With much of the attention on the new CR-V
, a best seller for Honda, it can be easy to forget about the HR-V—a smaller and cheaper rig that serves as the entry into their crossover lineup. It’s been completely redesigned for 2023, growing both in size and in price.
Compared to the last HR-V
, which was based on the Honda Fit, the new one feels like it’s doubled in size. Honda’s goal here was to move the HR-V upmarket: a stepping-stone from the Honda Civic. If you have a growing family, or just need the extra space, it could be exactly what you’re looking for. As a result, it’s no longer based on the Honda Fit (now discontinued) but on the larger 11th
It’s longer (+221mm), wider (+70 mm) and the wheelbase has grown by 45mm. This translates into a wealth of space inside, and a more stable and comfortable ride.
Typically when I review a new generation of car, I find many similarities that carry through, but the new HR-V bears little relation to its forebear. That might just be a good thing because the larger CR-V has been Honda’s bread and butter for quite some time now and the HR-V never really caught on with buyers in the same way.
Where the old HR-V was short and narrow, the new one is long and wide. It’s like a taller version of the Civic, rather than an evolution of HR-V. Headlights and taillights and now lit with LEDs, and the gaping mouth-like grille which reminds me of the one on the Ford Escape
comes standard in a matte finish, or gloss black if you pick the EX-L Navi, the highest trim level on offer.
There are more Civic styling cues inside, most notably the honeycomb mesh that runs the length of the dashboard and hides the climate vents under it. There’s soft padding on parts of the dash and console, which is nice, and because crossovers generally mean more utility, you get large door pockets and a convenient storage area on each side of the transmission tunnel each with its own USB port to plug in your phones or other powered accessories.
A 7-inch touchscreen is standard and a 9-inch is optional. The larger screen comes with wireless Apple Carplay and Android Auto, and a wireless phone charger is conveniently located just ahead of the gear shifter. The shifter itself is a dead-simple “P-R-N-D-L” affair and not some needlessly complicated joystick. Drivers also get a partially digitized gauge cluster.
Don’t be fooled by this being the smallest of Honda’s crossovers. The HR-V is spacious, even for rear-seat passengers (I’m 6’ tall and I was able to sit behind myself with room to spare) and the cargo area is ample with a large opening. The liftgate is manually operated but that’s typical at this price point. Even better, lots of glass and a low cowl, traditional Honda elements, give the driver excellent visibility and a feeling of space, even though the dark and drab colour palette of the interior can feel a bit gloomy at times.
There’s nothing gloomy about the way it drives, though. This sport cute is a ray of sunshine from behind the wheel. Borrowing the best bits of the Civic chassis, the HR-V is light on it feet and fun in the corners, provided you remember that it’s not a sports car. The steering is light and playful and the added ride height means the suspension has extra room to shrug of just about any bumps and divots on the road. It’s stable and planted on the highway and one of the best parts about the HR-V is its cushy ride, which is better than anything else in this class.
But a caveat of its jump in size is a jump in weight and also a jump in price. Starting at 28,370 for a front-wheel drive LX-FWD, which most Canadians are likely to skip in favour of the $31,030 LX-AWD, the new HR-V represents a significant premium over the outgoing model. Prices climb up to $37,130 for the EX-L Navi tested here.
The 4-cylinder engine grows to 2-litres to compensate for the weight gain, but with 158 hp and 138 lb-ft of torque, gains of 17 hp and 11 lb-ft, respectively, it’s just not enough to overcome the extra baggage. It’s ok around town but passing cars and merging onto the highway will take more effort and you’ll spend more time in the higher (and noisier) part of the rev range. Because of this the fuel economy suffers. My driving landed me in the high 10 to 11L/100 km range after about a week. Not horrible, but worse than I expected. I had no such issues with the CVT, however. It can simulate gearshifts and makes the most of the available power, more so when you pop the shifter into “S”. It’s also a big improvement over earlier iterations.
The Kia Seltos
with the optional turbo engine and the Mazda CX-30
both offer more punch if that’s important to you, but in this class, power isn’t as large a priority as things like cargo space, comfort, and safety. This is where the HR-V ranks high. It also ranks high if you take material quality, interior ergonomics, and ease of use into consideration. The Seltos, in top trim, has turbo power and fancy interior options like ventilated seats but the HR-V feels more expensive in every other way.
It was one of the cheapest vehicles I’ve tested so far with adaptive cruise control that even worked in stop and go traffic and rather seamlessly I might add. My first experience with this type of driver-aid was in a $140,000 Mercedes S-Class, not even 5 years ago.
All HR-Vs get Honda’s latest iteration of Honda Sensing, which uses a new wide-angle camera system that is better able to detect pedestrians, other vehicles, and even road signs and markings. Knee air bags and passenger side-impact air bags are now standard, as is a rear seat reminder, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, traffic sign recognition, and low-speed follow.
There are quite a few players in this space but the HR-V has quickly become one of the better options. It also unlocks the availability of all-wheel drive, and a “Snow” mode, both of which you don’t get in a Civic. It’s a usable, safe, and spacious crossover that feels more substantial than the price tag suggests. We only wish it had more power. For a young family or for someone looking for their first new vehicle the HR-V is now a really good choice.
The vehicle was provided to the writer by the automaker. Content and vehicle evaluations were not subject to approval.
2023 Honda HR-V EX-L Navi
BODY STYLE: 5 door, 5-passenger compact crossover.
CONFIGURATION: Front-engine, All-wheel drive
ENGINES: 2.0-L inline 4-cylinder; Power: 158 hp @ 6500 rpm; Torque: 138 lb-ft @ 4200 rpm
CARGO CAPACITY: 691-1559 litres
FUEL ECONOMY: (Regular Gasoline in L/100 km) 9.4 city; 7.8 highway; 8.7 combined
PRICE: $37,130 + freight, taxes, and fees.