The 2019 Honda HR-V is the best bet for those seeking to squeeze the most possible interior space out of the smallest exterior SUV package. Though there have been a variety of new competitors introduced in recent years, nothing has come close to matching the HR-V’s rear seat and cargo space. The secret to this packaging wizardry is the appropriately named "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 unmatched versatility.
However, the HR-V wasn’t as strong in other respects. Specifically, it was glacially slow, which doesn’t change for 2019. Its continuously variable transmission has at least been retuned, though, to behave more like a regular automatic transmission. Accident avoidance tech was a glaring omission. Not only is it available now, but it’s standard on the top three trim levels. That helps raise the HR-V’s value proposition considerably, as you really do get a ton of equipment (and space) for your money.
There are other upgrades for 2019 detailed below, which collectively help keep the HR-V competitive in a tough segment. We still wouldn’t say it’s a class leader, but it definitely deserves greater consideration now.
What’s New for 2019?
For 2019, the Honda HR-V gets its first significant update since being introduced. The styling is subtly tweaked (note the thinner headlight units and Civic-like strip of trim above the grille that now features a glossy black honeycomb-like insert. There are also new Sport and Touring trim levels, while the top three trims now come standard with Honda Sensing accident avoidance tech. They were previously unavailable. A volume knob has also been added to the touchscreen interface, and a power driver seat is available for the first time. Mechanically, the manual transmission has been discontinued, leaving behind the continuously variable automatic that Honda says has been retuned for greater refinement and improved drivability.
What We Like
Clever rear "Magic Seat" yields superior cargo space, versatility and generous passenger room; excellent fuel economy; abundant standard features; low price
What We Don’t
Very slow; front-seat legroom is lacking for taller drivers; frustrating touchscreen controls
The 2019 Honda HR-V is powered by a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine good for 141 horsepower and 127 lb-ft of torque. Front- and all-wheel drive are available, and every HR-V comes standard with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). With front-wheel drive, fuel economy is estimated to be 28 miles per gallon city, 34 mpg highway and 30 mpg in combined driving. AWD lowers these figures to 26 mpg city/31 mpg hwy/28 mpg combined in most trims, though the LX essentially get one mpg better.
Standard Features & Options
For 2019, the Honda HR-V is available in five trim levels: LX, Sport, EX, EX-L and Touring.
The HR-V LX ($20,250) features 17-inch alloy wheels, a rearview camera, a height-adjustable driver seat, 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 new HR-V Sport ($22,220) gets quicker steering, black-accented 18-inch wheels, extra gloss-black exterior trim pieces, roof rails, foglights and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. It also gains a 6-speaker sound system, a second USB port and a 7-inch touchscreen interface that includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and HondaLink smartphone apps.
The HR-V EX ($23,720) builds on the base LX trim with its own 17-inch wheels, forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, Honda’s LaneWatch blind spot camera, adaptive cruise control, a sunroof, heated mirrors, automatic headlights, foglights, roof rails, rear privacy glass, proximity entry with push-button start, automatic climate control and heated front seats. It also includes the Sport’s extra audio and infotainment features along with satellite and HD radios.
The HR-V EX-L ($25,320) adds leather upholstery, the leather-wrapped steering wheel and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
And finally, the new range-topping trim is the Touring ($28,540) that comes standard with all-wheel drive and adds extra body-colored trim, gray-accented wheels, LED headlights and foglights, an 8-way power driver seat and integrated navigation.
As is typical with Honda, there are only a few dealer-installed options for each trim.
The 2019 HR-V comes standard with anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control and a full set of airbags (front, side and full-length side-curtain). The EX, EX-L and Touring come standard with forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist and Honda’s LaneWatch blind spot camera.
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. For 2018, 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.
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. 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. Honda also updated the continuously variable transmission for 2019 to simulate stepped gears and behave more like a traditional automatic.
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. The newly available 8-way driver seat likely corrects this, but it’s restricted to the priciest trim level.
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 is still pretty practical, boasting a clever new cupholder design that features little trap doors halfway down to better accommodate big and small cups alike. Another noteworthy addition for 2019 is the volume knob that replaces the previous much-maligned touch-sensitive control. That’s good, but the touchscreen’s menu structure and lack of physical menu controls still frustrate. The HR-V still doesn’t have Honda’s greatly improved touchscreens found in the CR-V, Insight or Accord.
Other Cars to Consider
2019 Hyundai Kona — This new kid on the block can’t match the HR-V’s interior space, but it aces it in most other regards. It’s stylish, fun to drive and powerful while boasting excellent fuel economy and value.
2019 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, including its generous cargo capacity.
2019 Kia Niro — This subcompact SUV is similarly priced and equipped as the HR-V, but it’s actually a hybrid that gets better fuel economy than anything in the segment. It’s comfortable, reasonably spacious and has easy-to-use controls.
Used Honda CR-V — A latest 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 HR-V. 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 about $3,500 more than the base model, you get an absolute abundance of comfort, convenience, safety and infotainment features. Then again, even the loaded Touring trim is priced well under $30,000, whereas many competitors easily cross that threshold.