New Car Review

2016 Honda HR-V: New Car Review

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author photo by Autotrader April 2015

The 2016 Honda HR-V marks a new chapter in the coveted Honda history book, combining the compact and economical dimensions of the Honda Fit into a capable little crossover utility vehicle (CUV) with an eye-catching design. Smaller than the CR-V, the HR-V exists to do battle with the Jeep Renegade, FIAT 500X, Chevy Trax, Nissan Juke and Mazda CX-3. To its credit, Honda has considered each of these wildly different competitors and built a little bit of each into the HR-V's DNA. The result is a sporty, attractive CUV that's highly versatile and fuel efficient yet also well equipped and comfortable. All-wheel drive (AWD) is an option, and Honda even offers a manual transmission on front-wheel-drive (FWD) models.

The HR-V isn't the most powerful compact crossover in its class, but it has more than enough power to keep up with traffic, and its fuel economy rating of 35 miles per gallon on the highway should be music to the frugal driver's ears. The HR-V also features a number of clever storage options, such as the flip-up Magic Seat that allows expanded access to the rear seat's flat floor. If that isn't enough to convince young buyers, Honda has priced the HR-V under $20,000, an attractive figure for a crossover of any kind.

What's New for 2016?

The HR-V is an all-new vehicle.

What We Like

Coupelike styling; clever rear Magic Seat and spacious cargo bay; excellent fuel economy; available manual transmission; LaneWatch side blind-zone view; abundant standard features

What We Don't

Engine could do with more power; front-seat legroom is lacking for taller drivers; limited rear-seat headroom and legroom; muted color choices; not a fan of touch controls for the audio and ventilation

How Much?

$19,995-$27,000

Fuel Economy

The 2016 Honda HR-V is powered by a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine good for 141 horsepower and 127 lb-ft of torque. Front-wheel-drive models come standard with a 6-speed manual transmission and earn an Environmental Protection Agency estimate of 25 mpg in the city and 34 mpg hwy, or 28 mpg in combined driving. Adding the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) brings those figures up to 28 mpg city/35 mpg hwy, or 31 mpg combined. Toss in AWD, and the HR-V returns an impressive 27 mpg city/32 mpg hwy, good for 29 mpg combined.

Standard Features & Options

The HR-V is offered in three trim levels: LX, EX and EX-L with Navigation. AWD is available on all trims, while a 6-speed manual transmission is offered on the front-drive LX and EX trims.

The HR-V LX ($19,995) features a 6-speed manual transmission, 17-inch alloy wheels, a rearview camera, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, cruise control, power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, Bluetooth, steering-wheel audio controls, a 160-watt 4-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo with a USB input, auto-off headlights, front and rear 12-volt outlets, a rear wiper/washer, a 60/40-split second-row Magic Seat and carpeted floor mats. An available CVT automatic adds $800 to the base price.

The HR-V LX AWD ($22,045) adds CVT automatic and all-wheel drive.

The HR-V EX ($22,045) includes a 6-speed manual transmission, a 7-in touchscreen audio display, LaneWatch, a 180-watt 6-speaker stereo, Pandora radio compatibility, heated front seats, a power moonroof, Smart Entry with push-button start, auto on/off headlights, fog lights, a multiangle rearview camera, a second USB jack, SMS text messaging, automatic climate control, rear privacy glass, heated body-colored side mirrors and additional chrome interior trim pieces.

The HR-V EX AWD ($24,095) adds CVT automatic and all-wheel drive.

The HR-V EX-L with Navigation ($25,470 FWD; $26,720 AWD) adds leather seats, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob, navigation, SirusXM radio, HD Radio, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and roof rails.

As is typical with Honda, there are only a few dealer-installed options for each trim.

Safety

The HR-V comes with a nice complement of safety equipment, including standard anti-lock brakes, electronic traction and stability control and a full set of airbags (front, side, and front and rear side-curtain). Also standard are Brake Assist and Hill Start Assist, an Expanded View driver's mirror and a tire-pressure monitor. Honda expects the HR-V to sail through its crash tests, earning a 5-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and a Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, including a Good rating in the rigorous small-overlap frontal crash test.

Behind the Wheel

After spending a day behind the wheel of the HR-V, I've come away with mixed feelings. From a handling standpoint, the car is great fun. It corners well, turns on a dime and is fairly quiet at highway speeds. However, I found myself wishing for a bit more power when merging or passing. The CVT automatic does its best to make the most of the engine's 141 hp and 127 lb-ft of torque, but in truth there's just not that much power to work with. The 6-speed manual helps milk a bit more oomph from the little 1.8-liter engine, but I know that the take rate for the manual will be low. Still, I tip my hat to Honda for offering it not only on the base model but on the EX trim, too.

Visibility is only average, due in part to the swept-up side beltline, but Honda's cool LaneWatch blind spot monitoring system helps alleviate some of the anxiety associated with changing lanes. The system works quite ingeniously, activating a small camera mounted on the passenger-side mirror and displaying its image on the center-console view screen. The HR-V's interior is comfortable and well organized, with numerous configurations for carrying passengers and cargo. Less impressive are the touch controls for the audio and heating/cooling systems. It's a personal preference, but I find knobs and switches easier to locate and operate, especially when the vehicle is traveling at high speed. Having to stare at a panel and then tap, tap, tap to achieve what can be quickly accomplished with a simple rotary knob can be both annoying and distracting.

Other Cars to Consider

2015 Jeep Renegade -- The Renegade offers more power and features, as well as real off-road ability. But the Jeep costs quite a bit more than the HR-V, and Jeep's repair and reliability record can't hold a candle to Honda.

2016 Mazda CX-3 -- The CX-3 offers similar dimensions but with a sportier exterior and much nicer interior. The CX-3 also offers more hp and torque, although it doesn't offer a manual transmission.

2015 Nissan JUKE -- The turbocharged JUKE is much more fun to drive and quicker than the HR-V, but the JUKE's cargo area is much smaller than the HR-V, as is its back seat.

Used Kia Soul -- A 2012-2014 Kia Soul offers more cargo and rear-seat room, and even used, it offers the same 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty as a new HR-V. The Soul doesn't offer AWD, however, and its fuel economy is not as good.

Autotrader's Advice

Our choice would be the front-drive HR-V EX. For under $23,000, you'll get all the features you really need and then some. We know there'll be few takers for the manual-transmission models, but it really is the most enjoyable configuration, so long as your daily drive doesn't involve hours and hours of traffic. An extra $800 will get you the CVT automatic, which also nets better fuel economy.

Find a Honda HR-V for sale

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.
2016 Honda HR-V: New Car Review - Autotrader