- Perky little shape
- Magic Seat's clever, endearing
- There's still a manual on the order sheet
- Standard rearview camera and Bluetooth
- Absorbent, composed ride
- 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.
2016 Honda HR-V
The HR-V's shape is interesting if a little busy; the cockpit's styled and finished better than in the Fit.
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.
Honda says it's aimed for a coupe-like feel outside and inside the HR-V, with the upward sweep of its rear pillar and the embedded, almost hidden, rear door handles. The roofline arches for more head room, the fenders swell and curve; if it's coupe-like we're not convinced, but it is a more playful look than the one worn by the Fit, if also busier.
From some angles it's less derivative of bigger Hondas—from others, it cues up clear Acura cues, as a quick comparison of the rear of the HR-V versus, say, the Acura RDX will reveal.
Step inside, and the dual-screen clutter of bigger Hondas is gone. This is a very tidy cabin, with better finishes and materials than the Fit. The clean dash surfaces have a foible or two, like the slim air vents cut into the passenger-side dash. Expensive versions get a big infotainment touchscreen that doubles as a display for audio and safety systems. Some details look better than they work, like the touch-sensitive climate controls—they look like they belong on a more expensive car, to be sure, but they're also tough to operate while driving.
2016 Honda HR-V
Ride quality is the HR-V's best performance attribute; power is just adequate from the 4-cylinder and CVT.
When it comes to performance, the HR-V puts gas mileage ahead of acceleration and handling. It may be a little quicker than the Fit, since it gets a bigger 141-horsepower inline-4, but it’s not fast.
For U.S. versions of the HR-V, Honda's chosen to fit a 1.8-liter inline-4, versus the 1.5-liter engine that goes into the Fit hatchback. The Fit engine makes 130 hp and 114 pound-feet of torque; the HR-V's engine produces 141 hp and 127 lb-ft of torque.
Any acceleration gains from the slight boost in power are mostly consumed by the added weight of the HR-V's taller body shell and on those versions equipped with it, the all-wheel-drive hardware. All-wheel drive adds a couple hundred pounds; the HR-V's curb weights range from 2,900 to 3,100 pounds. Unless you really need it, we’d skip the weight and gas-mileage penalties, since the HR-V is no fireball. It has adequate power—probably in the eight-second range for 0-60 mph times—and its temperament is mostly smooth and free-revving.
Power goes through a continuously variable transmission (CVT) or a 6-speed manual. The manual shifts fine, and Honda gets credit for offering it on a kind of vehicle that's even further from the enthusiast manual-seeker than the Fit. The manual is, however, only available on front-wheel-drive models. Otherwise, you get the CVT, which works fine, but lags between ratio changes like other CVTs. You’ll have to put it in sport-shift mode for snappier response, which could snuff the lofty fuel-economy numbers Honda's posted via the EPA. Honda does offer paddle shifters with simulated gear steps programmed into the CVT's behavior.
As for handling, the Fit rides well—it’s pretty absorbent for a small car, better than the Renegade/500X and Trax/Encore twins, thanks in part to reasonably sized all-season tires (17-inch, 55-series on base models, with optional 18-inchers). The strut front and torsion-beam rear suspension are not set up for sporty driving: unlike the previous Fit, Honda's its hatchback and this HR-V well into the mainstream. Steering feel and cornering grip are lower on the priority list than comfort, and it's an agreeable trade-off—it makes the HR-V less frustratingly stiff than vehicles like the Nissan Juke. The turning circle is fairly big, but parking the HR-V is no problem, given its overall size.
2016 Honda HR-V
Comfort & Quality
Honda extracts an amazing amount of rear-seat space and storage room from the HR-V.
Key measurements put the Honda HR-V among the biggest of the smallest crossover SUVs. If that "jumbo-shrimp" oxymoron's too confusing, picture a vehicle much more compact than the mid-size Honda CR-V, but bigger than the new Jeep Renegade and Fiat 500X, in terms of raw interior space, and in space divvied up for passengers and cargo.
By the spec sheet, the HR-V measures 169.1 inches long. It rides on a 102.8-inch wheelbase, and is fairly wide, at 69.8 inches. Interior volume tops out at 100.1 cubic feet on base models, 96.1 cubes on the EX and EX-L.
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 a great interior layout that preserves much of the space the shape promises. In front, the seats are supportive enough in most ways, though the seat bottoms angle down at the front—they could use more bolstering under the knee to counteract the lack of support when the seat height is adjusted near the top of its range.
That's a minor foible, as is the placement of some minor inputs. There’s semi-hidden storage between the front passengers, under the center console. The available USB ports are tucked in it, and as a result, aren’t always easy to see. The giveback: Honda puts nice, round audio controls on the steering wheel; they're simple to feel without taking your eyes off the road.
Honda extracts an amazing amount of rear-seat room from this shape. There’s plenty of leg room and head room for two adults; head room, even with the sunroof, is especially impressive, and wide doors make it easy to use all that space. Three small children would fit easily across the rear benches, but that's the shoulder-width limit. They may have to tussle with the rear door handles, which are mounted high in the pillar, at the back of the door—not always the easiest place to reach for younger passengers.
The HR-V also gets the "Magic Seat," which folds and flips to turn the second row into big cargo room. It's easy to use, if not exactly magical: you fold up the rear seat bottom and flip its front support away to lock the cushion against the seat back, leaving an even lower cargo floor where the rear-seat passengers would normally sit. No Harry Potter spells are required, just a fairly strong pull.
Leave the seat in place, and there's still 25 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats. Or for the most spacious arrangement, the rear seats fold forward for up to 58.8 cubic feet of cargo space, with two passengers on board.
The HR-V benefits from some upgrades to trim and noise-damping materials versus the Fit. In all the finishes feel appropriate for its $20,000 base price, though the black cloth on the top of the door panels seems destined for heavy wear. The soft-touch plastics on the dash contribute to a better feel than in the less expensive Fit—and the HR-V is quieter inside, too, a bit better than rivals like the Fiat 500X and Jeep Renegade.
2016 Honda HR-V
The HR-V gets top crash-test scores from the NHTSA, but the IIHS begs to differ.
So far the 2016 Honda HR-V has earned some impressive—albeit not quite top-tier—crash-test and safety results.
In NHTSA testing, the HR-V has achieved a five-star overall result, although it received a four-star rating in frontal impact, for both positions and crash-test dummy sizes.
The IIHS has given the HR-V some "Good" scores, but it's rated as just "Acceptable" in side-impact and small-overlap crash tests.
The HR-V comes standard with a rearview camera, and options include a wider-image rearview camera as well as LaneWatch, a right-side camera that displays views down the body to street level at the click of the turn signal. It's an unusual view that takes a little while to get used to, but once you're used to it, LaneWatch supplies some of the same information you'd get in blind-spot monitors—which the HR-V does not offer.
Visibility in the HR-V is better than expected to the rear, given the SUV's big roof pillars and upswept rear end. It's easy to check your six: the rear-seat headrests drop into the rear seatbacks for an unimpeded view out the rear glass.
2016 Honda HR-V
From Bluetooth streaming audio to touchscreen controls to LaneWatch cameras, the HR-V ticks the most important feature boxes.
The 2016 Honda HR-V is sold in three different trim levels: LX, EX, and EX-L.
With a base price of $19,995 including destination, the HR-V LX is well-outfitted. It gets a standard manual transmission and front-wheel drive. Other standard features include power windows, locks, and mirrors; AM/FM/CD audio with USB port and a 5.0-inch touchscreen; steering-wheel audio controls; Bluetooth with audio streaming; 17-inch wheels; a rearview camera; cruise control; tilt/telescoping steering; and the Magic Seat.
Options include keyless ignition, paddle shifters, satellite radio, and navigation.
Adding a continuously variable transmission (CVT) boosts the price by $800; adding all-wheel drive adds $2,050 on lower trims.
The $22,045 HR-V EX can be fitted with both of those features for the same additional cost as the LX model. The EX also gains a 7.0-inch touchscreen; the smart, Honda-only LaneWatch camera; smartphone connectivity with Pandora audio; heated front seats; keyless ignition; automatic headlights; a second USB port; a power sunroof; paddle shift controls (on CVT-equipped models); automatic climate control; and heated side mirrors.
The $25,470 EX-L comes with the CVT standard. Adding all-wheel drive costs just $1,250 at this trim level. The EX-L also adds standard leather seats, steering wheel, and shift knob; navigation; satellite radio; and roof rails.
All HR-Vs come with a three-year, 36,000-mile warranty and roadside assistance, as well as five years or 60,000 miles of powertrain coverage.
2016 Honda HR-V
Fuel economy is at the top of the small-SUV class, with EPA ratings of up to 31 mpg combined.
The 2016 Honda HRV has earned some of the best fuel-economy ratings in its small-SUV segment, according to the EPA.
The top performers aren't the manual-transmission models, though. The EPA rates the HR-V with a 6-speed manual and front-wheel drive at 25 mpg city, 34 highway, 28 combined. All-wheel drive isn't available with a manual transmission.
With the continuously variable transmission, the HR-V soars to the top of its class. Gas mileage on front-drive, CVT-equipped HR-Vs are rated at 28/35/31 mpg; with all-wheel drive, it's a few digits lower, at 27/32/29 mpg.
That compares well with vehicles like the Jeep Renegade, which is rated at best 27 mpg combined—and at its lowest, at 24 mpg for models with all-wheel drive and an automatic. All-wheel-drive versions of the Chevy Trax crossovers check in at 27 mpg combined, too. The closest competitor to the HR-V might be the all-wheel-drive Subaru XV Crosstrek, which earns a 29-mpg combined EPA rating.