Honda’s HR-V brings family virtues to micro-crossover segment

2016 Honda HR-V
The pint-sized, four-passenger HR-V packages traditional Honda virtues — rock-solid body structure; firm-but-compliant ride; quiet, comfortable cabin — into a small, efficient footprint.

This review originally appeared in The Spokesman-Review

After spending a week exploring the delights of Acura’s flagship MDX, we climbed into its diminutive new cousin, Honda’s HR-V micro-crossover.

The pint-sized, four-passenger HR-V packages traditional Honda virtues — rock-solid body structure; firm-but-compliant ride; quiet, comfortable cabin — into a small, efficient footprint.

The HR-V is a family affair. Built on the Fit’s front-drive platform, it’s powered by the Civic’s 141-horsepower four-cylinder engine. Build-quality feels first-rate, cabin fit-and-finish is excellent and so is materials quality. The spacious cabin accommodates four six-footers.

There’s room behind those 60/40-split second-row seats for a week’s worth of groceries. Fold them down and the flat-floored cargo hold will swallow enough gear for a Himalayan trek.

The cabin exudes a richness of design rare in the price range. Simplicity is the theme, in shape, color and function. The effect is underscored by the absence of buttons and knobs, which are replaced by a dash-mounted touchscreen.

2016 Honda HR-V
The cabin exudes a richness of design rare in the price range. Simplicity is the theme, in shape, color and function. The effect is underscored by the absence of buttons and knobs, which are replaced by a dash-mounted touchscreen.

Using a touchscreen while driving is tricky business. Here, redundant steering-wheel controls are a safe and convenient shortcut.

The HR-V cabin bristles with clever ideas. The passenger-side dash houses a long and remarkably effective three-segment vent; a rubberized cell-phone storage cubby nestles hidden in an open nook beneath the center console; miscellaneous small storage nooks are carved into or added onto a variety of surfaces.

In days past, entry-level Hondas scrimped on the extras. No longer. Even the base HR-V carries full power accessories, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone connectivity, Pandora Internet radio and 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels.

2016 Honda HR-V
The HR-V cabin bristles with clever ideas. The passenger-side dash houses a long and remarkably effective three-segment vent; a rubberized cell-phone storage cubby nestles hidden in an open nook beneath the center console; miscellaneous small storage nooks are carved into or added onto a variety of surfaces.

My loaded EX-L ($26,720) brought the works — keyless entry and ignition, leather upholstery, sunroof, heated front seats, leather, satellite and HD radio, navigation — and included LaneWatch, a passenger-side blind-spot warning system. When the driver signals a right turn, a video image looking rearward along the right side appears in the display screen. In town, LaneWatch alerts the driver to the presence of bicyclists; in freeway traffic, distance markers signal when it’s safe to return to the right-hand lane after passing another vehicle.

A six-speed manual transmission is standard on front-drive trims, with an optional continuously variable transmission (CVT). The CVT is standard on AWD trims.

The HR-V’s torque curve brings out the less appealing aspects of CVT technology — i.e., the annoying rubber-band effect. However, the transmission has seven pre-programmed stops that simulate gears and a Sport mode that holds those ratios longer. When instant acceleration is needed, one selects “S” and uses the paddles to actuate shifts.

In tandem with the power-sapping CVT, the HR-V’s 141 ponies are insufficient to power it with authority. At 9.5 seconds, the 0-60 dash is more stroll than sprint.

Out on the road, the HR-V tracks straight and true, steering is direct and accurate and body roll is well-damped. Wind and road noise are subdued, making for a surprisingly serene cabin.

A wide gulf separates the HR-V and its upscale MDX cousin, but the family resemblance resonates all the way down to its bones.

2016 Honda HR-V AWD EX-L Navi
Vehicle base price: $19,115
Trim level base price: $25,840
As tested: $26,720
Options: Our AWD EX-L tester, with navigation, is a fully equipped trim and had no options.
EPA rating: 29 combined/27 city/32 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified

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Sizing up Honda’s pint-sized HR-V

Honda HR-V
Honda HR-V

After spending a week enjoying the deep delights of Acura’s MDX crossover, we climbed into its tiny new cousin, Honda’s $20,000 HR-V.

Sized — and priced — midway between the little Fit and the CR-V, the pint-sized crossover packages traditional Honda virtues — rock-solid body structure, firm-but-compliant ride and quiet, comfortable cabin — in a small and efficient footprint.

Hopping out of the serene and luxurious MDX into the lower-flying HR-V requires an attitude adjustment. The 4,200-pound MDX is sports-car quick and its nine-speed automatic a symphony in shifting. Size-wise, the 2,900-lb HR-V is a go-kart by contrast, but, with its 135-horsepower driven through a continuously variable transmission, acceleration is decidedly pokey.

If the HR-V sells as well as expected, I expect we’ll see a turbocharged rendition somewhere down the road.

My AWD tester is rated at 29 combined/27 city/32 highway. Standard equipment includes alloy wheels, full power accessories, rearview camera, Bluetooth phone connectivity and Pandora Internet radio.

My loaded EX-L ($26,720) brings the works, including my favorite Honda feature, LaneWatch. When the driver signals a right turn, a video image looking rearward down the car’s passenger side appears in the center console display. In town, it alerts the driver to bicyclists coming up on the right; in freeway traffic, a set of distance markers helps the driver know when it’s safe to return to the right lane after passing a slower-moving vehicle.