New HR-V welcome addition to the Honda family
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.