heavily-sculpted side – and yes, it does have a slight aggressive edge from a couple of angles. And the window trim that comes to a point at the back, culminating in a hidden rear door handle, can’t be missed. The whole package sits on some nice 17-inch rims and as a whole, I think the styling works well – it’s sporty and it throws in a hint of fun while remaining Honda-ish, which is to say it’s still a bit conservative.
One odd thing – a strange-looking set of protective skid bars underneath the vehicle, plainly visible on the driver’s side, appear to be tacked-on as an afterthought and almost look as though something is hanging off the vehicle. It disrupts a set of otherwise tidy and cleanly-styled lines.
The HR-V has a surprisingly open and spacious cabin – I’m 5’10” and had plenty of head room. I also had a gentleman well over 6′ (who claims all his height is in his legs) get in the driver’s seat and try it out, and he had room to spare too. The dash feels simple, flush and clean, its centre stack angled slightly towards the driver. The majority of the materials are nicely-textured hard plastics, although the dash face is an upholstered panel. I quite like the interior styling and it did not feel cheap or entry-level to me. All trim levels get heated seats, and the LX’s fabric thrones are comfortable and well-bolstered, but they got pretty toasty on hot summer days.
The basic instrument bin gives you everything you need including a driver information centre, and the steering wheel has controls for cruise, media and phone. The touchscreen – for audio, phone, vehicle settings and the multi-angle back-up camera – was a bit of a reach for me, and I found the lack of hard buttons irritating. You won’t find a one, other than for system power and CD eject. Personally I prefer a knob for volume control at very least. The automatic climate control system below is also completely touch-based. The upside is that everything comes together in a very slick and clean-looking way.
The centre console is quite slim, however Honda has done a few neat things to make it work in terms of storage solutions. Behind the CVT’s gear selector is a deep well that has multi-level dividers in it. Flipped down, each acts as a separate cupholder, but you can also flip them up (into the centre and out of the way), and you get a nice little space to drop a phone or anything else. The sliding armrest lid also hides a small storage space.
And underneath the console is an excellent rubberized bin as well as a full suite of connections for media input and charging – it’s handy and out of the way. Door bins with bottle holders and a reasonably-sized glove compartment add further places to drop your stuff.
The HR-V has three seats in the back, each with a seatbelt and headrest. The middle seat is very hard and narrow, making it an unpleasant place to sit – even my kids didn’t want to plant their spoiled butts there. But the surprise comes when you sit in one of the two main rear seats. Not only are they reasonably comfortable (and recline for good measure), you’ll find ample head and leg room. The back of the console has a single cupholder and a 12V power port, and the doors have bottle holders.
One of the HR-V’s niftiest features is taken from its platform-mate, the Fit – the MagicSeats (whose seat bottoms fold up and out of the way) are an incredibly useful and flexible way to use the vehicle’s rear seat space and allow you to access all of it – from floor to roof panel. It’s a very practical way to exploit a number of different configurations, and combined with rear seats that fold completely flat (in a 60/40 split), you can make the HR-V transport almost anything in almost any shape or size.
Thinking the HR-V’s size might limit you? Think again. You’ll find 657 litres of trunk space available – flip the seats down and you’re looking at a class-leading 1631 litres.
Under the Hood
While the HR-V is based on Honda’s Fit, it gets the Civic’s bigger 1.8-litre 4-cylinder – it puts out 141 HP and 127 lb.ft of torque – and is paired with a CVT and Honda’s on-demand Real Time all-wheel drive system in this configuration. It is also available in two-wheel drive and with a 6-speed manual transmission.
While the numbers aren’t going to set the world on fire, I found the baby Honda has more than adequate power for any city driving. It springs to attention off the line, and easily keeps up with traffic. Get on the freeway or highway and you’ll find yourself learning to add a second or two to build up enough momentum to pass, but even then, it surprised me with how willing it was to rev and get things done. Yes, you will hear the engine when you step on it and yes, it gets a bit buzzy at higher RPMs – so if you’re in a hurry to get somewhere, you’ll be hearing the engine quite a bit as it works hard alongside the CVT to pick up the pace. It’s certainly not what anyone would consider a powerful vehicle, but in normal driving circumstances, the power available is all most of us would ever need to motivate this 1389 kg (3062 lb) CUV.
The HR-V’s CVT is a good one, and pairs well with the little engine. It’s snappy and relatively quick to respond to your throttle input. It has three modes – Drive, Sport and Low – usually you’ll only find Drive and one of the others, but I find that all three are useful. I like how the Sport mode made the HR-V come to life a bit more, and I appreciate the ability to put it in Low when I want to use engine braking, especially when we head into the mountains. Speaking of drive modes, Honda does throw in their ECON driving mode – I didn’t like it here as it makes things feel pretty tepid. And frankly, it’s not necessary. While the HR-V is rated at 8.8 L/100 km (27 US mpg) in the city and 7.2 L/100 km (33 US mpg) on the highway, I ended up achieving a rather impressive 8 L/100 km (29 US mpg) during my time with it – this in a brand-new vehicle and me making no effort to drive economically.
The ride is very good for a small crossover. I thought it was very comfortable and smooth – surprisingly so to be honest. The suspension is a tad noisy and most road imperfections, while well-damped, are still heard drumming through into the cabin. I found the steering responsive but a bit numb. When it comes to the handling, this little CUV does good but it doesn’t like to be pushed too hard – the HR-V is happy to commute and do it very well, but doesn’t like to play nearly as much as the Mazda CX-3, its nearest competitor. Still, I appreciate the balance of comfort and agility – it’s what most people want.
The vehicle’s brakes are good. I was forced to slam on the HR-V’s brakes – I was cut off while traveling at about 60 km/h and then the perpetrator came to a complete stop – I can attest that its emergency braking abilities are very effective. Noise levels are respectable although the road noise picked up significantly at highway speeds. And visibility out of the HR-V is outstanding with the exception of the rear view which gets a bit restricted when the rear headrests are in use – they need to be moved up in order to use them.
The word “balance” kept coming to mind during my week with the HR-V. I found the Honda has come up with a small CUV that’s easy to live with. When it comes to the drivetrain, sufficient power for any typical driving situation is balanced with outstanding fuel economy. The comfortable ride is balanced with enough agility to make anyone confident behind the wheel. The small exterior dimensions balance well with the surprising amount of interior space and flexibility. If the HR-V has enough room inside for your needs, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it as a great little urban commuter. They can get a bit pricey, but even this base LX trim comes very well equipped.
WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was very high. She loved the small-on-the-outside-plenty-of-room-on-the-inside size, she enjoyed the styling inside and out, and thought it was very easy to drive. Her only complaint was that she didn’t seem to be able to find a perfect driving position.
It seems as though the HR-V has hit the ground running. People were extremely interested in it on the street and the dealership I spoke to said they can’t keep them in stock – they are literally sold out of them. Every third person coming in is asking to see the HR-V, and they are selling rapidly – more quickly than they can get new stock. It is clearly a serious contender in the newest category of crossovers and Honda will move a lot of these.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Wheaton Honda.
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