Honda jumps into subcompact SUV segment with sprightly HR-V

The HR-V is a new vehicle from Honda for 2016, sitting between the larger CR-V and the subcompact Fit.

2016 Hondra HR-V

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The first thought that might occur to you after driving Honda’s new HR-V crossover is simply this:

Honda, what took you so long?

Slotted nicely between the Japanese automaker’s popular CR-V, which has been around since the late 1990s, and the subcompact Fit, introduced as a 2007 model, the HR-V offers more in the way of interior space, especially in cargo capacity, than the Fit but in a package consumers may find more suitable to their needs or budget than the CR-V. The CR-V is larger and costs a bit more than the HR-V, which in its top-of-the-line EX-L Navi trim with all-wheel drive carries an MSRP of $25,840. The similarly equipped AWD CR-V EX-L Navi is about $5,000 more.

Introduced as a 2016 model, the HR-V also comes in LX and EX trims with the former serving as the base and checking in with a price tag of under $20,000.

The HR-V comes with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that is rated at 130 horsepower at 6600 rpm and 114 pound-feet of torque at 4600 rpm. Those are not particularly eye-popping numbers, of course, but are adequate for what you expect in the segment.

The HR-V comes in two-wheel or all-wheel-drive configurations. A six-speed manual transmission is offered only in two-wheel-drive models and is standard in LX and EX trims. A continuously variable transmission is standard in the EX-L Navi edition and available as an option on other trims.

The CVT detracts from the overall driving dynamics and magnifies the dulling effect of those low power numbers, but it does have a sport mode that keeps revs higher than usual for more immediate throttle response, plus there are paddle shifters on the EX-L Navi (available on the EX) that allow the driver to simulate manual gear selection.

The benefit to the CVT is that it does produce slightly better fuel economy numbers. With 2WD models, the figures are 28 miles-per-gallon city, 35 highway and 31 overall and with 4WD they are 27/32/29. For the manual models, the numbers are 25/34/28.

Big in the HR-V’s favor is its looks and interior features. The exterior has a sleek profile and rear door handles have been incorporated into the C pillar, making for a cleaner line overall.

Inside, the HR-V has a roomy feel and generous use of soft-touch materials give the cabin a distinctive atmosphere often lacking in the class. Leather seats are standard on the EX-L Navi trims, cloth for LX and EX models. EX and EX-L Navi models get standard heated seats in front.

The back is surprisingly roomy for its segment as well without encroaching on the rear cargo space. The HR-V also features what Honda calls its MagicSeat in the rear, allowing for storage of more vertical items. Appropriately, it was introduced on the Fit.

There is also a pretty generous offering of standard features in the HR-V, especially in the two higher trims. All models get the Bluetooth hands-free phone system, a rearview camera, cruise control, illuminated steering wheel controls (cruise, audio, phone on LX and EX, those three plus navigation on EX-L Navi), 12-volt power outlets in the first and second rows, rear-seat heater ducts, and active safety systems that include vehicle stability assist, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, and a collection of airbags that include side curtain bags with rollover sensor.

Naturally, EX and EX-L Navi models get upgraded features with the most intriguing Honda’s LaneWatch system. When the right turn signal is activated, the 7-inch monitor switches from whatever is being displayed to give a broad view of roadway on the passenger side. It shows any cars or vehicles such as motorcycles that may be approaching from one or two lanes to the right and lets the driver know when it is clear to switch lanes make a turn.

It certainly is not something you expect to find in a vehicle in this segment and is well worth stepping up in class to get.

For a look at the HR-V EX-L Navi model and some specs, check out the slide show.

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