If you’re looking for information on a newer Honda HR-V, we’ve published an updated review: 2019 Honda HR-V Review
For those seeking a small SUV on the outside but a big SUV on the inside, the 2018 Honda HR-V is going to be your best bet. For a reasonable price and with reasonable exterior dimensions for easier parking and maneuverability, the HR-V boasts passenger and cargo space that matches or betters far larger vehicles. The secret to this success is its so-called "Magic Seat," borrowed from Honda’s Fit, which flips its seat bottom up or folds completely flat into the floor. The result is class-leading space and versatility.
Beyond that, the HR-V stands out from the growing number of sub-compact SUVs with superior fuel economy, a well-made cabin and Honda’s excellent reliability reputation. However, there are possible drawbacks to consider. For starters, the HR-V is very slow, and you don’t need a lead foot to notice — even for this rather sluggish segment. Its touchscreen is also a constant source of frustration, as the HR-V hasn’t been updated with the newer interfaces found in other Hondas. And speaking of other Hondas, there’s now so much value in a base CR-V that it’s hard to make a case for pricier versions of its little brother.
What’s New for 2018?
The HR-V is unchanged for 2018, apart from new wheel designs and a new blue color available on some trim levels. See the 2018 Honda HR-V models for sale near you
What We Like
Clever rear "Magic Seat" yields superior cargo space and versatility; spacious back seat for its segment; excellent fuel economy; available manual transmission; abundant standard features
What We Don’t
Very slow; front-seat legroom is lacking for taller drivers; frustrating touchscreen controls; mediocre safety ratings
The 2018 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 miles per gallon in the city, 33 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg in combined driving. Adding the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) brings those figures up to 28 mpg city/34 mg hwy/31 mpg combined. Toss in all-wheel drive, and the HR-V returns a still-impressive 27 mpg city/31 mpg hwy/29 mpg combined. All of these are among the best in the HR-V’s segment.
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.
The HR-V LX ($19,700) features 17-inch alloy wheels, a rearview camera, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, Honda’s 60/40-split rear "Magic Seat," Bluetooth and a 4-speaker sound system with a CD player, a USB port and a media player interface.
The HR-V EX ($21,700) adds a sunroof, automatic headlights, foglights, rear privacy glass, keyless entry with push-button start, heated mirrors, automatic climate control, heated front seats, Honda’s LaneWatch blind spot camera, a 6-speaker sound system, an extra USB port, HondaLink smartphone apps and a 7-in touchscreen interface.
The HR-V EX-L with Navigation ($25,100) adds roof rails, leather seats, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob, a navigation system integrated into the touchscreen, satellite and HD radios and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
As is typical with Honda, there are only a few dealer-installed options for each trim.
The 2018 HR-V comes standard with anti-lock brakes, electronic traction and stability control and a full set of airbags (front, side and full-length side-curtain). Although Honda’s LaneWatch blind spot camera is available, there are no accident avoidance tech features like lane-departure warning and frontal-collision automatic braking available. Several competitors do offer such equipment, including the new Toyota C-HR that comes standard with them.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the HR-V 5-star ratings for overall and side crash safety, along with a 4-star rating for frontal crash safety. The non-profit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave it surprisingly disappointing ratings for a recently introduced car. Though it got Good marks in the moderate overlap front, side and roof strength tests, it only got the second-best rating of Acceptable in the small-overlap front crash tests. Its headlights were also deemed poor.
Behind the Wheel
Quite simply, the Honda HR-V needs more power. Its 141 hp is not only an insufficient amount, but most of it only shows up high in the rev range, meaning it feels even slower than advertised. The CVT automatic does its best to keep it in that rev range, but doing so causes a lot of racket — especially when merging onto the highway and/or when you’re loaded up with people and luggage. Opting for the manual transmission fixes this a bit, but we acknowledge few will actually do so. This lack of oomph is disappointing, since the HR-V can otherwise be surprisingly fun behind the wheel. It corners well, turns on a dime and, once up to speed, road and wind noise are reasonably hushed.
The HR-V’s interior is a bit of a mixed bag. Its "Magic Seat" lives up to its name in regards to cargo space and versatility. Nothing in the segment comes close to it. Back seat room is also quite good, with the HR-V being one of the only vehicles in the segment with enough space to hold a rear-facing child seat without moving the front seats forward to an uncomfortable degree. Unfortunately, the driver seat doesn’t slide far back enough and is mounted at an uncomfortable angle — even those of average height have complained they couldn’t find a comfortable seating position.
Interior quality is excellent, and the design is far more attractive than what we’ve come to expect from uber-practical Honda. Then again, the center console also isn’t as useful as the Honda norm, and the available touchscreen interface frustrates with its menu structure, response times and lack of a volume knob and physical menu buttons. The one in the bigger and pricier CR-V is substantially better.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Subaru Crosstrek — The Crosstrek is really just a compact hatchback with lots of ground clearance, but that’s not a bad thing. Its range of virtues is comparable to the HR-V.
2018 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’s.
2018 Kia Soul — The Soul certainly can’t match the HR-V’s fuel economy, but it’s more powerful, stylish and spacious. It’s also less expensive and has a longer warranty.
Used Honda CR-V — A new CR-V might not necessarily be out of your price range, but a used one will provide good value, far more space and improved performance at a lower price than a new one. It will likely be the previous-generation model, but that shouldn’t be a deterrent.
Our choice would be the front-drive HR-V EX. For less than $23,000, you’ll get all the features you really need, and then some. Anything more, and you should probably consider stepping up to a larger SUV. Find a Honda HR-V for sale