Call it a pint-sized invasion—a slew of small SUVs is hitting the streets. We’ve driven the Jeep Renegade and Chevy Trax, and soon we’ll see the Mazda CX-3 and Fiat 500X.
But maybe the most anticipated small SUV is this one--the 2016 Honda HR-V.
The HR-V is based on the new Honda Fit hatchback, but it has a completely different look. It cribs its style more from the bigger CR-V, with its lookalike grille and headlamps. The roofline arches for more headroom, the fenders swell and curve. It’s a more playful look, but it’s busier, too.
Step inside, and the dual-screen clutter of bigger Hondas is gone. This is a very tidy cabin with better finish than the Fit. Some details look better than they work, like the touch-sensitive climate controls—they're tough to operate while driving. Expensive versions get a big infotainment touchscreen that doubles as a display for audio and safety systems.
The HR-V has interior room down pat. It’s one of the roomier small utes, with more than 100 cubic feet of space. Up front there’s lots of room. The seats angle down at the front—they could use more bolstering under the knee. There’s semi-hidden storage between the front passengers--some of it’s tucked too far away, and the available USB ports aren’t always easy to see.
Honda extracts an amazing amount of rear-seat room from this shape. There’s plenty of leg and head room for adults. The HR-V also gets the "Magic Seat," which folds and flips to turn the second row into big cargo room. Behind it, there’s another 25 cubic feet of space, and the rear seats fold forward for even more utility.
When it comes to performance, the HR-V puts gas mileage ahead of acceleration and handling. It’s a little quicker than the Fit, since it gets a bigger 138-horsepower four-cylinder engine, but it’s not fast.
Power goes through a continuously variable transmission or a six-speed manual. The manual shifts fine, but it’s only available on front-wheel-drive models; the CVT works fine, but you’ll have to put it in sport shift mode for snappy response. All-wheel drive adds a couple hundred pounds, so unless you really need it, we’d skip the weight and gas-mileage penalties.
By the way, the front-wheel-drive HR-V gets up to 31 miles per gallon combined; it's 29 miles per gallon for all-wheel-drive models, and 28 miles per gallon for front-drive manuals.
As for handling, the Fit rides well—it’s pretty absorbent for a small car, better than the Renegade/500X and Trax/Encore twins, and has reasonably good steering feel. The turning circle is fairly big, but parking is no problem given its overall size.
DON'T MISS: The Lowest-Rated Cars Of 2015
Honda is hoping for top crash-test scores with the HR-V, but there’s no data yet—though the related Fit has earned best-in-class ratings. The HR-V comes standard with a rearview camera, and options include a LaneWatch camera that displays right-side views with the click of the turn signal.
Other standard features include power windows, locks, and mirrors; steering-wheel audio controls; and Bluetooth with audio streaming, and other options include pushbutton start; paddle shifters; satellite radio; and navigation.
So what’s the bottom line with the 2016 Honda HR-V? If you can trade a little of the Fit’s fuel economy for a taller, roomier package, the HR-V is one of the best of the new small SUVs.