2016 Honda HR-V: Serving Up New Compact Menu

By Frank A. Aukofer, May 9th, 2015

Like reality television foodies, car companies are formulating new dishes to titillate the taste buds of modern vehicle gourmands. The 2016 Honda HR-V is a tantalizing contender.

strong>Here's the recipe: Take a versatile small hatchback like the Honda Fit, make it pretty with coupe-like exterior styling, spice it with an upscale interior, jack it up slightly for a higher seating position, fold in a bit more power, make all-wheel drive optional, and keep the basic durability and reliability.

The new dish, the 2016 HR-V, arrives at an opportune time when potential customers of compact crossover utility vehicles are salivating to such a point that the category is taking over as the sales volume leader.

In truth, most of these vehicles are little more than traditional four-door hatchbacks or station wagons, taller with more ground clearance, and the availability of AWD. But because that qualifies them as crossover utility vehicles (CUVs) their appeal appears to be irresistible.

A crossover generally is defined as resembling a sport utility vehicle (SUV) but with car-like unit body construction, and front- or all-wheel drive. Traditional SUVs are designed with truck-like body-on-frame construction and rear- or four-wheel drive. For example, the Toyota RAV4 fits the definition of a CUV, while its sibling, the 4Runner, qualifies as an SUV.

Honda does not build an SUV, though it appropriates the term for the HR-V, CR-V, and Pilot. All of its non-sedan vehicles use front- or all-wheel drive with unit bodies -- even its Odyssey minivan and AWD Ridgeline pickup truck.

The HR-V slots neatly between the Fit and the CR-V. The latter has been the biggest selling vehicle of its type for the last decade. All three offer outstanding packaging, with the passenger space of midsize sedans and cargo space ranging from 17 cubic feet for the Fit to 35 cu.-ft. for the CR-V.

Cargo space on the HR-V is 23 cu.-ft. with the back seat up and 59 cu.-ft. with the back seat folded. But the practicality doesn't end there. Like its smaller sibling, the Fit, the HR-V comes equipped with the most versatile seating/cargo setups available.

strong>There are five configurations: Normal, with the back seat up for five passenger seating; split, with the back seat divided between cargo and passengers; tall, in which the rear seat bottoms fold up to facilitate carrying taller items like potted shrubs; utility, which enables carrying a bicycle with the front wheel removed, and long, in which the right front seatback folds to carry a surfboard or stepladder.

In five-passenger mode, the HR-V delivers great head and knee room in the back seat. Even the center rear position, usually horrible in almost any car, is palatable with a flat floor and room for feet.

The 2016 Honda HR-V comes in three trim levels with FWD or AWD: LX starts at $19,995 with a six-speed manual gearbox, the EX starts at $22,845, and the EX-L Navi with leather upholstery and navigation starts at $25,470. Add $800 on the LX and EX models for the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). All others come with the CVT standard. All-wheel drive adds another $1,250.

Basic LX equipment is extensive, including 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels, electric parking brake, rearview camera, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, audio with 5-inch color LCD screen, auto-off headlights, 12-volt power outlets, LED taillights, rear heater ducts, speed-sensitive audio volume control, and power windows and door locks.

EX and EX-L with Navi levels add such items as leather upholstery, heated outside mirrors, automatic headlights, and Honda's Lane Watch system, which displays the outside area to the right rear on the center screen.

But the real bummer is that you have to spend the extra money for the EX-L Navi to get satellite radio. Honda was a pioneer in offering XM radio, and forcing a customer to buy navigation and leather to get satellite and HD radio is an insult.

On the road, the HR-V is a sprightly performer with decent acceleration with either the positive-shifting six-speed manual or the CVT transferring power from the 147-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, rated at 29 mpg overall. The steering has a solid feel and the handling is capable and secure.

Anyone would buy the new Honda HR-V for its versatility, but it goes beyond just being functional; it also delivers comfort and style.

Specifications

Base price $22,845 (as tested: $24,095)
Curb weight 3,094 lbs.
Displacement 1.8-liter
Engine type 16-valve SOHC 4-cyl. w/i-VTEC
Epa mileage rating 28 mpg city, 35 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 13.2 gal.
Horsepower (net) 141 at 6500 rpm
Overall length 169.1 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 127 at 4300 rpm
Transmission CVT
Vehicle type 5-passenger compact FWD CUV
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