Driven

Fitting In: 2016 Honda HR-V

The Honda HR-V is an all-new market entry for Honda. It’s based on the fun and well-put-together Fit, which we drove earlier this year. The question isn’t whether or not Honda packaged the HR-V well enough to sell, but rather if the HR-V is as fun as the little Fit, or something else all together. We brought the HR-V with us on a family trip to the coast of New Hampshire – all 11 miles of it – and back. The Honda would be our four-day partner to the coast and at the beach. Would it fit in?

Honda HRV 3

At Limited Slip Blog, we care about how a car drives. We care about the involvement and engagement behind the wheel. Our HR-V tester was a top-trim EX-L AWD. Unfortunately, the manual transmission isn’t offered with AWD. Immediately, the lack of involvement compared to the Fit was a demerit against the HR-V. Before we even arrived at our hotel, we noticed another. After two hours with the HR-V, you begin to notice how loud it is. There’s an audible drone from the car as the engine churns away at 75mph above 2,000 RPM. Not only does this make the car loud, it also doesn’t help fuel efficiency. No matter how hard you try, you can never make the CVT feel like an automatic and there simply wasn’t another “gear” to choose. Honda pairs the 1.8L 4-cylinder from the Civic with the HR-V, and it is fairly sluggish. Flooring of the pedal causes a spike in RPMs that remains until you achieve your desired velocity. If you’re looking for 60mph, you’ll have to wait until roughly ten seconds. Granted, your choice of transmission will do little to influence that time, but you’ll have something to do other than stare expectantly at the speedometer.

Honda HRV 6

By the time we reached our destination, we had roughly 175 miles under our belts with the HR-V. One thing that we were thankful for was the excellent ergonomics of the well-thought-out interior. Honda really has put some thought into it. The excellent placement of armrests on the door and matching center console height prevent any arm or shoulder discomfort on long trips. As we found in the Civic Si, the touch screen is one of the best we’ve used. The navigation was always correct, and even adjusted the ETA correctly at intervals along the trip for rest stops. The only frustration that we had was using the touch screen climate control interface. Dials and knobs are still the best way to go here, and Honda’s interface was sometimes clumsy in that regard. Multiple nifty storage compartments underneath the center console provided easy USB and 12V outlet access as well as storage for assorted items.

Rear seat room and cargo room are top of the class. We packed all of our extended-weekend beach-getaway fixings as had leftover space to bring other people’s beach chairs without even have to re-pack. Flat-folding rear seats, with the help of seat bottoms that flip up out of the way, allow for carrying larger items like coolers much easier. We would easily pick the HR-V as the most well-though-out interior to date that we’ve driven, even outclassing the nifty Fit and edging out the mindful Toyota Highlander. The interior’s use of soft touch plastics was evident in the dashboard’s softer feel.

Honda HRV 1

The Achilles heel with the HR-V, though, has to be the drive. The steering is vague and doesn’t really possess any feel whatsoever. The suspension is excellent at coping with unwelcome bumps, but doesn’t hold the high-riding HR-V very stable. Body roll is evident the second you turn the wheel. Cornering in the HR-V turned out to be something of a chore. Also, the elevated seating position proves slightly awkward with the rake of the front windshield. When attempting a relatively sporty maneuver, you get the sense you might just fall out of your seat. We had higher hopes for the HR-V’s drivability after the Fit’s chassis proved to be surprisingly fun. But with nearly 400 extra pounds and higher center of gravity, the HR-V let us down. While drivability is important to us, hindsight leads us to believe that it probably isn’t a reason people shop the CUV segment.

Honda HRV 5

HR-V is a compelling choice for anyone in the market for a CUV. It’s more practical than the Civic, puts you higher off the ground than the Fit, and offers all-season traction from the optional AWD system. The market is soaring and the HR-V is currently running away with it. Their sales are skyrocketing and some dealerships even have a wait-list for the higher trim variants. We think though, if you’re not solely focused on stuff-it space, and practicality – if you care about the drive – there may be an some competitors in the growing CUV space that do things just a bit better.

-Scott Villeneuve

2016 Honda EX-L AWD
$25,840
Destination Charges $900
As Tested MSRP $26,740

Related:
Escape: 2014 Honda Civic Si
Better, Not Bigger: 2015 Honda Fit

Categories: Driven, Honda, Scott Villeneuve

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