The new Honda HR-V falls into one of the fastest-growing segments in the auto industry, that of subcompact crossovers. Right now there aren’t many rivals to the HR-V in terms of size, but you can bet that there’ll be lots in the years ahead.
The HR-V is smaller than Honda’s CR-V and, of course, quite a lot smaller than the company’s Pilot. According to Honda, people are looking for the attributes of an SUV, but in a much smaller size than most. According to market researchers, buyers who now own subcompact hatchbacks are drifting towards products like the HR-V and this trend may well continue.
This is not to say that the HR-V is a tiny vehicle by any means. It’s actually very roomy and has a good cargo area. Driving one around, it feels much like a small SUV but is more compact in just about all exterior dimensions. It’s easy to see that these little rigs could become very popular indeed with young buyers or for retirees who don’t need a large vehicle any more but like practicality in their set of wheels.
The HR-V is a very attractive vehicle to look at and is styled exactly like what it is - a downsized SUV. It even has quite a brawny appearance and looks rugged and capable. It’s quite curvaceous front and rear and has a character-adding crease along the sides which reduces any kind of slab-sided design tendency. The big 17-inch wheels give the vehicle a stylish “concept truck” look. You have to put one alongside a compact or mid-sized crossover to see how trim it really is.
North American market HR-Vs are built in Mexico, but the product is manufactured in many countries, mostly in Asia and South America. The new Honda can be ordered in front-wheel drive or with all-wheel drive. Power comes from one of Honda’s very satisfying four-cylinder engines - a 1.8-litre, 16-valve, SOHC, i-VTEC developing 141-horsepower. Transmission choices include a CVT continuously variable or a 6-speed manual. My test HR-V came with the CVT and it handled the vehicle’s quite impressive horsepower level very well.
There are three variants of this product - LX, EX and EX-L Navi. The top model only comes with the CVT, which is optional on the other two models. With the EX-L Navi and EX CVT, you get steering wheel mounted paddle shifters for manual control as standard. All models can be spec’d with Honda’s Real Time AWD and this is standard equipment on the EX-L Navi.
The interior is impressively kitted out for a vehicle in this size and price class. The seats are nicely shaped with plenty of support and the controls and instruments well laid out. I liked the driving position in this Honda and also the design of the small, grippy, steering wheel. Most of the key interior features come as standard on all models, but the top version comes with some luxury items like a display audio system and satellite-linked navigation. It also has a fold down rear armrest and one or two other upgrades. All HR-Vs have a full suite of air bags and various other passive safety features.
I found the HR-V tight and rattle-free and very well built much, like all Honda products. It’s also great fun to drive. It’s very capable for its size and Honda has not skimped on engine power or interior trim. This vehicle should sell strongly for Honda but watch for other makers to follow suit with something similar in the years ahead.
SPECS AT A GLANCE…
BODY STYLE: 4-door, five-place subcompact crossover
ENGINE: 1.8-litre 4-cylinder
TRANSMISSION: CVT or 6-speed manual
TOWING CAPACITY: Towing not recommended by Honda
FUEL ECONOMY: 8.3-litres/100 km combined (manual transmission)
PRICE: Starts at $20,690 MSRP