2016 Honda HR-V 2WD EX Review
The new HR-V enters the fastest growing segment in the auto industry, and early sales results show that it’s fully up to the task of competing in its subcompact SUV class. Despite three additional models joining this category for 2016 and one arriving earlier this year as a 2015, the HR-V already ranks fourth in the category in year-to-date sales as of October’s close.
Why is the HR-V doing so well? Honda’s reputation for quality and reliability, plus the CUV’s excellent standard infotainment system that no doubt appeals to this segment’s younger-than-average target demographic probably has a lot to do with it, plus its fabulous “Magic Seats” that provide best-in-class cargo flexibility.
In a nutshell, the lower cushions of the HR-V’s 60/40-split second-row Magic Seats can be flipped upwards, converting the rear seating area into a large cargo hold that’s ideal for stowing bikes (with front wheel removed), transporting plants and other tall items, or alternatively the seatbacks can be folded flat in the conventional manner. With rear seats upright the HR-V’s 24.3 cubic-foot cargo capacity is 7.7 cubic feet greater than the Honda Fit subcompact hatchback that shares its platform architecture, although it should be noted that the HR-V with optional AWD is 1.1 cubic feet smaller than the FWD version at 23.2 cubic feet of total luggage space with all seats in use. When the rear seats are laid flat, maximum capacity opens up to 58.8 cubic feet for the FWD HR-V and 57.5 for the AWD version.
In regards to the styling, Honda is on a new tech-focused design bent that’s less appealing to my senses than others in the market. Some might call the HR-V cute and others sporty, the former due to its diminutive size and comparatively big exterior lighting elements, and the latter thanks to its 17-inch stylized five-spoke alloys, plus optional fog lamps and side mirror-integrated turn signals, or possibly because of its deeply creased side cutline that slashes diagonally upwards to meld into its pointy rear quarter windows that visually meet up with the rooftop spoiler, but for me the design is more function over form.
The interior is nicely laid out, with roomy seating front and back, especially with respect to headroom. It looks more utilitarian than some others in the segment, while also not getting any soft touch surfacing over the dash top, although it does feature a padded section ahead of the front passenger that’s quite nice. Honda goes a step further by adding more padded leatherette along each side of the lower console, while the HR-V also wraps the entire top half of all four doors in a comfortable padded woven cloth. I question how this fabric will wear over the long haul, however. Will it fade and break apart in the sun or start to sheen from the forearm’s natural oils, moisturizers and suntan lotions, etcetera? It picked up a fair bit of dirt during the first two days of my test week, although it washed off easily enough.
My 2WD EX tester’s urethane steering wheel and shift knob wasn’t fancy but it did the job, the former featuring a useful set of redundant controls for the audio system, cruise, phone, multi-information display, and for scrolling between infotainment functions. That seven-inch second-generation HondaLink infotainment display is a completely up-to-date looking, fully featured, full-color, high-resolution touchscreen that even incorporates a touch-sensitive volume controller, and unlike some troublesome touch sliders I’ve tested this one worked well every time. As for features it boasts a multi-angle rearview camera with dynamic guidelines that’s way above and beyond the usual for a mid-grade subcompact model, plus the EX includes easily implemented smartphone integration with text message capability. My 2WD EX tester also received one of my favorite safety features, Honda’s exclusive LaneWatch blindspot display that projects a real-time rearward view of the car’s passenger side onto the infotainment display when employing the right turn signal, a potential lifesaver, while the audio system was also upgraded with two additional speakers plus 20 more watts of power to a six-speaker 180-watt AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA stereo that sounded good while still incorporating Bluetooth streaming from the base model so I could wirelessly play tunes from my phone. Additionally, two standard USB ports means that multiple devices can charge simultaneously, while Honda also includes an aux jack if required.
As good as the HR-V’s infotainment is, my tester’s dual-zone HVAC panel is another one of this car’s unique highlights. It’s a large touch-sensitive interface that really works well and looks like it could’ve been pulled right out of an Acura or some other premium ride.
Compared to the HR-V’s graphic interfaces and Magic Seats there’s not much to wow would-be buyers under the hood, unless we’re talking about the brand’s impressive reliability record. The 1.8-liter four only incorporates single overhead cams while eschewing direct-injection or turbo technology, resulting in a reasonable 141 horsepower and merely ok 127 lb-ft of torque, and while the standard six-speed manual would no doubt make the base LX or my 2WD EX tester more fun to drive, the CVT that is optional with front-wheel drive and standard with Honda’s RealTime all-wheel drive is less engaging, although my tester’s paddle shifters help to liven things up while they’re also useful for short-shifting in order to potentially improve fuel economy. The my CVT tester was upgraded with a Sport mode for those moments when you want to let your hair down (tongue firmly in cheek), albeit probably more importantly is the HR-V’s standard Eco Assist driving coach that helps its driver eke out optimal mileage, as well as the CVT’s Econ driving mode that does the eking on your behalf by applying power more progressively (read slower) while providing earlier shifts so as not to rev the engine too high and waste fuel.
So how does it all translate into hard numbers? It appears that Eco Assist and the Econ mode really make a difference, or possibly it’s all due to the highly efficient CVT, because the six-speed manual’s EPA rating isn’t so hot in the city at 25 mpg, although things get better on the highway with a 34 mpg rating, both coming together for 28 combined. The CVT does better, with FWD achieving a claimed 28 mpg city, 35 highway and 31 combined, and the AWD version getting 27 mpg city, 32 highway and 29 combined.
The HR-V tracks nicely on the highway, with little steering input needed despite its short wheelbase, although as expected it doesn’t feel particularly sporty through the curves or anytime else for that matter, but as already noted this isn’t its primary mission. Rather, along with its over-the-top practicality the HR-V is wonderfully comfortable with a ride that will never upset.
As you may have guessed the HR-V rolls on a traditional subcompact suspension setup incorporating independent MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam out back, although its coil springs are joined by amplitude reactive dampers and a stabilizer bar at both ends. Electrically powered rack-and-pinion steering provides reasonable feedback for the class, but once again its response isn’t sporty despite the HR-V’s relatively large 215/55R17 all-seasons.
The HR-V has a ridiculously long standard features list that includes the 17-inch rims and rubber, auto-off multi-reflector halogen headlights, LED taillights, keyless entry, powered windows, powered side mirrors, an electromechanical parking brake, a tilt and telescopic multifunction steering wheel with illuminated audio, multi-information/infotainment controls and Bluetooth phone and cruise buttons, air conditioning, and the infotainment system covered earlier. There’s a lot more, although I’m sure you’ll agree that even this shortlist sounds pretty enticing for just $19,115 when equipped with a manual or $19,915 for the CVT, plus freight and dealer fees.
The 2WD EX model is priced at $21,165 for the manual or $21,965 for the as-tested CVT, while along with features already noted its gets auto on/off headlights, fog lamps, heatable side mirrors with integrated turn signals, variable intermittent wipers, proximity-sensing passive access with pushbutton ignition, dual-zone auto HVAC, heated front seats, a moonroof and the aforementioned paddle shifters.
I should also mention that the HR-V gets an impressive load of standard safety gear including four-wheel discs with ABS, electronic brake-force distribution and emergency brake assist, electronic traction and stability control, hill start assist, plus the usual six airbags.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press; Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press; Copyright: American Auto Press