Full disclosure: I’ve never been a Honda fan. Shock and awe, I know. There’s just never been anything that’s really excited me about Honda. I fully appreciate they’re fabulous to drive and have great engines and transmissions; and when I was in my late teens early 20s I also appreciated the ease with which they could be modified, upgraded and customized; but they just never really did it for me.
Just as I choose to be a vegetarian and throw no judgment at those around me who eat meat at the same table, I throw no judgment at those around me who choose to praise the ground Honda tires roll on. I get it. I respect that. And I see why they choose to be Honda fanboys (and girls). But don’t force the H logo down my throat please.
So, when I was finally introduced to the brand new baby of the CUV/SUV family at Honda, the HR-V, I felt like I had to like it. Like everyone was watching to see my reaction, and I couldn’t very well be impolite about it…
Exterior look = thumbs up
In all fairness, I really like the exterior design of the 2016 Honda HR-V. It’s sharp, put together, and features some great body lines and details. I also quite like the hidden rear door handle for the passenger doors, though I know some find the placement a bit too high and awkward to manipulate.
Otherwise, the 2016 Honda HR-V wears the new Honda front fascia well. It doesn’t look as choppy or multilayered as it does on the new 2016 Civic, yet has more character lines that on the new 2016 Honda Pilot. It fits nicely on the small crossover and suits it to a T. And I quite like the squished, puffy rear end, as well. While it is a “common” stance for most small crossovers and even hatchbacks these days, it is appealing and looks good on the HR-V.
Step inside and the HR-V is actually quite roomy with wide door openings and lots of available space and headroom in the back. I easily installed the baby seat, and the cargo space was more than sufficient for a single-parent situation and would be just as well suited for a small family set-up as well. Add to that the fact that the 2016 Honda HR-V features the Fit-inspired Magic Seat in the rear and this is an uber practical small crossover.
The only foible with the 2016 Honda HR-V’s interior is, undoubtedly, the HMI screen and set-up. Sure, it looks pretty swank and cool, but once you try and use it, it takes way too much precision and concentration and is distracting. You really have to take your eyes off the road to use it correctly and without error as everything is touch-sensitive (why, Honda, why?!).
The drive = only so-so
Here’s where the Honda HR-V shocked me a little (as it did with the other drivers in our 2016 Small Crossover Comparison where the HR-V didn’t do as well as we’d thought it would against the competition). I, like everyone else, expected the HR-V to exhibit typical Honda manners on the road, and it just didn’t.
For starters, the Honda HR-V’s ride was highly uninspiring. Despite featuring amplitude reactive dampers along with MacPherson strut front suspension, as well as electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering, the HR-V’s on-road characteristics felt flat and not at all Honda-like. Steering felt too light, and not connected enough to the wheels to inspire the sporty, playful ride I expected from it.
While the 1.8L i-VTEC 4-cylinder mill (141 hp and 127 lb-ft of torque) performed as well as expected, the CVT left me feeling as uninspired as the ride. Since I was rolling in the EX-L Navi edition of the HR-V, the CVT is the only transmission choice. All other models have a 6-speed manual option. I think, with the manual selected, the driving dynamic “oomph” definitely would have been upped, and perhaps the overall feel of the HR-V would have been improved, but there was just something missing with the CVT.
Of course, the CVT helps a great deal in terms of fuel economy. Remembering that the EX-L Navi model is also equipped with Honda’s Real Time AWD system, the HR-V returns a combined reading of 8.1L/100km, which is more than reasonable for a vehicle of its size and capability in terms of all-weather driveability.
Won’t be forced to like it
I see the reason Honda did what it did in bringing the HR-V out to play in a segment that’s rife with competition (and stiff ones at that). While the CR-V was and still is highly capable, Honda wanted to take on a segment that’s growing just as rapidly as the crossover segment did, and likely will continue to. They were answering a niche demand that is quickly becoming mainstream.
Can and will they come out on top? Our comparison proved they still have some serious work to do before they take the No.1 spot. However, the simple fact that the HR-V wears that H logo on the front will help it in the long run. This is, after all, a Honda. It’s well-built, pleasant to drive, and offers up great styling at an affordable price as well (starting price for the Honda HR-V is just over $20k).
However, for someone like me who feels no loyalty to Honda or their vehicles, I’d likely take my money elsewhere -- like to the dealer of the winner of our small crossover comparison.