REVIEW: 2016 Honda HR-V AWD EX-L – Meet Honda’s Next Huge Hit

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2015-07-20 16.45.18

Honda’s next big hit will be the 2016 HR-V.  These things are going to multiply like tribbles.

Honda has been doing great with its Civic, Accord, CR-V, Pilot, and Odyssey.  However, each of those competes in a segment that Toyota and other automakers also do very well in, making it hard to grow sales.  To really grow as a company Honda needs a new breakout product.  Here it is.  This new sub-compact crossover is going to be everywhere you look in the coming months.  Having tested this cute ‘ute in the wilds of suburbia, it is crystal clear that this Honda is going to strike a chord with its target audience, and many other groups who will appreciate its many strong points.  One of which is its great looks.  The photos don’t do this HR-V justice.  In person, this car is a looker.

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First things first.  Although this is a smaller than CR-V crossover, the driver, passenger and rear passenger are not squeezed for space.  I found the HR-V to be very roomy, particularly for my six-foot tall frame’s right leg, which has a habit of being bumped by the center console.  Not in the HR-V.  Honda made space there.  Headroom is also plentiful, and the HR-V has an airy feel with a big glass area, so the vehicle feels open.  Jumping in back after I set the front seat to the spot where I felt comfortable was a big surprise.  I had at least three inches of knee room.  The HR-V’s roominess is impressive.

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The cargo area is not as large as a CR-V or competitors in that size category, but it swallowed up a 4-foot ladder and some tools I needed to transport without any fuss.  The second-row Magic seats not only drop to form a flat floor, but they also fold from the seat bottoms up.  This creates a great space for transporting items like huge TV sets.   The 60-40 split rear seat also means that this vehicle could be used to transport the driver and three peewee hockey players along with sticks and bags to the rink.  Honda did its homework on the packaging of the HR-V.

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The HR-V is powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine with 140 hp.  The engine works well with the constantly variable transmission (CVT).  If you are one of the remaining few that still expects a geared automatic transmission in this class, you can find one, but you’ll be missing out.  The CVT will grow on you to the point were you will think of shifts as an annoyance.  Although not a strong powerplant, the engine gets the job done.  Only when merging on to the highway did I wish for more power.  Floor the HR-V and the sounds are oddly high pitched.  This is not a sports car’s engine.  There is a sport mode on the transmission and it is easy to use.  One simply pulls the gear selector all the way back.  Around town this works wonders.  The engine stays in the power zone of the rev band and the HR-V is zippy.  I learned to use this before a highway merge and it helped.  There are also paddle shifters if you want to put the car into the higher revs yourself.  I love paddle shifters on sports cars with a geared transmission, but on a CVT-equipped low power car they are really window dressing.

One upside to the barely-strong-enough engine is that I saw 32.2 MPG on one tank in mixed suburban and highway driving, and 35.4 MPG on a tank that saw mostly highway miles.  That is much better than the EPA-estimated 27 mpg city/ 32 highway/ 29 MPG combined rating.  Of course, the HR-V uses regular fuel.  Only a dummy would buy an affordable crossover that used premium.

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One area that the HR-V really shines is ride and handling.  What a pleasure this car is to drive.  Yes, car.  The HR-V does not drive at all like an SUV or tall crossover.  It handles alike a good sedan should.  On one trip, I left the highway to avoid traffic and spent about 30 minutes on some great 45 mph country roads.  With the moonroof open and the glass down the HR-V was a great touring car.  The steering is excellent, and the car enjoys corners.   Bumps are also not a bummer, like in so many tight cars.  Rather, the HR-V has that rare combination of sharp, enjoyable handling and also is comfortable on real-life broken up pavement.  Honda nailed the HR-V’s ride.

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The infotainment system of the HR-V was fantastic in all but a couple ways.  First, the audio rocks.  Deep bass, but sharp and crisp mid-range and highs.  The audio also cranks.  Turning the audio up to LOUD does not diminish the sound quality.  This audio would be at home in an Audi costing triple what the HR-V does.  In many vehicles I test, the Sat Rad sounds dull and lifeless, but in the HR-V the XM-radio was outstanding.  So too was the Pandora audio I streamed using the full Pandora integration.  Album art, next track, station listings, and the thumbs up and down all work on the screen.  My iTunes streamed through the easy-to-synch Bluetooth just as well.  What a great system.  Except there is no volume knob.  And the presets are hard to tap because they are touch-screen only, which means you have to aim while not looking at the road.  I would much prefer a tactile volume knob so I could easily turn the volume way up or down quickly, and presets that were indents on the screen I could feel.  The steering wheel has volume and station buttons.  Learn to love them.  The Navigation worked great and used logical menus.

The back-up and side view camera were super.  Honda is out front with the side view camera.  Turn on your blinker and you can see what is to your right.  On Boston’s Rt 128 loop, the numbskulls that fly down the breakdown lane make exiting tricky at rush hour.  The side-view camera was perfect in that scenario.

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My single quibble with Honda’s HR-V is the driver’s seat.  Although covered in leather, heated, and relatively comfy on the back, it lacks power adjustment.  I honestly don’t give a hoot about the power aspect per se, but it means that the seat cushion cannot be angled up in front for thigh support.  As you go up with the manual seat height adjustment lever, it gets worse.  You are sort of tipped forward on the cushion.  This is uncomfortable and seems unsafe (See crash “Submarining”).  How much could a power seat add to the $26,720 that Honda charges for the HR-V’s top trim?

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A friend that spent time in the HR-V with me owns a BMW X-3 and a Honda Fit.  She said, ” I should get one of these next time.”  Her thoughts validated everything Honda hopes to achieve with the HR-V.  She went further.  Being from Europe and visiting there frequently, she offered, “This is the perfect size crossover for Europe.”  She’s right.  And it is also perfect for the Northeastern USA.  Honda’s next huge hit is here.

2016 Honda HR-V AWD EX-L Navi


  • None

Price: $ 26,720 Including Destination


  • Interior Quality
  • Rear Seat Legroom
  • Rear Seats Headrests Drop Out of View
  • Magic Seat Storage Options


  • No Volume Control Knob
  • Front Driver’s Seat Lacks Power, Lumbar Adjustment, and Thigh Support