Honda makes many fine cars that perform well, get good gas mileage and are reliable and its new small personal-sized crossover, the HR-V fits that mold.
But Honda, like Toyota before it, seems to have neglected styling in pursuit of its other laudable attributes. So the HR-V, like its name, seems uninspired. It’s another small ute/crossover box, not cute, not edgy, not imaginative and not even a name to remember.
While Toyota has come out of its styling doldrums one can hope Honda won’t be slumbering much longer. Because at its core, as with most Hondas, the HR-V is a solid little people mover. Its economical, gets good gas mileage, has a pleasant ride and comfortable seats.
If anything Honda has put more effort into the crossover’s interior space, than anything. The cargo room under its hatch is spacious and much deeper than in last week’s much more stylish Mazda CX-3. Both rear seats fold flat in one quick easy motion. Some little utes, and mid-size ones for that matter, require you to pull the bottom seat cushion forward first before lowering the seat back. Some require you to take out the headrests first. Humbug!
From a driving perspective, the dark metallic gray test HR-V EX-L is pretty pedestrian. Ride is well controlled and not as prone to passing along sharp bumps to the passengers as some little crossovers, such as the Mazda. The HR-V does have a slightly longer wheelbase at 102.8 than the Mazda and a few other small crossovers. Longer is better.
Yet acceleration from the 1.8-liter iVTEC I4 is meek. This engine provides 141 horsepower and 127 ft.-lbs. of torque, hence its modest performance, especially when hooked up with a CVT.
Only Subaru and Nissan seem to have figured out how to link up a continuously variable transmission with an engine and get quick acceleration, and good fuel economy. That’s what the CVT is all about, and on that level the Honda scores points. The front-drive test unit is rated at 28 mpg city and 35 mpg highway. I got 32.9 mpg in about an even mix.
There’s an Eco button here too that aims at saving more fuel as it adjusts the CVT to work at optimum efficiency, which usually means much lower torque for acceleration. Honestly I could barely tell any difference between normal mode and Eco mode, when I engaged the button.
If you demand more from this engine, say getting on a highway where you need more stout acceleration, this little 1.8 becomes quite buzzy. One of my passenger’s first comments was about the noisy engine, and that doesn’t happen often.
Handling is OK as the HR-V corners well and feels well balanced, but its steering effort is heavier than other small crossovers. Braking is fine and the Honda has ABS, stability control and hill start assist.
While mine was front-wheel drive, AWD is available, which makes this more ute-like and comparable to others like the CX-3, Chevrolet’s Trax, Subaru’s XV Crosstrek and Nissan’s Juke, which is over-styled, and not in a good way.
Inside, Honda’s lack of styling continues with the ultimate in blah interiors. This one has black leather, which is what the L in the EX-L designation denotes. And while the seats are comfortable with modest contouring, the dash is almost non-descript. A lot of flat black with just tiny bits of chrome around the shifter, stereo speakers in the door and air vents.
In addition, there are no buttons are knobs on the dash as Honda has elected to go all touchscreen on this model. Most likely that’s to appease young buyers, which is this vehicle’s goal being a low-cost entry-level crossover. But finding the right place to press for heat, etc. isn’t as easy as grabbing a real knob. And while our weather is warmish now, I’ll point out that touchscreens do NOT aloways respond if you’re wearing gloves. That makes them problematic in cold climates.
The radio/navigation screen in the EX is a 7-incher, but again the touchscreen buttons for channel selection are so small you’ll need to use your pinky finger to tap them, repeatedly, to change channels.
This model comes with two-level heated front seats and push-button start along with several electronic hookups and a couple 12-volt power ports. The tilt/telescope steering wheel has radio and cruise controls on the hub and there’s both a rearview camera and right side camera that shows you what’s in your blind spot and by the curb if you’ve turned on your right turn signal. That can be handy and isn’t something you’d expect in a lower cost vehicle.
While a bit gimmicky I like the light ring around the speedometer. It glows green when you’re driving most efficiently and dims when you are on the gas in any serious way. There’s also a nice sunroof overhead and the sun visors slide to block side sun.
However, there was a squeak in the test unit’s dash, which is surprising in a Honda, and the step-over to crawl into the HR-V is wide. Probably not a problem for a youngster, but older adults looking for inexpensive wheels might take that into consideration.
What’s it cost?
Well this EX-L model starts at $24,590 plus an $880 delivery fee to hit $25,470. There were no options. A base LX model starts at $19,995, so very high value and this model comes with normal radio and climate control buttons and knobs. It also comes with a 6-speed manual transmission, which means the driver would have more control over the engine’s power and be able to get more oomph when needed.
Adding an automatic transmission bumps the price to just $20,795 and then adding AWD boosts the price to $22,045. Going with all the bells and whistles in the EX-L AWD model pushes entry price to $26,720.
HR-V is a solid small crossover that’s strong on value, just short on style.
FAST Stats: 2016 Honda HR-V 2WD EX-L w/Nav
Misses: Ultimate in blah interiors, buzzy engine, modest acceleration, no dash buttons or knobs (all touchscreen), wide step-over to enter vehicle, squeak in dash.
Made in: Celaya, Mexico
Engine: 1.8-liter, iVTEC I4, 141 hp
Weight: 2,947 lbs.
Wheelbase: 102.8 in.
Length: 169.1 in.
Cargo: 58.8 cu.ft. (rear seats down)
MPG: 28/35 (EPA)
MPG: 32.9 (tested)
Base Price: $24,590
Dealer’s Price: $23,435 (includes delivery)
Major Options: None
Test vehicle: $25,470
Sources: Honda, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage