Wednesday, January 13, 2016

2016 Honda HR-V EX-L NAVI: The Introverted Subcompact CUV

2016 Honda HR-V EX-L

The HR-V is a bit of an introvert. It's got AWD capability, it's comfortable, and it's solidly built. But it just doesn't say much. You're at the school dance and there's that guy/gal sitting down who is smart, moderately attractive, but just doesn't seem to have much of a personality—that's the HR-V.

To put it in more automotive terms, if the Jeep Renegade Trailhawk is on one side of the subcompact CUV spectrum (the extrovert and rugged off-road type), and the Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring is on the other side of the spectrum (a smooth, edgy on-road handler), the Honda HR-V is pretty much in the middle. In other words, it's not something you'd necessarily want to flog off the pavement, and isn't the one you'd want at the autocross. The HR-V, which is based on the subcompact Fit chassis, is essentially an AWD Fit—complete with Honda's Magic Seats—but with a softer suspension and more power. It is, perhaps, the Goldilocks of the group, which resides in the middle of the subcompact CUV personality spectrum.

2016 Honda HR-V in the dirt
Ever wonder what HR-V stands for? Apparently it's Hi-rider Revolutionary Vehicle. The HR-V name has actually been around since 1999 when it was sold in Asian markets as a compact SUV. Production ended for the 2006 model year. But for 2016, HR-V was revived, this time as a subcompact crossover, which is sold as the Honda Vezel in Japan, in case you were wondering, which you likely weren't.

HR-Vs destined for the North American market are assembled in Celaya, Mexico, and thus far, the HR-V has been a hit in the U.S. selling more than 47,000 units since it went on sale less than a year ago. In fact, its success is one reason why the Honda Fit was in short supply; the factory apparently couldn't keep up with demand for both models.

The HR-V is powered by a 1.8-liter SOHC engine making 141 hp and 127 lb/ft of torque, which is very similar to the mill found in the 2012–2015 Honda Civic. That power is put through a CVT and put to all four wheels.

Speaking of power, the HR-V didn't feel very powerful to me. I thought it'd be more spunky than it was, but instead, the car felt somewhat lumbering and larger than it was. There's no turbocharged power, like the Jeep Renegade, Nissan Juke, Chevrolet Trax, or Buick Encore. That's not to say it is much slower, however. It wasn't a total slouch, but it just didn't have the giddy-up that I thought it would. Maybe the CVT simply sucked out the excitement, as so many CVTs can do. That being said, the car cruised comfortably both around town and on the highways. The ride was admirable and the car soaked up bumps very well. Plus, it was quiet. Hey, I said it was an introvert.

2016 Honda HR-V in the dirt - rear

I did take the HR-V on some waterlogged unimproved roadways during a very soggy period of weather here in Portland, and in the dirt and water, the HR-V never felt like it was in any danger of being stuck. Now, granted, I didn't really put it through any off-road tests, but this did give me an idea of how the AWD system would react in slick situations, and it seemed fine, especially with the traction control off. And no, these were not roads I would've taken a two-wheel drive car through.  

The HR-V's exterior has a subtle sportiness to it. There's a bit of a rake to the stance, and some of its design elements are interesting. It doesn't have a rugged look like the Renegade, but it's also not racy like the CX-3. It is, however, less rolly polly than the Chevrolet Trax or Buick Encore. There are subtleties I like, such as the rear door handles, which are integrated into the black area behind the windows. I am not, however, a fan of the silver roof rails. Take some Krylon to those things, for God's sake. 

2016 Honda HR-V touchscreen

On the inside, the HR-V looks classic Honda: minimal, refined, and tidy. Our tester was equipped with leather-trimmed heated seats, a leather steering wheel, and the 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system. That system isn't my favorite; I've dealt with it in the Civic before. Every function is on the touchscreen, and every function seems to take two steps. The audio did, however, sound above average, once you get to the screen you need. Frankly, if you're not a fan of touchscreens, you'll hate this interior. Just about everything is a touchscreen, and that includes the HVAC, which requires lots of tapping and sliding to increase/decrease temperature, change vents, and anything else you'd like to do. I found it frustrating to use, especially with leather gloves on.

One of the neater features some of the new Hondas have is the waterfall-style center console, which has a passthrough and houses the USB, 12V, and HDMI inputs. Although this isn't a groundbreaking feature, I still think it's a neat design novelty. I also like the way the air vents are positioned on the passenger side dashboard. Oh, and there wasn't as squeak or rattle to be had; very solid. 

Spacialy, the HR-V fits in that just-right size, at least for me. The front area is very roomy and has lots of cubbies and places to put things. In the rear seat, legroom is OK, although not exactly vast. The cargo area behind the rear seats has plenty of space for whatever you'd put there, be it groceries, gardening supplies, a family of racoons, or maybe a pit bike. How the hell do I know what you'll put there?

2016 Honda HR-V rear 3/4

Our HR-V tester model had a sticker price of $26,720 including destination. For me, it's a bit on the steeper side of things.Yes, there are more expensive choices out there, such as the aforementioned Renegade Trailhawk or Fiat 500X (that is, when fully optioned out), or a MINI Countryman, but for $26,000, there are a lot of other more interesting choices out there. If you're a Hondaphile, then perhaps you wouldn't have an issue with the price.

When it comes down to brass tacks, the HR-V is a solid, middle-of-the-road choice. That's not to say the car itself is mediocre, but its personality is. Not too rugged, not too sporty; not that exciting. But the HR-V is built well and engineered well; it's very Honda.

The HR-V wasn't one of those cars that I just couldn't wait to drive. Perhaps I wanted more personality. Renegade, CX-3, Juke, even the Subaru Crosstrek—all have a distinct personality. Perhaps Honda needs to do something to the HR-V to make it a bit more interesting, a bit more of an extrovert. Then again, not everyone is looking for an extrovert.

MSRP As Tested: $26,720
Engine: 1.8-liter SOHC i-VTEC four cylnder
Transmission: CVT
Horsepower: 141
Torque: 127 lb/ft
Curb Weight: 3,109 lbs.
Wheelbase: 101.2
Overall Length: 169.1"
Suspension: F: MacPherson Struts
R: Torsion Beam
Brakes: F: Disc w/ABS
R: Disc w/ABS
Wheels: 17x7.5 alloy
Tires: 215/55/17 All-Season
Fuel Economy (MPG): 27 city, 29 combined, 32 highway
Fuel Type: Regular 87 octane

Honda HR-V Interior

Honda HR-V rear door handle

Honda HR-V Cargo Area

Honda HR-V Dash Waterfall


nlpnt said...

All I can see is how little a buyer gets for the extra money and much they give up in handling and versatility (no Magic Seats? Didn't know that) compared to a Fit.

Andy Lilienthal said...

nlpnt - that was an error on my part. The HR-V actually DOES have magic seats. I have since corrected the article.

Unknown said...

Boring looks. And I heard you can't get a stuck with AWD. Too much money for a raised average quality Fit.