New HR-V wel­come ad­di­tion to the Honda fam­ily

Winnipeg Free Press - Section E - - AUTOS -

WHEN the first-gen­er­a­tion Honda CR-V hit the North Amer­i­can mar­ket in 1997 it was a gamechanger. Just the right size, great on fuel, mod­er­ately com­fort­able and af­ford­able for the masses — the CR-V car­ried on where the Honda Civic sta­tion wagon left off. Young out­door en­thu­si­asts ap­pre­ci­ated its util­ity, par­ents and grand­par­ents ad­mired its peo­ple- and gro­cery­mov­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties, and judg­ing by the num­ber of older CR-V mod­els still on the road to­day, ev­ery­one loved its de­pend­abil­ity.

Sure, the CR-V is still pop­u­lar, but if you ask me, it has lost its way in re­cent years. It got big­ger, posher, more ex­pen­sive, less util­i­tar­ian and some­what lost in the crowd. You can’t really blame Honda for making the CR-V larger and more re­fined over the years. The cus­tomers who bought those first mod­els have grown up too; it was only nat­u­ral the CR-V evolved with them.

So, what about a ve­hi­cle for folks want­ing the ca­pa­bil­ity, sim­plic­ity and just-right pro­por­tions found in those early CR-V mod­els?

En­ter the Honda HR-V. Based on the Honda Fit plat­form, the new for 2016 HR-V is the lat­est offering in a grow­ing list of sub­com­pact crossovers. Poised to com­pete against the likes of the Jeep Rene­gade, Chevro­let Trax, Nis­san Juke and Mazda CX-3, the HR-V finds it­self smack-dab in the mid­dle of a light­weight tilt.

From the curb, the HR-V is a nicelook­ing ve­hi­cle, fea­tur­ing sharply an­gled body lines, an at­trac­tive front face and rear door han­dles hid­den up and away on the back doors, giv­ing it an al­most coupe-like ap­pear­ance.

Our tester, an LX model, of­fered a few nice op­tions, no­tably a CVT au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, all-wheeldrive, heated cloth front seats, dual heated mir­rors, a rear roofline spoiler, 17-inch alu­minum wheels, mutli-view rear cam­era, steer­ing wheel mounted au­dio con­trols and a ter­rific sound­ing four speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA au­dio sys­tem with a USB jack and Blue­tooth au­dio. The front seats are com­fort­able and well-padded — much more plush than the firm seats found in Hon­das of old — and I found the driver’s seat ad­just­ment al­lowed me to lower the seat to a per­fect po­si­tion for my six-foot frame.

The con­trols for the au­dio sys­tem, the HVAC and gen­eral ve­hi­cle in­for­ma­tion are of the touch­screen va­ri­ety. I ini­tially groaned at the mere sight of this, wor­ry­ing the touch con­trols would be ei­ther overly sensi- tive or wouldn’t work with gloves on. My anx­i­ety was un­necce­sary. Honda has man­aged to de­sign a touch­screen as close to per­fect as I’ve ever ex­pe­ri­enced. That said, I still pre­fer ac­tual switches and but­tons. Thank­fully there are re­dun­dant con­trols for the au­dio on the steer­ing wheel which func­tion beau­ti­fully. The steer­ing wheel also houses switches for the cruise con­trol and phone ac­ti­va­tion.

The in­te­rior has a mod­ern feel while still main­tain­ing a fairly rugged ap­peal. The lin­ear heat and AC vent run­ning across the dash in front of the pas­sen­ger gen­er­ates con­sid­er­able air­flow. In fact, even with our so-far mild win­ter, the HR-V seem­ingly pumps out enough heat to bake a loaf of bread in the small­ish but well-laid-out cabin.

Al­though not as tall as its CR-V sib­ling, the HR-V does ride a bit steeper than the compact Honda Fit it shares its un­der­pin­nings with — offering a clear view of the road and al­low­ing for ef­fort­less en­try and exit.

The rear seats, how­ever, are a rather cramped af­fair. Al­though I was able to climb in the back seat with­out hurt­ing my­self, it would be a strtech (sorry) for some­one my size to en­dure much more than a — very — short trip. That said, there’s plenty of room for a pair of kids and a medium-sized dog.

With the rear seats folded for­ward the cargo area is rather cav­ernous, but when they’re up­right there’s just enough room for a sin­gle hockey bag — pro­vided you’re not a goalie. Fold­ing one or both of the rear chairs is ef­fort­less and the head­rests eas­ily fold down and in­te­grate nicely into the seats.

On the high­way the HR-V presents it­self as spunky — which isn’t to be con­fused with spir­ited. Thanks to the CVT trans­mis­sion, if you push the 1.8L SOHC four-cylin­der en­gine, it revs near the 6,700 r.p.m. red­line right about when you reach 100 kilo­me­tres per hour, all the while dron­ing like a belt-san­der on steroids. I’d ad­vise against do­ing this. If you creep up to speed at a leisurely pace though, it han­dles the chore with ease, only revving in the 4,500 r.p.m. range. If you’re prone to mash­ing your foot into the gas pedal with all your might you may be left feel­ing a bit dis­ap­pointed. But hey, you’re likely not buy­ing the HR-V to win any drag races.

Honda has in­serted a silky-smooth en­gine that may lack a bit of grunt, but for ev­ery­day driv­ing in the city or on the high­way the HR-V to­tally de­liv­ers the ex­cel­lent driv­ing dy­nam­ics we have come to ex­pect from Honda.

A six-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion is avail­able in front-wheel-drive ver­sions. If you don’t mind row­ing through the gears, I’m bet­ting the man­ual really wakes up this en­gine and amps up the fun fac­tor.

Al­though Win­nipeg streets re- mained dry for my week­long test drive, I’m con­fi­dent Honda’s op­tional Real Time all-wheel-drive sys­tem will op­er­ate flaw­lessly when called into ac­tion. In nor­mal driv­ing con­di­tions the HR-V is a front-wheel-drive ve­hi­cle, but when trac­tion loss is de­tected, a multi-plate clutch sim­i­lar to those used in au­to­matic trans­mis­sions con­nects the drive­shaft to the rear dif­fer­en­tial.

Over­all there is lit­tle not to like about the HR-V. The styling is edgy with­out be­ing po­lar­iz­ing, the ride is smooth and pre­dictable, and for a ve­hi­cle of this size the in­te­rior is — at least up front — roomy and com­fort­able.

Five mod­els are avail­able with a wide va­ri­ety of op­tions and trim, be­gin­ning with the base LX-2WD start­ing at $20,690, all the way up to the AWD EX-L Navi, which starts at $29,990.

With a price as tested of $26,085, the LX tester fea­tured a host of great op­tions, in­clud­ing the near-manda­tory in Man­i­toba all-wheel-drive and bun warm­ers. It also prom­ises to de­liver ex­cel­lent fuel consumption.

When you add it all up, the HR-V is a wel­come ad­di­tion to the Honda fam­ily — and will surely be a hot seller.



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