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2023 Honda HR-V Overview: An SUV That Emphasizes Affordability Along With Features

The Honda HR-V demonstrates that family life can be delightful, even on a budget. The HR-V represents the crossover segment by bridging the style gap between a hatchback and SUV, while giving priority to affordability. The compact crossover competes against the Volkswagen Taos, Subaru Crosstrek, and Hyundai Venue. For 2023, the second-generation HR-V expands into a space formerly occupied by the CR-V in all aspects except height. Its roofline and profile convey hatchback much more strongly than SUV.

There’s no bold statement here; it’s pleasing and uncluttered. The profile and proportions of the HR-V merge into the sea of small crossovers, but small details showcase the HRV’s allure. For that reason, we consider both the exterior and interior styling a step above the norm. The HR-V ditches the awkward, creased appearance of the outgoing model, in favor of a design that’s cleaner and visually lower, thanks to the long hood and mostly car-like proportions. It reflects design elements elsewhere in the Honda stable, such as a roofline like the new Acura MDX, and tail lights shared with the forthcoming CR-V.

Each trim level interprets the design details slightly differently. Sport models feature a blacked-out look, along with black 18-inch wheels. Base LX and top-trim EX-L models receive 17-inch gunmetal wheels and a honeycomb look to the grille. Some of the details borrowed from the HR-V’s distant Honda E cousin overseas, such as the round of the hatch, enhance the design appeal.

The HR-V won’t appease speed enthusiasts, but its ride and handling alleviate the daily grind. The HR-V isn’t particularly swift or rapid, but it compensates for that with exceptionally well-tuned ride, handling, and braking characteristics, and all the sensory components that accompany it. The HR-V is front-wheel-drive by default, but for $1,500 extra its all-wheel-drive setup utilizes hydraulics to operate a clutch and direct nearly half of torque to the rear wheels when necessary. Weighing in at 3,333 pounds, the top HR-V equals the weight of a base CR-V. Therefore, what the HR-V has under the hood is adequate but it never feels lively.

Similar to decades of Honda non-turbo inline-4s before it, the 158-hp, 2.0-liter is a smooth but vocal engine when pushed to its upper reaches to extract the most acceleration. The engine and CVT aren’t an ideal pair for drivability. In ‘D’, the CVT attempts to keep the revs as low as possible, often leaving the engine feeling strained, waiting for a “downshift” to lower ratios. Push harder and the CVT accesses ratios that imitate those of a conventional automatic transmission. Switch to ‘S’ and the CVT accesses more of those ratios, enhancing drivability for hills and curves.

Fundamental underpinnings for the HR-V are borrowed from the Civic and the CR-V, but it drives much more like a somewhat elevated, more softly sprung Civic, a Civic Outback, if you will. However, compared to the Subaru Crosstrek, the HR-V is a remarkably refined machine on the road. Honda adopted the CR-V’s rear floating subframe and independent multi-link suspension layout. With steering stability specially tuned for this vehicle, it results in a very assured feel around tight corners and over rough pavement surfaces or on gravel roads. There’s no dedicated off-road mode here, but Snow mode permits more slip from the stability system and distributes torque a bit more evenly by default. There’s also a descent control setting for aiding in controlling a low-speed crawl down a steep trail.

Efficiency is not a strong suit here. All-wheel-drive versions of the HR-V are rated 25 mpg city, 30 highway, 27 combined, and front-wheel-drive versions receive ratings of 26/32/28 mpg. Not only is it less efficient than rivals, it’s 2 mpg lower than last year’s HR-V, and lower than Honda’s larger CR-V. However, we achieved better fuel efficiency than the HR-V’s official figures, averaging around 30 mpg in a variety of rapid road-trip conditions. Those seeking to maximize HR-V efficiency can select the Econ mode, which slightly softens accelerator and shift behavior and places the climate control system into a somewhat more efficient mode.

The HR-V borrows from other Hondas, however, there are only partial crash-test ratings yet, as both the NHTSA have yet to test the new HR-V. Meanwhile, the IIHS bestows the new 2023 Honda HR-V with its highest Top Safety Pick+ award, receiving Good ratings in every measure except Headlights which were rated Acceptable. The complete HR-V lineup includes 10 standard airbags plus automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and adaptive cruise control. There’s also a road-departure mitigation feature that fine-tunes steering and/or braking to help prevent a loss of control. These systems are part of a new single-camera Honda Sensing system. The only safety features absent on lower-trim versions are blind-spot monitors and a low-speed braking control feature (added in EX-L versions).

The interior design stands out for what it’s missing, as well as the theme itself. Thanks to some clever engineering and design, you won’t find thick front pillars, unnecessarily complex interfaces, or a lot of bright, reflective surfaces (those with migraines, rejoice). Conversely, it adopts much of the latest Civic’s interior, with a metallic honeycomb beltline spanning the vents and dash. The dash itself sits low, allowing ample outward visibility. Above it stands an infotainment screen while below it are simplified climate controls. The only complex design item carried over from the outgoing HR-V is the bridge-like center console, which allows a mounting point for the shifter, drive mode buttons, and storage space underneath.

The new HR-V might not accommodate your dog and gear as effectively as last year’s model, but it fits people better. The HR-V is more spacious and comfortable than the previous HR-V. It’s ingeniously nudged closer to the Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue, Ford Escape, and others that now embody the essence of the U.S. affordable family car market, but it sketches out the proportions just a bit differently.

In that regard, the interior reflects some notably distinct priorities. There are no longer flip-upright Magic Seats, as found in the previous HR-V or Fit, which allowed you to accommodate a very large dog or a very tall potted plant in the HR-V. Neither are there cargo hooks for carabiners, or carved-out spaces for muddy boots or gear. Instead, the HR-V exchanges in a larger cargo area, a more comfortable back seat, and the independent rear suspension that helps enable better ride quality.

The passenger compartment of the HR-V isn’t technically that much larger than that of its predecessor, but it feels among the most spacious and comfortable in its class, especially in the back. A new generation of seats helps optimize posture and more evenly distribute support. From seating to door cuts, this is a subcompact vehicle that doesn’t feel so compact inside for passengers, even for 6-foot-6 passengers. The HR-V is also fairly quiet in a way that’s rare in this class. Honda touts additional sound insulation in the doors, dash, floor, and trunk lining, as well as an acoustic windshield, and it all pays off.

You won’t find a power tailgate release in the HR-V, but you don’t need one. It’s all down at a level most people will find easy to grab and lift, and the 27-inch liftover height for the long cargo floor provides an easy 24.4-cubic-foot space for lugging luggage or getting a big tray of plant starts back from the garden store. The 60/40-split folding rear seats fold almost fully flat, enabling 55.1 cubic ft, adequate space for small pieces of furniture or some of that outdoor gear. A wide hatch opening helps.

The HR-V offers exceptional value. The 2023 Honda HR-V adds up to something even more value-focused. Thanks to its low base price, strong value, extensive list of base features, and excellent infotainment systems, it’s a top choice for value. Automatic gear transmission remains standard across all trims—a rarity in this class—while prices are yet to be announced.

climate management, electric windows, alloy rims, and a complete set of Honda Sensing driver-support features come standard in all HR-V trims, including the base LX, mid-level Sport, and top-tier EX-L. All three trims feature compatibility with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, with wireless versions available in the larger 9.0-inch system found in the EX-L trims.

To us, the base LX seems like the most cost-effective choice. We can’t think of any crossover that feels as polished and economical as the 2023 model year, priced at under $25,000. Unless the Sport’s appearance appeals to you, you might consider looking beyond its additional heated seats and moonroof to the top EX-L for all its supplementary technology and larger infotainment screen. The top-tier EX-L trim with all-wheel drive is priced at $30,195. In addition to wheel and trim enhancements, it is equipped with dual-zone automatic climate management, LED ambient lighting, leather upholstery, a power driver’s seat, and a larger 9.0-inch infotainment system with wireless smartphone connectivity, satellite radio, and a volume knob.

Honda’s all-new HR-V for 2023 has now matured. The new HR-V is an exceptionally appealing small utility vehicle that has raised the stakes for every other competitor. The HR-V’s driving dynamics are now one of the finest in its category. It offers seating for four, a non-offensive design, and can accommodate most of your belongings while venturing off-road in a cost-efficient manner. Furthermore, the HR-V excels in an area where no other can compare; it provides great value, top safety ratings, and years of reliability ahead – all hallmarks of a Honda.

Image Source: / Shutterstock

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