Car Reviews

2023 Honda HR-V First Drive Review: Competitively contradictory

STEVENSON, Wash. — When the Honda HR-V arrived on the scene, you solely wanted one hand to rely its subcompact SUV opponents. In truth, it helped set up the thought of the subcompact SUV within the first place. Since then, the variety of opponents has swelled a lot that it spawned a brand new subset of “midcompact” decisions sized in between subcompacts just like the HR-V and compacts just like the CR-V. These embody the Kia Seltos, Mazda CX-30, Volkswagen Taos and now the second-generation 2023 Honda HR-V.

Its size swells from 170.4 to 179.8 inches. That’s sufficient to eclipse all these midcompacts whereas nonetheless staying away from the CR-V and different compacts. It’s additionally a substantial 2.6 inches wider. These aren’t incremental features – they’re indicative of a car transferring up a category. If you have a look at the primary and second generations collectively in profile, it’s apparent how a lot of a change has occurred.

If you have a look at the inside dimensions, nonetheless, issues get bizarre. That’s as a result of the car it replaces was bizarre. The previous-generation HR-V shared the Honda Match’s distinctive packaging, which positioned the fuel tank underneath the entrance seats, thereby decreasing the rear ground. That elevated cargo area and flexibility, and created a tall, chair-like rear seating place. Principally, you’d have plentiful legroom although you’d be sitting awfully near the entrance seats. That’s not the case. The specs might say the outdated HR-V had extra legroom than the brand new one (and than a RAV4, for goodness’ sake), however that’s misleading. The brand new HR-V, with its longer wheelbase, has a again seat that feels bigger and that provides class-competitive legroom at 37.7 inches. The seat is decrease to the bottom, although, which means you may have much less under-thigh assist.

The weirdness continues within the cargo space. The specs say the quantity is successfully the identical at 24.4 cubic-feet, however this time, the real-world nod goes to the outdated HR-V (above, left). Sure, the cargo space is wider now, however the increased ground and a extra sloped roofline are prone to scale back general usefulness. Some intelligent engineering, not less than, permits the brand new HR-V’s again seat to fold flat nonetheless (an additional set of hinges strikes the seat backside ahead and down into the footwell).

Principally, to wrap this up, the 2023 HR-V is a extra typical crossover SUV that won’t squeeze as a lot inside area and flexibility out of its footprint as its predecessor, but it surely’s truly one of many extra spacious in its midcompact section. And by not sharing its underpinnings with the Match, the brand new HR-V is transferring up on this planet in different methods.

Its multi-link rear suspension is successfully borrowed from the present Honda CR-V versus the extra rudimentary torsion beam rear of the outdated HR-V/Match. This improves the journey, settles down the again finish whereas cornering and supplies a extra substantial, refined driving really feel. Rising the quantity of inside sound deadening makes an enormous distinction on that entrance as properly, placing inside noise ranges on par with the present CR-V. That’s not the quietest automobile on the planet, nonetheless, and neither is that this HR-V.

A lot of the entrance suspension and steering is introduced over from the brand new Honda Civic, together with quite a few different parts. Key dimensions are curiously comparable as properly, together with size, legroom and hatchback cargo area. To say that the brand new HR-V is “based mostly on the Civic,” as I admittedly do within the accompanying video, just isn’t completely correct. Whereas it definitely shares elements, there’s simply as a lot of the present CR-V in there, and there’s undoubtedly much less of a similarity with the Match than the outgoing HR-V had. Why does this matter? It in all probability doesn’t, however the Civic connection not less than speaks to the HR-V extra clearly aligning with Honda’s time-honored compact automobile. A lot because the Mazda CX-30 is the taller, SUV-ish model of the Mazda 3, so too is the HR-V now the taller, SUV-ish model of the Civic.

That time is finest illustrated inside. Whereas the excessive, “floating” heart console lined in soft-touch pleather is a nod to the outgoing automobile, the remaining is in step with the Civic. That’s nice information, as a result of it successfully means the 2023 HR-V equally boasts a cool-looking cabin with supplies and development which might be properly above common. The obvious Civic cue is the wheel-to-door air vent plated by a metal-look honeycomb sample. There might come a day when Honda overuses this design component however, for now, it’s distinctive.

The touchscreens above, accessible in 7- or 9-inch sizes, are shared with the Civic, and are exponentially higher than the outgoing HR-V’s gradual, convoluted and just-plain-old touchscreen. Oh, and it has a quantity knob and shortcut buttons now. Three USB-A ports reside within the heart console, and the range-topping EX-L trim stage will get wi-fi charging to go along with its newfound Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality. Wired variations come commonplace.    

Security and driver help options enhance in quantity and enhance in execution. The usual adaptive cruise management and lane-keeping help methods have been upgraded from their relatively elementary predecessors, together with added stop-and-go capabilities and a brand new digicam system that additionally helps the ahead collision warning/emergency braking system detect pedestrians and cyclists. A driver inattention warning system can also be now included, whereas the EX-L features additional entrance sonar sensors for improved low-speed braking prevention (your storage wall ought to admire that). And will the protection tech not be sufficient, the brand new HR-V features entrance knee and rear aspect airbags.

Different key upgrades contain the entrance seats. First, transferring the fuel tank to the place it normally resides (towards the rear of the car) permits for a surprisingly low seating place up entrance with considerably better seat adjustment. Anybody of above-average peak ought to now match comfortably, although the decrease seating place might not ship that “commanding” view of the highway some search. The seats themselves have additionally been redesigned (or extra precisely, introduced over from the Civic), and supply better assist all through the physique.

One other carryover from the Civic is the engine, however, sadly, not the one we’d favor. The 2023 HR-V comes solely with the Civic’s base 2.0-liter naturally aspirated inline-four that produces 158 horsepower and 138 pound-feet of torque. That could be up from 141 hp and 127 lb-ft of the earlier era, however that’s an awfully low bar to clear. It was gradual earlier than, and it’s gradual now with a dearth of low-end grunt (max torque arrives at a lofty 4,200 rpm). Lay into the throttle and nothing actually occurs, which is in distinction to opponents’ punchy little turbo engines. Heck, even the bottom Subaru Crosstrek engine has extra torque than the HR-V.

And no, the 2023 HR-V doesn’t provide the Civic’s accessible 1.5-liter turbocharged inline-four that produces 180 hp and 177 lb-ft. That also wouldn’t be as much as the bottom Mazda CX-30 or Ford Bronco Sport engines, but it surely’d be within the ballpark, together with the Subaru Crosstrek and Kia Seltos non-obligatory upgrades. The query have to be requested, then: why is that turbo engine not not less than accessible on the HR-V?

Based on senior product planner Quincy Tam, it comes all the way down to demographics and present buyer expectations. First, the turbocharged Civic trim ranges usually tend to be bought by male consumers, whereas about 70% of consumers within the HR-V’s section are feminine. Maybe that component is expounded to the following bit, maybe not. Both manner, analysis teams indicated that present and potential consumers have been on the lookout for “adequate energy with out waste.” Price is a priority, they usually don’t need to pay for one thing they aren’t going to make use of. Tam and his workforce requested if analysis group individuals needed extra energy, and have been stunned to search out that they didn’t. Apparently, HR-V consumers are totally different from Crosstrek consumers, since Subaru researchers discovered the precise reverse.

One can assume, then, that potential consumers shouldn’t have any difficulty with the usual CVT, particularly because it behaves extra like a traditional transmission now with simulated gear modifications. There’s notably much less droning. The Sport and Low transmission modes do an honest job of engine braking when going downhill, and Sport will even elevate revs a bit when braking right into a nook. Sadly, when going uphill, the Sport mode persistently drops the engine all the way down to round 3,500 rpm everytime you elevate off the throttle (versus recognizing that revs ought to stay increased), leading to a irritating yo-yo impact. Paddle shifters would counter this, however no cube – they’re not accessible.

As such, the HR-V’s powertrain continues to be a draw back. Even when consumers don’t care, the disparity stays, and though its gas financial system of 27 or 28 mpg mixed (relying on drivetrain) is commendable, different extra highly effective entries within the section match or surpass it. And by the way in which, the turbo Civic will get higher gas financial system than the two.0-liter.

Past the powertrain, the driving expertise is impressively refined for the section. Maybe it’s the assorted CR-V bits and items, but it surely does have a extra substantial, refined really feel. Physique roll is saved in first rate verify and the steering is persistently weighted with commendable response. The ratio is noticeably slower than the Civic’s, although, and dealing by means of a winding mountain highway required only a bit extra turning angle than anticipated. There’s undoubtedly a extra participating and sporty model lurking inside ought to the analysis teams decide such a factor needs to be unleashed.

Ditto out of doors journey functionality. Floor clearance measures solely 7 inches, and there are not any roof rails accessible. If you wish to mount one thing on the roof, you’ll want particular window-mounted “toes” to safe the crossbars. These are extra difficult and troublesome to make use of, and will simply as simply be popped on a Civic. The advertising and marketing story for this automobile entails younger homeowners leaving the town for weekend adventures, but it surely’ll require extra effort to take action with the HR-V than many opponents. Maybe there’s a TrailSport lurking inside as properly.

For now, although, that is the HR-V that exists. It’s a extra substantial and refined SUV with improved options all through and a beautiful inside. It could not possess magic inside packaging, but it surely’s nonetheless one of many roomiest entries in its section. Beginning at $24,895, together with vacation spot, and topping out at $30,195 for an AWD EX-L, it’s additionally competitively priced, aligning carefully with the Kia Seltos and Subaru Crosstrek. Principally, it is a secure and good choice with few dangerous habits that nonetheless lacks a defining area of interest corresponding to being particularly outdoorsy, sporty, fashionable or family-friendly. Whether or not that makes it well-rounded or mid-pack might be within the eye of the beholder.  

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