Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2016 Honda HR-V

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This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car

The brand-new Honda HR-V is one of the most attention-grabbing vehicles I've reviewed in a long time. It garners a lot of looks from a lot of different people, I had a lot of people walk over to ask what it is and to have a look inside and ended up fielding a ton of questions. I found this quite interesting as the outside shape, while perhaps a slight departure for Honda, isn't really groundbreaking on any level.

The HR-V has a surprisingly open and spacious cabin.

You'll notice the HR-V's styling at the same time as its tidy size, which makes it nice to dart around town in and allows it to fit nicely into any parking space you can find. Honda claims that they've combined the styling of a coupe (I'll wait a minute for the giggling to settle) with the versatility of an SUV. The roofline is a bit bold, to be sure, as is the heavily sculpted side – and yes, it does have a slight aggressive edge from a couple of angles. And the window trim that comes to a point at the back, culminating in a hidden rear door handle can't be missed. The whole package sits on some nice 17-inch rims and as a whole, I think the styling works well – it's sporty and it throws in a hint of fun while remaining Honda-ish, which is to say it's still quite conservative.

One odd thing – a strange-looking set of protective bars underneath the vehicle, plainly visible on the driver's side, appear to be tacked-on and almost look as though something is hanging off the vehicle. It disrupts a set of otherwise clean and tidy lines.

The HR-V has a surprisingly open and spacious cabin - I'm 5'10" and had plenty of headroom. I also had a gentleman well over 6' get in the driver's seat and try it out, and he had room to spare, too. The dash feels simple, flush and clean, its centre stack angled slightly towards the driver. The majority of the materials are nicely textured hard plastics, although the dash face is an upholstered panel. I quite like the interior styling and it did not feel cheap or entry-level to me. All trim levels get heated seats, and the LX's fabric thrones are comfortable and well-bolstered, but they got pretty toasty on hot summer days.

The basic instrument bin gives you everything you need, including a driver information centre. It was a bit of a reach for me to get to the touchscreen – which looks after your audio, phone, vehicle settings and the multi-angle back-up camera – and I found the lack of hard buttons irritating. You won't find any, other than for system power and CD eject. Personally I prefer a knob for volume control at very least. The automatic climate control system below is also completely touch-based. The upside is that everything comes together looking very slick and clean.

More on First Drive: 2016 Honda HR-V

The centre console is quite slim, but Honda has done a few neat things to make it work in terms of storage solutions. Behind the CVT's gear selector is a deep well that has some flexible, adjustable  dividers in it and underneath the console is an excellent rubberized bin as well as a full suite of connections for media input and charging – it's handy and out of the way.

The HR-V has three seats in the back, each with a seatbelt and headrest. The middle seat is very hard and narrow, making it an unpleasant place to sit - even my kids didn't want to plant their spoiled butts there. But the surprise comes when you sit in one of the two main rear seats. Not only are they reasonably comfortable (and recline for good measure), you'll find ample head and leg room.

One of the HR-V's niftiest features is taken from its Honda Fit platform-mate  – the Magic Seats (whose seat bottoms fold up and out of the way) are an incredibly useful and flexible way to use the vehicle's rear seat space and allow you to access all of it – from floor to roof panel. It's a very practical way to exploit a number of different configurations, and combined with rear seats that fold completely flat (in a 60/40 split), you can make the HR-V transport almost anything and anyone in almost any shape or size. Think the HR-V's diminutive size might limit you? Think again. You'll find 657 L of trunk space available – flip the back seats down and you're looking at a class-leading 1,631 L.

The HR-V also shares the Civic's 1.8L four-cylinder – it puts out 141 hp and 127 lb-ft of torque – and is paired with a CVT and Honda's on-demand Real Time all-wheel-drive system in this configuration. It is also available in front-wheel drive and with a six-speed manual transmission.

While the numbers aren't going to set the world on fire, I found the baby Honda has adequate power for any city driving. It springs to attention off the line, and easily keeps up with traffic. Get on the freeway or highway and you'll find yourself adding a second or two to build up enough momentum to pass, but even then, it’s willing to rev it up and get things done. Yes, you will hear the engine when you step on it and yes, it gets a bit buzzy at higher rpms – so if you're in a hurry to get somewhere, you'll be hearing the engine quite a bit as it works hard alongside the CVT to pick up the pace. It's certainly not what anyone would consider a powerful nor a quick vehicle, but in normal driving circumstances, the power available is all most drivers would ever need to motivate this 1,389 kg (3,062 lb) CUV.

The HR-V's CVT is a good one, and pairs well with the little engine. It's snappy and relatively quick to respond to your throttle input. It has three modes – Drive, Sport and Low – usually you'll only use Drive and one of the others, but I find that all three are useful. Sport mode definitely livens the HR-V up a bit, and I appreciate the ability to put it in Low for engine braking, especially when we head into the mountains. Speaking of drive modes, Honda does throw in their ECON driving mode ­– I didn't like it as it makes things feel pretty tepid. And frankly, it's not necessary. While the HR-V is rated at 8.8 L/100 km in the city and 7.2 L/100 km on the highway, I ended up achieving a rather impressive 8.0 L/100 km during my time with it – this in a brand-new vehicle with me making no effort to drive economically.

The ride is very good for a small crossover. I thought it was very comfortable and smooth - surprisingly so to be honest. The suspension is a tad noisy and most road imperfections, while well-damped, are still heard drumming through into the cabin. I found the steering responsive but a bit numb. When it comes to the handling, this little CUV does well but it doesn't like to be pushed too hard – plow into a curve too quickly and it will lean and then understeer mightily in protest. The HR-V is happy to commute and do a good job at it, but doesn't like to play nearly as much as the Mazda CX-3, its nearest competitor. Still, I appreciate the balance between comfort and agility - it's what most people want.

The vehicle's brakes are good, including its emergency braking abilities, which I was forced to test thanks to some douchebaggery that took place ahead of me on the freeway. Noise levels are respectable although the road noise picked up significantly at highway speeds. And visibility out of the HR-V is outstanding with the exception of the rear view, which gets a bit restricted when the rear headrests are in use – they need to be moved up in order to use them.

The word "balance" kept coming to mind during my week with the HR-V. I found the Honda has come up with a small but capable CUV that's easy to live with. When it comes to the drivetrain, sufficient power for any typical driving situation is balanced with outstanding fuel economy. The comfortable ride is balanced with enough agility to make anyone confident behind the wheel. The small exterior dimensions balance well with the surprising amount of interior space and flexibility. If the HR-V has enough room inside for your needs, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it as a great little urban commuter. I feel that they can get a bit too pricey at the high end, but even this base LX trim comes very well equipped.

WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was very high. She loved the small-on-the-outside-plenty-of-room-on-the-inside size, she enjoyed the styling inside and out, and thought it was very easy to drive. Her only complaint was that she didn't seem to be able to find a perfect driving position.

It seems as though the HR-V has hit the ground running. People were extremely interested in it on the street and the dealership I spoke to said they can't keep them in stock – they are literally sold out of them. Every third person coming in is asking to see the HR-V, and they are selling rapidly – more quickly than they can get new ones in. It is clearly a serious contender in the newest category of crossovers and Honda will move a lot of these.

3 years/60,000 km; 5 years/100,000 km powertrain; 5 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 3 years/unlimited distance roadside assistance

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Model Tested 2016 Honda HR-V (LX trim)
Base Price $24,290
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,695
Price as Tested $26,085
Optional Equipment