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2015 Honda CR-V vs. 2016 Honda HR-V: What's the Difference?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro July 2015

If you're interested in buying a compact crossover, you've probably discovered that Honda recently expanded its lineup and now offers two models. While the automaker previously only offered the CR-V, the 2015–2016 model years has seen the addition of the slightly smaller HR-V to the Honda fold. So what's the difference between the 2015 Honda CR-V and the 2016 Honda HR-V? And which one should you get? Our latest article looks at all the key points that separate the two compact crossovers.

Exterior

On the outside, the differences between the CR-V and HR-V are immediately obvious. One difference is size: The HR-V is very clearly smaller than its CR-V stablemate. But there are other styling differences too, including, most obviously, the rear door handle. In the CR-V, the handle is mounted in a normal position on the door, while it's conspicuously located on the C-pillar in the HR-V. Of course, there are some stylistic similarities between the two models -- such as similar front ends and similar sloping rooflines -- but we suspect that you'll have no trouble telling these two SUVs apart when you see them on the street.

Interior

The two crossovers are a lot more similar on the inside, where they share a steering wheel, switchgear, some buttons and roughly the same level of overall material quality. In terms of interior styling, there are a few differences such as the HR-V's giant passenger-side climate control vents and the CR-V's dual-screen setup, which isn't shared by the HR-V. As for overall size, we were surprised to discover the CR-V and HR-V are relatively close in terms of their front interior dimensions, though the HR-V offers noticeably less space in the back and cargo area.

Mechanicals

Both the CR-V and the HR-V offer only one engine, though it's a different powertrain that corresponds to the relative size of each crossover. In the HR-V, it's a 138-horsepower 1.8-liter 4-cylinder, borrowed from the Honda Fit, which can deliver up to 28 miles per gallon in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. Meanwhile, the sole engine in the CR-V is a 185-hp 2.4-liter 4-cylinder, which returns up to 27 mpg city/34 mpg hwy.

Neither the HR-V nor the CR-V is fast, though both SUVs boast excellent fuel mileage. But don't think the HR-V offers much better gas mileage than the CR-V just because it's smaller. The EPA says the two crossovers are just one mpg apart in the city and on the highway.

Features & Technology

Despite their sizing and price differences, the CR-V and the HR-V aren't as far apart as you might think in terms of features and gadgets. On the contrary, both SUVs offer a lot of the same equipment. These items include heated front seats, automatic climate control, a push-button ignition and even Honda's excellent LaneWatch blind spot camera.

With that said, the CR-V boasts a few unique features by virtue of being positioned higher on the Honda totem pole than the HR-V. For instance, only the CR-V offers adaptive cruise control. Likewise, only the CR-V offers a lane-departure warning system, a forward-collision warning system and a power lift gate. So while the HR-V is well-equipped, it can't quite match its CR-V big brother if you're looking for features. As a result, we recommend the CR-V over the HR-V for drivers especially interested in gadgets and equipment.

Driving Experience

Behind the wheel, you'll find more similarities between the CR-V and the HR-V than anywhere else. Sure, the two crossovers offer different styling, different interior touches and a different level of equipment and features -- but on the road, both SUVs boast the same excellent driving experience we've come to expect from most Honda models.

The driving position is roughly the same, for instance, with both vehicles offering a surprisingly commanding look at the road. The same is true for visibility, which is a little better -- but not dramatically so -- in the larger CR-V. Acceleration is certainly a little stronger in the CR-V, though differences may not be obvious to most drivers. Both SUVs offer a smooth ride with comfortable seats and similar interior touch points. They also both return roughly the same fuel economy.

In our opinion, the major difference in terms of driving experience between the CR-V and the HR-V relates to interior room: The CR-V is bigger inside, especially for rear passengers, while the HR-V feels a lot smaller.

Safety

Because it's so new, the HR-V has not yet undergone crash-testing carried out by the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Meanwhile, the CR-V earned a 4-star overall score from NHTSA and a coveted Top Safety Pick+ score from IIHS.

As for safety features, both SUVs come standard with a lot of equipment, such as side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes and a backup camera. But the CR-V trumps its smaller stablemate by offering even more equipment, such as a forward-collision warning system with automatic braking, adaptive cruise control and a lane-departure warning system. We'd like to see those features reach the HR-V, but for now, you have to upgrade to the CR-V to get them.

Because of its (temporary) lack of safety ratings and the CR-V's longer list of safety features, we'd suggest that shoppers especially interested in safety get the CR-V rather than the HR-V. But we're interested to see how the HR-V holds up when it inevitably submits to crash tests in the coming months.

Conclusions

The 2015 Honda CR-V and the 2016 Honda HR-V are both highly impressive crossovers, but we're more impressed by the CR-V. The CR-V offers more equipment, more gadgets, more safety features, more interior room and more cargo space, all while delivering roughly the same fuel economy as its smaller stablemate.

But don't think that we don't like the HR-V. On the contrary, the HR-V is an excellent subcompact crossover -- and it makes sense that it lags behind the CR-V in most key areas, considering that its base price is about $4,000 cheaper. So does the CR-V justify its $4,000 premium? We think so, given its wide range of advantages over the HR-V. Still, drivers on a tight budget may want to stick with the HR-V, as it offers all the benefits of a Honda crossover at a very affordable $20,000 with shipping. For shoppers who can afford to splurge on a CR-V, however, we recommend it.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2015 Honda CR-V vs. 2016 Honda HR-V: What's the Difference? - Autotrader