Honda HR-V – Bringing out the Utility in a Small SUV
Although it is based on the same platform as the Fit, which has always been fun to drive, the new HR-V doesn’t even try to compete for the title of most spirited mini-ute. Instead, this little car is all about practicality.
The HR-V is an exercise in good packaging, with rear seats that fully fold down to provide a surprisingly large amount of cargo space. Need to take a ladder or other large object with you? No problem, just throw it in the back and go. The HR-V also feels much more spacious and provides more room for its human cargo, especially the rear seating, which provides the same amount of leg room as you’d find in most mid-sized sedans.
Unfortunately, the HR-V really doesn’t provide much driving enjoyment. The only available engine is a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder that struggles to motivate the car’s almost 3,000 pounds curb weight. The output is a relatively meager 141 horsepower and 127 lb-ft of torque, making for tricky merges, especially when going uphill. Our test car featured the optional CVT (a manual is also available, although not with AWD), which works well enough when gently cruising around town, but try to drive with any kind of haste and it just spikes the revs, often triggering more noise than actual acceleration.
Sadly, things don’t get much better when it comes to handling, as the relatively soft suspension just doesn’t encourage aggressive cornering. The modestly sized 17-inch all-season tires provide more grip than you’d expect, but there isn’t much satisfaction in exploring the limits. Honda has apparently decided that folks looking for a more practical small vehicle are unlikely to be looking for anything sporty, but the suspension does provide a good level of comfort and compliance.
The interior of the HR-V, while eminently practical, also lacks any kind of excitement. Our test car displayed an unfortunate fondness for the color gray, and the touch screen interfaces for the climate control and audio/nav systems are both aesthetically uninteresting and functionally annoying. Someone, please remind Honda that the volume knob is still a useful and relevant invention, even in 2016.
The HR-V makes a pretty good value proposition, as the base LX model starts below $20k, and the top trim EX-L with Navigation comes in at $25,470. AWD adds another $1,250. High-tech options such as radar cruise are unavailable but altogether the HR-V is a solid car for the money, so long as practical transportation is the main priority.