The subcompact SUV segment is one of the fastest growing in the US market and Honda’s offering is the best selling, If you’re on a budget and value reliability and practicality over all other characteristics, it’s tough to beat the HR-V. It looks good, provides tons of utility, and attains excellent fuel economy. It’s not our favorite subcompact SUV, but we can’t deny its probably the most practical.
The LX trim starts at just over 20k and provides everything you could want out of basic transportation. It sips fuel consciously and won’t spend much time in the shop. It provides good visibility and plenty of room for passengers and equipment. It’s easy to park and practical for everyday driving. There’s a reason more Americans buy this subcompact SUV than any other. What more could you need?
A non-aspirated 1.4 Liter inline 4 cylinder provides the HR-V with 141 hp that shines in its efficiency and reliability. Performance? Not so much. A 10 second trip to sixty makes the HR-V one of the slowest subcompact SUVs on the market. The six speed manual is a bit quicker depending on who’s doing the shifting, not to mention a bit more fun. But fun isn’t an adjective we’d ascribe to the HR-V’s driving dynamics.
The CVT transmission provides better gas mileage on paper, but might not in real world driving where it struggles to find the ratio you need when you need it. If you’re not in a hurry, you can squeeze excellent fuel economy out of this engine with either transmission. And even if you are, fuel economy will exceed much of the competition. The steering and handling are a strong point, the nimble HR-V is easy to manage when driven responsibly. There’s some road noise present, but the ride is otherwise comfortable and composed. The HR-V succeeds in providing a basic level of performance to match its budget price, and its above average fuel economy will save you even more money.
Honda is known for their practical approach to interior design, placing function over form. That’s what you get, an interior that get’s the job done. It’s design will do little to stir emotion, but we’ll forgive them. Why? Well you can get the HR-V LX and EX with a good old fashioned do-it-yourself gearbox that will have you focused on the tach rather than the simulated soft-touch dash with fake stitching. If you eschew the third pedal for the CVT, at least you can add leather that feels a bit more upscale.
The seats rank somewhere near the bottom of the segment, do not get the HR-V if you need lumbar support. If you want a power-adjustable driver’s seat, you better look elsewhere because it’s not available in any trim. Second row space is ample with enough space to accommodate two adults comfortably. We can’t say the same for many subcompact SUVs. The back seats are adjustable and can fold an exceptional eight ways to offer maximum flexibility. Fold the seats down and you get a jaw-dropping 58.8 cubic feet of cargo to haul to your heart's content or haul your heart’s content.
The least functional aspect of the Honda’s design has to be the EX-L trim’s infotainment system. Without so much as a volume knob, operation of even the simplest tasks become chores while driving. Thankfully, the lower trims have easy to use analog controls. Yet another reason to buy lower trims with with or without the left pedal. All things considered, the HR-V’s interior is useful, logical and will suit most driver’s needs.
The HR-V is actually in its third generation, though it’s the first to be sold in the states. Look up pictures of the previous generation if you want to see one ugly SUV. In comparison, the latest generation is an Instagram model. Guess this ugly duckling grew up. The lines run from back to front, becoming narrower as they approach the grill. This is a common theme throughout Honda and Acura design and is both functional and attractive.
Unlike many of the latest Hondas, this one doesn’t receive LED running lights at the front. Honda does treat the tail with modern LED lighting that’s one of the more attractive elements of the design. The HR-V is basically a raised and restyled Honda FIT, and actually, manages to look like more of a “hot hatch “than the FIT. That’s not a bad thing! The hidden rear door handles enhance this impression, giving the HR-V a sports coupe profile. A roof spoiler completes the sporty aesthetic without looking too juvenile. We think it’s pretty good-looking, but there are better-looking SUVs in the segment like the CX-3 and 500x. Let us know what you think in the comments, we know style can be subjective!
From the National Highway Safety Administration, the HR-V received an overall 5-star safety rating, with 4-star ratings in both the frontal crash and rollover tests. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rating is similar. An “Acceptable” rating was given for the side crash test and small overlap front test. In the side crash test, the dummy measured forces that led the testers to believe a pelvic fracture was possible from a crash of that severity. The rear passenger was well protected from any injury. In the small front overlap test, the dummy’s head wasn’t fully protected.
The head makes brief contact with the front airbag before slamming into the A pillar, the readings from the dummy didn’t signify serious head injury. However, the potential for a worse head injury is there if the vehicle were traveling faster. Additionally the IIHS rates this SUV’s headlights as “Poor,” their lowest rating. Given these shortcomings, we’d have to rate the HR-V as acceptable in the safety category. It’s not bad, but not great. If you’re looking for especially safe subcompacts, the Fiat 500x and Buick Encore are worth a look.
The Honda HR-V receives a predicted reliability rating of 3.5 out of 5 from JD Power, implying above average reliability. Consumer Reports awards this SUV a 4 out of 5 reliability rating, indicating reliability that’s better than most. The 2016 HR-V had just 15 Technical Service Bulletins issued which signifies few known problems. Several were issued for window regulators, so don’t be surprised if the power windows fail. The rest were arbitrary. The NHTSA did issue a recall for this model, but it was just for a missing tire placard that tells owners to what pressure they should inflate their tires. There are 33 complaints filed with the NHTSA and most of them are quite fantastical.
Some complaints include spontaneous combustion, spontaneous explosion of the sunroof, and a random brake failure that caused one driver to crash through their garage wall into their laundry room. We’re not sure we trust the authors of these complaints as they sound delusional, and it’s hard to believe a Honda could have such disastrous design flaws. There are multiple complaints of an uncomfortable driver’s seat that causes back pain which may be credible due to multiple cogent accounts, so keep that in mind if you’re prone to back pain. Given the lack of credible complaints of serious problems, we’d rate this Honda as one of the most reliable in the subcompact category. It’s sure to last for years to come as many Hondas do.
The Mazda CX-3 proves practicality can be combined with inspiring design. It’s as beautiful on the inside as it is on the out, something the HR-V can’t claim. Additionally, the handling is a dream. No one expects budget SUVs to be fun to drive, it’s like expecting a motel to have a spa. Mazda makes it driving experience a priority and it shows. Though the performance numbers are about the same as HR-V, the CX-3 feels a whole lot more nimble. The steering inspires confidence and excellent road feel.
The ride is a bit firmer but not uncomfortable. We’d gladly accept the trade off for better handling in the HR-V. The fun factor can partially be contributed to the CX-3’s size. It is smaller after all and its utility suffers as a result. It doesn’t provide near the second row room or cargo carrying capability that the HR-V does. Fuel economy ratings are right on top of each other as well. Ask yourself, how often do you really haul around passenger or cargo? The answer to that question should determine which of these two you choose.
The LX trim has an MSRP of $19,465 and includes a six speed manual transmission, 17in alloy wheels with all season tires, a multi-angle rearview camera, body-colored power side mirrors, LED brake lights, roof spoiler, cruise control, tilt and telescopic steering column, 2 12-volt power outlets, Bluetooth streaming audio, Bluetooth HandsFreeLink, auxiliary input jack, USB port, 5in LCD screen, and 4 speaker 160-watt audio system.
The CVT transmission is available for $800. An All Wheel Drive system is only available with the CVT for $2,100. Machine-finished 17in alloy wheels cost $1,300. Fog lights can be added for $341. The $21,515 EX trim adds auto on/off headlights, fog lights, heated body-colored power mirrors with indicators, smart entry security system, variable intermittent wipers, one-touch power moonroof with tilt feature, rear privacy glass, automatic climate with electrostatic touchscreen, push button start, illuminated vanity mirrors, Honda LaneWatch, heated front seats, dual USB ports, a 6 speaker 180-watt audio system, 7in display audio with high-resolution electrostatic touchscreen with customizable feature settings, HondaLink, Pandora compatibility, and SMS text function. The CVT transmission is available for $800.
An All Wheel Drive system is only available with the CVT for $2,100. Machine-finished 17in alloy wheels cost $1,300. The EX-L Navi trim provides a CVT transmission, Eco Assist system, roof rails, leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather-wrapped shift knob, auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather-trimmed seating, Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System with Voice Recognition14 and Honda HD Digital Traffic, SiriusXM Radio, and HD radio. Machine-finished 17in alloy wheels cost $1,300. All Wheel Drive costs $1,300. Crossbars for the roof rails are an additional $449 A bike attachment for the roof rack can be added for $188.