Honda CR-V, meet your new baby brother, the highly anticipated HR-V.
Honda was not the first to arrive at the compact crossover party, but shortly after its 1997 debut, the versatile CR-V became the life of said party, securing the highly coveted title as best-selling CUV (compact utility vehicle) in the class.
With total U.S. sales of 335,091 units in calendar year 2014, CR-V easily hit top-selling CUV status while ranking as the fifth best-selling car overall in 2014. Sales of the CR-V increased at an impressive 10 percent clip from the previous year.
The hugely popular compact crossover segment spawned yet another subclass, the subcompact utility vehicle, of which the all-new 2016 HR-V looks to conquer.
James Jenkins, Manager of light trucks at Honda accurately framed the all-new HR-V during a recent media stop in Oak Brook as, “Big on the inside, small on the outside with a wide field of view for drivers.”
Competitors in this relatively new five-door, car-based subcompact utility class includes, among others, the Nissan Juke, Chevrolet Trax and Mazda CX-3.
While exterior front doors include body-colored strap-like handles, back side door pull handles hide within the arrow-head shaped upper corner of the black frame. The HR-V also boasts a wide manually-operated tailgate with a convenient, low, 25.7-inch lift-over height. Crisp, attractive, eye-catching styling borrows a bit of CR-V input with an upsweeping character line starting near front wheel arches swishing up toward the rear side door terminating at the arrowhead handle.
While HR-V shares some visual cues with the longer (by 10 inches) compact CR-V, mechanically, many underpinnings are borrowed from another Honda: the subcompact Fit wagon. Fit introduced the versatile and well received second-row ‘Magic Seat’ which magically finds its way into the HR-V increasing cargo carrying options threefold.
Three HR-V trim levels (LX, EX and EX-L NAVI) all feature the identical four-cylinder powertrain: a Honda Civic-inspired inline, naturally-aspirated 1.8-liter, 16-valve generating an acceptable 141 horsepower.
As with the subcompact Honda Fit, the HR-V’s underpinning design includes a center mounted fuel tank, helping establish the interior’s versatile cargo-carrying layout. The aforementioned magic seats include second-row bottom seat cushions which fold up flat against seatbacks, creating an open vertical space for small bikes or boxes. If desired, second row seat backs also fold semi flat onto the cushions, creating a larger cargo hold region. Another nifty act: the passenger bucket seat back tilts rearward to a semi-flat status when needed.
Front seating position is elevated with a high eye level, nice considering the subcompact size; the trade-off being limited front head room especially those whose vertical growth extends beyond six-feet four inches although the driver’s bucket includes a manually-operated pump-action side leve raising or lowering the chair slightly. Leatherette trimmed seats are an EX-L NAVI exclusive.
While Honda promotes the subcompact HR-V as a five seater (a magic trick in and of itself), two adults situate with optimal comfort in row two with acceptable head and leg room.
Honda supplied a fully-loaded two-wheel drive EX-L NAVI for a week’s testing with a starting price of $24,590. The bottom line ended at $25,470 with $880 destination charge. The lowest cost two-wheel drive, manual transmission LX starts below the $20,000 threshold at $19,115.
In addition to front-wheel drive, Honda offers Midwest-friendly all-wheel drive helping tackle soon-to-arrive snow and ice. Two available transmissions include a six-speed manual standard in front-drive LX and EX trims. The other alternative available in most remaining configurations: a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
The HR-V’s continuously variable transmission remains lighter weight than many competing CVTs and from the driver’s perspective, operates like a conventional automatic transmission shifter. From a performance standpoint, CVTs generally employ a more leisurely approach from zero to 60 miles per hour. Instead of five or six set forward gears, CVT’s utilize a variable-width pulley contributing to an infinite number of forward gear ratios with no slippage or jerking.
This CVT plays a vital role in maximizing precious petro, important for HR-V’s fuel-conscious audience. Case in point: HR-V’s two-wheel drive CVT (28 mpg city, 35 mpg highway) outduels the six-speed manual (25 mpg city, 34 mpg highway) two-wheel drive, delivering class-leading numbers. The 13.2-gallon fuel tank accepts regular, 87-octane unleaded fuel.
Also standard in all HR-V’s a high-tech, space-saving electronic parking brake located directly behind the between-seat transmission shift handle taking the place of the long-handled mechanical design.
Electronic push button start comes standard in EX and EX-L NAVI editions. Adding to enhanced interior versatility is a storage area under and slightly ahead of the transmission bridge. Room for a small lap top or purse, is joined with two USB ports and a 12-volt power outlet.
A sharp, crisp multi-purpose in-dash screen with rear-view camera feed comes standard. A seven-inch version adorns EX and EX-L NAVI editions, entry LX suffices with a five-inch variant.
Standard in EX and EX-L is Lane Watch, a high-tech, yet seamless-to-use visual assist which earned praise from fickle auto writers during Mr. Jenkins recent Midwest Automotive Media Association lunch visit. Utilizing a Lilliputian sized camera mounted on the right side-view mirror, an expanded real-time blind spot feed projects through the multi-purpose screen display when the right turn signal switches into action. A latent function of Lane Watch includes spotting bicyclists back yonder who may or may not be adhering to rules of the road.
For those familiar and comfortable operating iPod, iPads and other portable electronics, Honda’s touch-sensitive, rectangular, lower-central dash ventilation pad and squarish multi-function screen above should be second nature. No old-school twist dials abound. Models with heated seat standard (EX and EX-L NAVI) also summon the warmth through the ventilation touch pad. Both ventilation pad and audio screen skew gently towards the driver.
The left-side of the color screen includes a column of touch-sensitive commands including ‘home,’ ‘volume,’ ‘back’ and ‘menu.’During a week’s worth of testing, push-friendly secondary audio controls found 9 o’clock on the three-spoke steering wheel were summoned 95 percent of the time to adjust audio or station presets since eyes could stay focused ahead while making changes. The center screen tilts slightly upward to lessen effects of the sun’s glare.
The prominent instrument panel includes three circular, independent gauges with the large center pod, trimmed in illuminating green and housing the analog speedometer. Flanking left, a smaller tachometer; to the right, a bar-type gas gauge with odometer and outside temperature information.
Inline beverage holders also enjoy a nifty modified design enabling them to swallow multiple-sized hot-or-cold thirst quenchers. Greater-than-average depth is a good start while square patricians dividing the two spheres flip down on both sides creating a shorter false bottom floor. The shorter depth version also works for stowing small electronic devices.
The biggest challenge Honda may face is keeping enough HR-V units on dealer lots while not cannibalizing sales from its own highly successful CR-V sibling. 2016 Honda HR-V
Price as Tested:
In-line four cylinderHorsepower:
102.8 inchesOverall Height:
63.2 inchesOverall Width:
69.8 inchesCurb Weight:
2,945 poundsFuel economy:
28 mpg city, 35 mpg highwayAssembly: