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2021 Honda HR-V Review

The 2021 Honda HR-V is one of the best bets for those seeking to squeeze the most possible interior space out of a small SUV. Though Honda’s least-expensive crossover has faced newer rivals like the Hyundai Kona, Mazda CX-30 and the reborn Chevrolet Trailblazer, they can’t match the HR-V‘s innovative interior flexibility and cargo space. The secret to this packaging wizardry is the appropriately named “Magic Seat,” borrowed from the  Honda Fit, which flips its rear seat bottom-up or folds completely flat into the floor. The result is outsized space and unmatched versatility.

However, the HR-V does have a few weaknesses. Specifically, it only offers one powertrain, and it isn’t all that strong. Its continuously variable transmission has at least been returned, though, to behave more like a regular automatic transmission. The Honda HR-V also offers the tech today’s buyers want, such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, along with active safety features like automatic emergency braking. But unlike fresher rivals like the Hyundai Kona and all-new Kia Seltos, those features aren’t available in base models of the HR-V. The Seltos also has the distinguishing factor of outclassing the HR-V in max cargo space.

Overall, the HR-V remains a competitive and recommendable entry-level SUV, but its value proposition and enticement has waned some as newer and ever-more completive models enter this burgeoning segment.

What’s New?

The Honda HR-V sees only minor updates for the 2021 model year. All trims except the base LX receive new wheel designs, and the Sport trim gets rear privacy glass like the other higher models. See the 2021 Honda HR-V models for sale near you

What We Like

  • Clever rear “Magic Seat” yields superior cargo space
  • Generous passenger room
  • Impressive fuel economy
  • Available Honda Sensing safety features
  • Affordable price

What We Don’t

  • Tepid power and acceleration
  • Front-seat legroom is lacking for taller drivers
  • Frustrating touch controls on most models

How Much?

About $21,000-$29,000 (plus destination fee)

Fuel Economy

The 2021 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 FWD, fuel economy is estimated to be 28 miles per gallon in the city, 34 mpg on the 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. Note these figures are for the 2020 model; the 2021 Honda HR-V is still to be rated.

The HR-V’s fuel efficiency is good, but it’s not the best in class. The new Kia Seltos, for example, achieves up to 34 mpg, while the Mazda CX-30 earns up to 33 mpg. Those models also offer more powerful turbo engines as options.

Standard Features & Options

The 2021 Honda HR-V is available in five trims: LX, Sport, EX, EX-L and Touring. AWD comes standard on the Touring trim and it’s a $1,500 option on every other trim.

The HR-V LX (est. $21,000, plus destination fee) features 17-in 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 5-inch screen and CD player, a USB port and media player interface. Note that this base HR-V lacks standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. But it is the only HR-V to still include a compact disc player.

The HR-V Sport (est. $22,700) gets quicker steering, black-accented 18-in wheels (the only trim to roll on 18s), extra gloss-black exterior trim pieces, roof rails, fog lights and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. It also gains a 6-speaker sound system, a second USB port and a 7-in touchscreen interface that includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and HondaLink smartphone apps.

The HR-V EX (est. $24,200) builds on the base LX trim with its own 17-in wheels, moonroof, heated mirrors, automatic headlights, heated front seats, automatic climate control, fog lights, roof rails, rear privacy glass, and keyless entry with push-button start. Of note, this is the lowest trim available with the Honda Sensing suite of active safety features that includes forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control. It also includes Honda’s LaneWatch blind-spot camera.

The HR-V EX-L (est. $25,800) adds leather upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel, auto-dimming rearview mirror and 180-watt audio system.

And finally, the top-line Touring (est. $29,000) comes standard with AWD and adds extra body-colored trim, gray-accented wheels, LED headlights and fog lights, an 8-way power driver seat, integrated navigation and HomeLink universal garage remote.

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

Safety

The 2021 HR-V comes with the usual set of modern safety features like anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control and a full set of airbags (front, side and full-length side-curtain). But if you want the kind of active safety and driver-assist systems that are becoming standard – including on the HR-V’s fresher rivals – you’ll have to step up to the EX trim. Those bring the Honda Sensing suite that bundles forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist. They also have 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 2020, the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the HR-V its top overall rating of Good. When equipped with the Honda Sensing suite, the HR-V earned the organization’s Top Safety Pick for the 2019 model.

Behind the Wheel

With only 141 hp, the Honda HR-V’s acceleration and power can only be called adequate at best. Load it up with your friends, and the HR-V can feel strained. This lack of oomph is a bummer since the HR-V can otherwise be quite fun behind the wheel. It corners well, turns on a dime and once up to speed, road and wind noise are reasonably hushed. Honda’s latest update to the continuously variable transmission better simulates stepped gears and enables this CVT to 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 8-way driver seat improves ergonomics, but it’s restricted to the priciest trim level.

Interior quality is excellent, and the design is 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 trapdoors halfway down to better accommodate big and small cups alike. Another noteworthy addition added in 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.

Also note that in EX and higher trims, you’ll have to contend with a somewhat fussy touch-based climate system.

Other Cars to Consider

2021 Kia Seltos – Kia’s all-new subcompact crossover boasts rugged yet spunky character, optional turbocharged engine, and more innovative technology than the HR-V. All but one model includes a full suite of safety features, and all but one has AWD standard.

2020 Subaru Crosstrek — The Crosstrek is slightly pricier than the HR-V but includes all-wheel drive as standard. It also boasts better ground clearance, a full suite of safety features, and even a manual transmission.

2020 Hyundai Kona — A base Kona is less expensive than the HR-V and comes with more standard active safety features and tech integration. An optional turbo engine provides surprising scoot.

Used Honda CR-V – For about the same price as a new HR-V, you can get a slightly used CR-V with more room, more power, and a plusher ride.

Questions You May Ask

Is the 2021 Honda HR-V a good car?

Yes. The Honda HR-V is a practical, well-mannered subcompact SUV with an innovative and adaptable interior.

What’s the difference between the HR-V and CR-V?

The HR-V is smaller, less expensive and not as powerful as the CR-V. The CR-V is also available as a hybrid and the HR-V is not.

When was the HR-V redesigned?

The Honda HR-V debuted in America for the 2016 model year. It was freshened in 2019 but remains in its first generation for U.S. buyers.

Is the 2021 HR-V underpowered?

With only 141 horsepower, don’t expect to win many races in this little Honda. It’s not scary slow, but it’s not all that fast. A turbo Kia Seltos or turbo Hyundai Kona is quicker.

Autotrader’s Advice

While the Honda HR-V has an attractive base price, we’d skip the lower LX and Sport trims in favor of at least an EX model. For about $3,000 more you’ll get more amenities and, importantly, the Honda Sensing suite of safety and driver-assistance features. If you have money to spare, an EX-L or Touring trim will bring an even nicer HR-V with leather interior and more premium features.  Find a Honda HR-V for sale

 

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