- Perky little shape
- Magic Seat's clever, endearing
- There's still a manual on the order sheet
- Mid-tempo acceleration
- Average handling
- Styling might be a little busy
The 2016 Honda HR-V smartly trades a little of the Fit's fuel economy for exuberant styling, more headroom, and optional all-wheel drive.
The 2016 Honda HR-V is a relatively new entry into the small SUV category and already it's earning praise over competitors from automakers such as Mazda, Fiat, Chevy, and Jeep.
With the HR-V, Honda finally has a small 'ute to complement its lineup of CR-Vs and Pilots. And it has another vehicle spun off from the very likable Honda Fit, the hatchback that was a finalist in both The Car Connection's and Green Car Reports' Best Car To Buy competitions.
The 2016 Honda HR-V on sale in three different trim levels: HR-V LX, HR-V EX, and HR-V EX-L. Like most modern cars, the alphabetic names and trims make it simple to order, but would make for a terrible set of Scrabble tiles.
The HR-V is a new vehicle in a new class for Honda, but it's cribbing some from its bigger CR-V sibling as it tackles the likes of the Mazda CX-3, the Chevy Trax, Jeep Renegade and Fiat 500X. It starts at the nose, where the stubby HR-V wears a lookalike grille and headlamps akin to those on the heavily updated 2015 CR-V. Elsewhere, it's a more playful, jazzy shape—the roofline is arched high for head room, the front fenders are quite pronounced, and there's a swell of sheet metal at the shoulder line that extends down the side of the HR-V, past its hidden rear door handles.
Inside, it's just a nicer place to be than the Fit, thanks to added noise insulation, better materials, and finer details. The dual-screen clutter of bigger Hondas is absent in the HR-V. It has a very tidy cabin that, in upper trim levels, can have a single, bigger touchscreen interface for infotainment and safety displays. Trust us, Honda: one is enough.
The HR-V's exuberant styling is offset by more moderate performance. With a drivetrain related to the one in the Fit, the HR-V earns very good fuel economy numbers, carefully balanced against adequate acceleration. The HR-V's 1.8-liter inline-4 is rated at 141 horsepower, and paired with either a continuously variable transmission (CVT) or a 6-speed manual—the latter only on front-drive models. With either setup, even with optional all-wheel drive, it feels strong enough for safe highway merges and dignity-preserving stoplight launches. No, the HR-V isn't very quick, but it is quieter than the Fit, and far more efficient than most of its rivals, tapping a 31-mpg combined rating for front-drive, CVT versions.
On roads in Florida and California, where we drove dueling HR-Vs, we detected lots of virtues common with the bigger CR-V. Mainly, that's a huge dose of self-awareness. Ride quality takes a priority over firm steering and flat cornering, though the HR-V comports itself just fine in both of those disciplines. It's blessed with an absorbent ride and devoid of the "sporty" tuning that leaves some small SUVs with frantic steering and jittery body control.
The HR-V's steering is relaxed, the body motions are well-controlled and the HR-V doesn't feel a bit brittle, even on terrible roads on both coasts. Leave the track tuning and off-roading to others: this tall hatchback is tuned for everyday driving, and beats everything else hands-down at that.
It's also the comfort and utility king of this particular segment. With more than 100 cubic feet of interior space on the base LX trim (96.1 cubes on EX and EX-L), the HR-V is the roomiest vehicle of its kind. Front-seat comfort is great, but it really shines in the back seat, where adults have plentiful head and leg room.
The HR-V also sports the Honda "Magic Seat," which folds and flips the second-row seat like a lawn chair if need be, all in the name of freeing up multiple storage and seating configurations. Behind the front seats, Honda says the HR-V has 58.8 cubic feet of storage space, or 24.3 cubic feet behind the second-row seat—but with the Magic Seat, it's far more flexible than any of its rivals.
So far, the HR-V has earned a five-star overall rating from the federal government, but the IIHS has recorded mixed results. The HR-V comes standard with a rearview camera and tire pressure monitors, along with the usual traction systems and airbags, and has available nifties like Honda's sideview LaneWatch camera, though features like blind-spot monitors and adaptive cruise control remains at least a half-product-cycle away.
For $19,995, the base HR-V gets power windows, locks, and mirrors; a rearview camera; tilt/telescope steering; steering-wheel audio controls; and Bluetooth with audio streaming. On upmarket models, it adds a large touchscreen interface; the LaneWatch camera; keyless ignition; paddle shifters; satellite radio; navigation; leather; a sunroof; and heated front seats.
It's at its best in EX trim. That's where LaneWatch and Magic Seat and paddle shift controls and Pandora audio come together in a reasonably priced vehicle that drops all the SUV pretenses for all the right reasons. The HR-V is an urban carving tool that's going to be hard to outpoint—in no small part, because of the Honda badge on the grille.
With the continuously variable transmission, the HR-V soars to the top of its class for fuel economy. Gas mileage on front-drive, CVT-equipped HR-Vs is rated at 28/35/31 mpg; with all-wheel drive, it's a few digits lower, at 27/32/29 mpg.