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2018 Honda HR-V Review

2018 Honda HR-V Review
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The 2018 Honda HR-V blends great rear-seat flexibility and gas mileage, but it’s slow.
The 2018 Honda HR-V is a small crossover SUV that’s perfectly acceptable as an economy-car substitute. It puts packaging over performance, gas mileage before great handling.

Carried over with only paint and wheel changes, the 2018 HR-V comes in LX, EX, and EX-L editions. Honda sells some HR-Vs with a 6-speed manual, but most go out the door with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). All-wheel drive costs extra, and only is offered on CVT-equipped models.

Honda sets the HR-V apart from rivals like the Jeep Renegade with a curvy hatchback silhouette. It’s a playful shape with some swole fenders and tucked-away door handles that don’t entirely add up. The interior’s better: it’s a simple economy-car cabin, with better trim than the related Honda Fit.

The HR-V’s performance is best seen through a ride-quality lens. Its 141-horsepower 4-cylinder doles out fair acceleration on city streets with only a driver aboard. Anything more and it feels taxed, despite paddle shift controls that give the driver access to pre-selected “gears.” Handling is benign, but moderately sized wheels and good tuning give the HR-V a smoother ride than its short wheelbase might indicate. Gas mileage, at up to 31 mpg combined, is excellent.

The HR-V reigns over its class with a flip-folding rear seat that kicks up its bottom cushion. It’s not magic, it’s good engineering, and it gives the HR-V a tall load space right behind the front passengers. The rear seats fold the other way, too, and expose a big cargo bin of up to 58.8 cubic feet.

The HR-V’s crash-test scores from the IIHS are below par, though federal scores are fine. A rearview camera comes standard, but the HR-V doesn’t have automatic emergency braking. For about $20,000, it does offer the usual power features standard, along with Bluetooth and USB connectivity. Leather, navigation, a big touchscreen, and a side-view camera come on more expensive models.

Tidy but quirky outside, the Honda HR-V has a simple and effective interior.
You’re forgiven if you see the Honda HR-V as a hatchback, not so much as an SUV. The pint-sized crossover wears clothes right off the economy-car rack—no slight, since today’s most efficient cars are sharp lookers, by and large.

The HR-V gets a point above average for its spare and clean cabin. We give it a 6 for styling.

Honda would rather you think of the HR-V like some interesting mix of coupe and crossover. It stamps a big swoop into the HR-V’s side panels, tucks the rear door handles into the door frames, and drops the nose low like that on the Civic. At the same time, its fenders swell and its roof arches. The cues link it to Acuras more so than some Hondas. It’s nowhere near as dull as the Chevy Trax, but doesn’t have the panache that Jeep penned so well in the Renegade.

Inside the HR-V has a tidy cabin devoid of the twin-screen clutter now on the way out of other Hondas. The dash has its foibles, like the slim vents sliced across the dash in front of the passenger, a clear compromise for a low and open cockpit. The fit and finish are better than in the related Honda Fit, the layout is clean, and a big touchscreen glows at the center of the dash in most models; base versions have a less impressive 5.0-inch screen. The HR-V still has touchscreen controls and lacks a volume knob, so it can be tough to operate safely at speed.

The Honda HR-V doesn’t offer much in the way of power, but it has a smooth ride.

With the HR-V, Honda trades off dynamics for a good ride and great gas mileage. The HR-V is polished, but sporty? Not so much.

While the related Fit gets a 1.5-liter inline-4, the HR-V adds muscle in the form of a 1.8-liter inline-4. The nonsteroidal upgrade gives the crossover 141 horsepower and 127 pound-feet of torque. It’s still saddled with a taller and heavier body than the Fit, so both are in the 10-second 0-60 mph ballpark—feel free to drag-race them and report back with results.

The 6-speed manual on the base HR-V is a fine piece, and Honda gets credit still for offering this valuable anti-theft device. It doesn’t magically transform the HR-V into a performance machine, so you may as well get the continuously variable transmission (CVT), which comes with a sport mode that changes ratios more quickly. Paddle shift controls on EX and EX-L models send the CVT to pre-programmed simulated “gears,” but it’s still more laggy than a conventional automatic, still kind of a fun suck.

The HR-V’s absorbent ride feels much like the Fit, which is to say it’s better than a Chevy Trax or Jeep Renegade. Honda gets credit for the standard 17-inch wheels, while rivals’ bigger 18-inch wheels don’t really help ride quality on such short wheelbases.

The HR-V has a front strut and rear torsion-beam suspension that acquit themselves well in ride motion control. With relaxed steering, the HR-V doesn’t lack confidence on interesting roads, but if it’s top-drawer handling you want here, shop a Mazda CX-3. The HR-V’s trade-off is biased toward a calm ride, and it’s an agreeable choice for everyday driving.

The HR-V's steering is relaxed, the body motions are well-controlled and it doesn't feel a bit brittle, even on terrible roads. Leave the track tuning and off-roading to others: this tall hatchback is intended for everyday driving.

Comfort & Quality
Packaging rules: the Honda HR-V outpoints its rivals with its gymnastic rear seat.

The HR-V may be the smallest crossover SUV in Honda’s lineup, but it’s jumbo-sized compared with trucklets like the Jeep Renegade and Fiat 500X.

It’s bigger and more useful, and also gets the flexibility idea better than rivals. 

The HR-V rides on a 102.8-inch wheelbase, and sits 169.1 inches long and 69.8 inches wide. Most models have 100.1 cubic feet of interior space; it’s 96.1 cubes on EX and EX-L models, which have a space-trimming sunroof.

Driver and front passenger get nicely shaped backrests and decent knee and head room, but Honda tilts the bottom cushion down at its leading edge, and cuts the cushion short.

It’s less an economy-car story in the second row, where up to three passengers will fit but two will be happier. Leg room is good for its size, and the HR-V can seat three children across.

Where it excels is in its so-called Magic Seat. Honda hinges the second-row bench so the seat bottom can fold up like the back rest, which results in a low load floor right behind the front passengers. The rear seats also fold down to boost the HR-V’s nearly 25 cubic feet of storage to 58.8 cubic feet.

Honda gets extra credit for fitting the HR-V with a nice grade of materials and ample storage. Though it’s related to the Fit hatchback, the HR-V feels a bit better in terms of cabin sound and trim quality, better too than the Jeep and Fiat and other small hatchback SUVs. The HR-V also makes do with a single touchscreen, not the dual-screen clutter of some other Hondas. We wish the USB ports were a little easier to access, but the HR-V’s steering-wheel audio controls keep smartphones at fingertip control.

The HR-V’s crash-test scores aren’t up to Honda’s usual snuff.

The Honda HR-V has earned solid ratings from federal safety experts, but the insurance industry isn’t on board.

The NHTSA says the HR-V earns five stars overall. Embedded in that rating are four-star scores in frontal impacts and rollover resistance.

The IIHS has more concerns. It scores the HR-V as “Good” in many tests, but awards the crossover “Acceptable” ratings for small-overlap front and side protection.

Honda fits a rearview camera to each HR-V, and the EX and EX-L models get a wide-angle camera as well as a right-side camera that shows drivers a view down the side of the vehicle. It’s a substitute for blind-spot monitors, in some respects. The HR-V doesn’t offer those monitors, nor does it offer adaptive cruise control or automatic emergency braking.

Outward vision is fine ahead of the driver. To the rear it’s better than it might be, given the car’s thick roof pillars. Honda fits the rear-seat headrests into the seatbacks, so the view out the small hatch glass is unimpeded.

The Honda HR-V has the usual economy-car goods, but not much more.

Honda sells the HR-V as an LX, an EX, and as an EX-L. Each have a good selection of standard equipment and its infotainment system is fine, but the HR-V doesn’t offer much beyond those in the way of exceptional touches.

Front-wheel drive LXs and EXs can be fitted with either a 6-speed manual transmission or a CVT, while the all-wheel-drive model is CVT-only. The EX-L is also available with front- or all-wheel drive, but it comes only with a CVT.

All HR-V crossovers have power features, 17-inch wheels, a rearview camera, cruise control, and a 5.0-inch touchscreen audio system with Bluetooth audio streaming and a USB port.

HR-V EX SUVs add a right-side rearview camera, smartphone connectivity, keyless ignition, heated front seats, a second USB port, a sunroof, automatic climate control, paddle shift controls, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen.

Step up to the HR-V EX-L and you’ll get navigation, roof rails, satellite radio, and leather seats.

The HR-V’s warranty runs for three years or 36,000 miles, with powertrain coverage that runs five years or 60,000 miles.

Fuel Economy
The top-rated Honda HR-V earns up to 31 mpg combined.

Among small crossover SUVs, the Honda HR-V rates among the best for fuel economy.

The EPA says when it’s fitted with front-wheel drive and a CVT, the Honda HR-V earns 28 mpg city, 34 highway, 31 combined. 

The CVT-only, all-wheel-drive HR-V comes in at 27/31/29 mpg. 

Select the manual transmission, and the HR-V’s gas mileage drops to 25/33/28 mpg.


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