We get behind the wheel and review the all-new Honda HR-V subcompact crossover before it hits the market.

Miami, Florida – It’s hard to beat Miami Beach as a venue to launch a new vehicle. The sun and the surf, the tanned bodies, the shiny cars. It’s a feast for the senses, surely chosen to put one in a great frame of mind for a drive.

Don’t worry, healthily cynical auto journalists aren’t dazzled by this kind of thing; we know you have to separate the place from the product, and in this case, the all-new 2016 Honda HR-V didn’t require any help. It turned out to be an impressive little runabout that can stand on its own four wheels without help from a fancy backdrop.

ALSO SEE: 2015 Acura ILX Dynamic Review

The Honda HR-V is a “subcompact crossover,” according to Honda. It’s built on a version of Honda’s Global Compact Series Platform that’s forms the basis for the Honda Fit subcompact car. Now, anyone who knows about the fit knows its interior is unusually flexible and unexpectedly spacious. To a large degree, the HR-V shares those attributes.

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What most contributes to the innovative interior is the location of the gas tank, underneath and behind the front seats. This “midship” mounted gas tank frees up a huge amount to space behind the rear seat and supplies a low, flat floor behind the front seats. In other words, the 1,665 litres of HR-V cargo capacity is a major selling point. Bigger even than a Nissan Rogue or Ford Escape, according to Honda, both larger vehicles than the HR-V.

The 2016 Honda HR-V arrives in LX, EX and EX-L Navi trim levels, and is available in FWD or AWD versions, except for the EX-L Navi, which is only available with AWD. A number of desirable features are standard, including heated front seats and front wiper de-icer (both Canadian market favourites), seven-inch Display Audio, rear-view camera, alloy wheels, heated mirrors, LED rear lights, and air conditioning. Pricing is expected to slot the HR-V above the Fit but below the larger CR-V.

honda-hr-v-reviewThe more expensive trim levels include items like LaneWatch (an image is displayed in the centre console via a camera in the passenger-side mirror), moonroof, auto on/off headlights, leather seat trim, navigation, lane departure warning, forward collision warning and satellite radio. You can’t get the increasingly popular blind spot warning or cross traffic alert, but the expanded-view exterior mirrors and multi-view rear camera are helpful substitutes.

Don’t think that the HR-V is simply a jacked-up Fit, though. Compared to the Fit, HR-V is a significant 230 millimetres longer, rides on an 80mm longer wheelbase and is 81mm taller. It’s width increases by 70mm, and it has a 54mm wider front and 67mm wider rear track than the Fit. According to Honda, HR-V is an “entirely new generation of subcompact crossover,” for the company, “blending “the styling of a coupe, [and] the toughness, space and utility of an SUV…”

HR-V Styling

From a styling perspective, the top half of the HR-V is certainly coupe-like. It’s notable for its aerodynamic profile and hidden rear door handles that suggest a two-door vehicle at first glance. The bottom half of the HR-V looks very “CUV,” though. The standard 17-inch aluminum wheels are stylish but appear capable, and the big wheel openings and sill treatment suggest off-roadability.

You can’t get the increasingly popular blind spot warning or cross traffic alert, but the expanded-view exterior mirrors and multi-view rear camera are helpful substitutes.

Powering the HR-V is a 1.8-litre, Civic-based single overhead camshaft four-cylinder engine (it’s not the engine found in the Fit) that makes 141 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 127 pound-feet torque at 4,300 rpm. You can choose between a CVT “automatic” and six-speed manual (6MT) transmission, although if you opt for AWD (the same Real-Time AWD with Intelligent Control found in the Honda CR-V), only the CVT is offered.

Fuel economy should be a strong point regardless of the drivetrain. Projected consumption from regular grade fuel is 8.3/6.7 L/100km city/highway for the FWD CVT; 9.3/7.0 L/100km for the FWD 6MT and 8.8/7.2 L/100km for the AWD CVT.

HR-V Cabin

Inside HR-V is all about modern minimalism. Honda refers to it as a “Smart Touch” interior. Most everything is managed from the centrally mounted touch screen (it’s angled toward the driver) and the controls on the steering wheel. Interior panels are mostly soft-touch with embossed stitch lines; the piano-black trim looks sleek and the instruments precise.

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The HR-V features rear “Magic Seats,” like the Fit. The rear seat squabs fold up to reveal an unusually large cargo space into which you could easily slide a large, flat-screen TV or a bicycle with front-wheel removed. The split-folding rear seats create a very useful cargo space when flat, and with the front-passenger seat folded you could fit a large ladder, tall bookshelf or similar long items. The rear door at 650 mm is wide and the floor level low for easy loading and unloading.

Because the HR-V rides fairly high, getting in and out is easy; you pretty much just point your rear-end and move sideways. The high hip point also gives good outward visibility, and the standard multi-angle rear-view camera helps when backing up.

On the Road

HR-V is quiet on the road, and smooth (it’s fitted with sound deadening material and underbody covers to improve aerodynamics). Amplitude reactive, dual piston dampers help with handling and stability. The HR-V feels agile and compact-car like when driving, with responsive steering and a chassis that feels stiff and substantial. Quite enjoyable, actually.

I actually preferred the CVT transmission to the manual, and I’ll tell you why. It was a bit of deja vu for me, experiencing the throttle blips between gears when shifting up and down. I remember Hondas of old used to do this, and while Honda pointed the finger at the driver, I reckon it’s something to do with the technology (I own an S2000 and it doesn’t do this). So, for me the 6MT felt overly busy, and the CVT was smooth and unobtrusive. 

At 141 hp/127 lb.ft. torque, power is sufficient for zipping around town, although it’s obviously not particularly muscular. Some drivers may wish for more underfoot, just because they like a little extra, but Honda thinks buyers in this segment are more interested in good fuel economy and this drivetrain apparently delivers that.

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And who’s buying this type of vehicle? Singles and pre-family couples at one end of the age spectrum, and Boomers/Empty Nesters at the other. “People who want the drivability and styling of a coupe but the functionality of an SUV,” according to Honda. In other words, not necessarily those with kids and frequent rear-seat passengers.

HR-V is quiet on the road, and smooth (it’s fitted with sound deadening material and underbody covers to improve aerodynamics). Amplitude reactive, dual piston dampers help with handling and stability.

Then again, I’m sure Honda will be happy to sell HR-V to anyone, because the company is entering a segment already populated by an abundance of similar vehicles. Current or available shortly are the Mazda CX-3, the Nissan Juke, the new Jeep Renegade, Chevrolet Trax and Mitsubishi RVR. Those ready to purchase might also consider the Fiat 500X, and perhaps even the Subaru XV Crosstrek, while the Kia Soul (even though it’s currently only available with FWD) is also a possible consideration, as, I would argue, is the new five-door Mini (this segment likes brand). 

The 2016 Honda HR-V is simple to drive, stylish and and useful. Honda Canada has included popular options for our market and is pricing it competitively. The company expecting to sell about 10,000 in its first model year.


2016 Honda HR-V Pricing

Trim / Drivetrain / MSRP (CAD$)

  • LX – 2WD w/ 6MT – $20,690
  • LX – 2WD w/ CVT – $21,990
  • LX – AWD w/ CVT – $24,290
  • EX – 2WD w/ 6MT – $23,190
  • EX – 2WD w/ CVT – $24,490
  • EX – AWD w/ CVT – $26,790
  • EX-L Navi – AWD w/ CVT – $29,990

2016 Honda HR-V Photos: