- Flexible seats
- Neat and tidy interior
- Fairly good ride quality
- Busy styling
- Automatic braking missing on LX, Sport
- Touring trim’s too pricey
The 2021 Honda HR-V leans into hatchback practicality, but its fuel economy and standard safety gear lag.
Pert and perky, the 2021 Honda HR-V is no lumbering SUV; it’s hardly a crossover, though its front-wheel-drive hatchback essentials can be fortified with all-wheel drive.
The 2021 HR-V carries over from the year before unchanged, but it’s alone at the bottom of the Honda lineup now that the Fit has been canceled.
With the HR-V, Honda has a vehicle that’s more user-friendly in cities, even if it’s less fuel-efficient than the bigger CR-V. Its ace in the hole: a “Magic Seat” that flips and folds to expand cargo space along a couple of different vectors.
We give the 2021 HR-V a 5.2 out of 10, lower than it needs to be thanks to automatic emergency braking that’s absent on two inexpensive models. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The HR-V fits a lot of personality into a small footprint on a 102.8-inch wheelbase. The body riffs on crossovers and hatchbacks with a sweeping strake that connects the dots from the low nose to the high-tailed rear roof pillars, where the door handles sit. The HR-V wants you to see it, but maybe a cutline fewer or two would do it well. The cockpit fares better with less clutter, a durable grade of interior trim, and a price-appropriate look and feel.
The HR-V makes 141 horsepower from a 1.8-liter inline-4 and shuttles it to the front or to all four wheels via a continuously variable automatic transmission. It strains to hit a 60-mph stride when the road rises or more than one passenger sits inside. It’s better at point-and-squirt city driving, where even too-large 18-inch wheels don’t dull its cozy ride and its quick steering. At up to 30 mpg combined, it’s fairly miserly, even if it’s a few mpg behind the 2021 CR-V in gas mileage, even before the new CR-V Hybrid elbows its way into the discussion.
The HR-V does space well, with ample room for front passengers who flank a wide center console. The second-row seat can flip up its bottom cushions and fold down its seatbacks to flex its cargo-carrying muscles. The HR-V can tote up to 58.8 cubic feet of stuff if you origami it correctly.
Honda blocks automatic emergency braking from base LX and Sport versions, so we recommend the HR-V EX and above, which get that safety system as well as a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Crash-test scores are good, but to get the IIHS-recommended LED headlights, you’ll have to spend about $30,000 on the Touring trim. At that price, we’d steer you into a bigger, more frugal, still well-equipped Honda CR-V.
2021 Honda HR-V
The HR-V marries hatchback lines with a few unusual details.
More of a hatchback anyway, the HR-V skips SUV memes on its way to a handsome overall shape. It’s not without a flaw or two, so we give it a 5 for its looks.
If you’ve seen the latest rash of crossover coupes, the HR-V won’t look much different. It’s generic in its good looks, with a swooping line that lifts the shape from the low front end up toward rear roof pillars. The line gives the shape a shove forward, and it’s not disrupted by door handles that sprout from the HR-V’s rear roof pillars.
It falls flat at the front, where the struggle to draw clean looks clashes with the need to arouse visual interest. At the back, the HR-V tries to avoid a plain-jane shape with more cutlines than it needs. Sport-trim HR-Vs tone down some of the clutter with black trim.
The HR-V’s cockpit doesn’t have those glaring flaws, just a simple and elegant wing-like shape that cants the gauges and controls toward the driver. The center console rises high and could be smaller; the slim air vents on the passenger side could be bigger, and so could the HR-V LX’s 5.0-inch color display.
2021 Honda HR-V
Got some extra time? The HR-V could use it.
With its small inline-4 and its CVT, the Honda HR-V ekes out good fuel economy at the expense of quick responses. It’s a 4 for performance, thanks to sluggish acceleration.
In the HR-V, Honda’s 1.8-liter inline-4 teams fine for smooth response. But with just 141 hp and 127 lb-ft of torque at hand, the powertrain works hard against even 2,900 pounds of curb weight (in base trim). The HR-V drones less than it could, but it also struggles to pull up grades like a second-semester sorority pledge.
The HR-V has better news on the handling front. It rides on a short wheelbase, and with either a torsion-beam or DeDion rear axle (depending on front- or all-wheel-drive status), it has enough compliance to handle potholes and other pavement scabs at city speeds. Bigger wheels and tires don’t help, and we don’t recommend them on more expensive editions. Honda tunes the HR-V’s steering with quick response, and it’s a nice complement to the ride; it’s not as zesty as a Mazda CX-3 or even the first-generation Honda Fit, but the HR-V can slice up a twisty road with confidence.
2021 Honda HR-V
Comfort & Quality
A flip-fold back seat lifts the HR-V out of the economy-car middle ground.
Small crossover SUVs need to make the most of their space, and no SUV does better than the Honda HR-V. With its clever folding second-row seat, it’s a 6 here.
There’s nothing special about the HR-V’s front seats. They need longer cushions and stiffer bolsters, and a slimmer center console would grant driver and front passenger some more knee room, too.
The back seat has decent space for a pair of adults, and as in front, leg room isn’t the issue. The HR-V isn’t wide enough to seat three. To offset people room, the HR-V excels at cargo room. It has almost 25 cubic feet behind the second row already, but folding down the seats creates a 58.8-cubic-foot hold (slightly less with all-wheel drive). The HR-V’s back seat bottoms also flip up, so taller objects will fit behind the front passengers. Honda calls it a Magic Seat, but “magic” doesn’t give credit due to overclocked brains.
The interior could use some more of that fifth-dimensional chess. The plastics look thrifty, the upholstery shiny. It’s a utility vehicle on a budget, but with a top sticker of $30,000, it doesn’t need to look as relentlessly on its budget target.
2021 Honda HR-V
Automatic emergency braking still isn’t standard on the Honda HR-V.
Honda still doesn’t fit standard automatic emergency braking to the HR-V, so it’s a 6 for safety.
The NHTSA gives it five stars overall, and the IIHS calls Touring versions a Top Safety Pick thanks to their LED headlights.
Rearward vision is OK despite thick roof pillars, but since automatic braking (along with adaptive cruise control and active lane control) only come on the EX and higher, we’d only consider the EX and higher models.
2021 Honda HR-V
The base HR-V misses out on useful features.
Honda sells the HR-V in LX, Sport, EX, EX-L, and Touring versions. The LX skips some essential features, and so does the Sport. That pushes its score here to 5.
The HR-V LX has 18-inch wheels, cruise control, and other power features, but at more than $22,000, it doesn’t have automatic emergency braking, and skimps on infotainment with a 5.0-inch display that doesn’t offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto compatibility. Sport versions get a 7.0-inch touchscreen and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, but no automatic braking.
For about $26,000, the HR-V EX has all that plus keyless start, a sunroof, and heated front seats; leather upholstery and all-wheel drive add about $3,000 more, which we’d skip.
For more than $30,000, the HR-V Touring adopts all-wheel drive, and gains LED headlights, a power driver seat, and navigation. A CR-V makes more sense.
2021 Honda HR-V
The HR-V loses out to the CR-V in fuel economy.
Though it’s small, the HR-V isn’t the most efficient crossover in Honda’s lineup. That title goes to the CR-V Hybrid—but even the base CR-V outearns the HR-V. We give it a 5 for fuel economy.
The EPA scores the front-drive HR-V at 28 mpg city, 34 highway, 30 combined. Add all-wheel drive and the numbers dip to 26/31/28 mpg. The CR-V? It’s identical with front-wheel drive, and higher in all-wheel drive at 27/33/29 mpg; CR-V Hybrids hit 38 mpg combined.