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2020 Honda HR-V Review

LIKES
  • Brilliant interior flexibility
  • Good value even at top trim
  • Tidy interior
  • Rides well
DISLIKES
  • Slow acceleration
  • A few too many details
  • Emergency braking only on EX and above
  • Pricey Touring trim
BUYING TIP
  • Head right to the HR-V EX for automatic emergency braking, which we consider vital—though it punches the price into the $25,000 range.

The 2020 Honda HR-V oozes with practicality, though gas mileage and safety equipment have room to improve.

The 2020 Honda HR-V skips the lumbering part of the SUV equation. It’s a perky, pert little crossover with available all-wheel drive and a rear seat that flips and folds to please owners like a Pomski begging for treats.

It’s not the most efficient Honda, and low-cost models skip critical safety gear. As such, we give it a TCC Rating of 5.2 out of 10, a bit above average.

Carried over unchanged for 2020, the Honda HR-V stuffs a lot of personality into its 102.8-inch wheelbase. Its body riffs on hatchbacks and crossovers with sweeping strakes that run from the nose to the rear roof pillars. It’s a lot—maybe a bit too much at the front end and on the tailgate, where less probably would be more. The cabin has the tone right, and wears tough-looking clothes that clearly are meant to last, not to shimmer.

All HR-Vs tap a 1.8-liter inline-4 for 141 horsepower, channel it through a continuously variable transmission, and send the result to the front or to all four wheels. Acceleration is leisurely, and somewhat strained in uphill grades with more than a passenger aboard. The HR-V does better in point-and-squirt city mazes, apropos to its vague Pac-Man shape, and it rides very well for a car of its size despite too-big 18-inch wheels on some versions. Gas mileage, at up to 30 mpg combined, isn’t stellar, but it’s good, and all-wheel drive doesn’t hurt it too much. 

The HR-V revels in space, as odd as that may sound. Front passengers fit fine, and so do those in the rear. With only one or two aboard, the HR-V manages a nifty party trick: Its rear seat bottoms flip up for tall cargo space behind the front passengers, and its rear seatbacks can fold down for a bin big enough to sleep in, up to 58.8 cubic feet on some versions.

Only HR-V EX crossovers and more expensive versions get automatic emergency braking, which draws our side-eye glare, and only the Sport and above have a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. For the best safety ratings, the LED headlights on the $30,000 or more Touring HR-V are required; at that price, you’re better off in the bigger, more miserly CR-V LX.

Styling
The HR-V’s blessed with good-looking shapes but marred by a few styling hiccups.

Honda has drawn a handsome hatchback-ish shape for its latest HR-V crossover, but the good looks have a flaw or two. We think it’s fine in the balance, and score it a 5 for style.

Crossover and coupe cues swirl together on the HR-V’s body. The look is generically good, mostly, if not compelling. The nifty swoop that lifts up through the HR-V’s doors and into its rear roof pillars shoves the shape forward—a fun visual trick—and the rear handles sprout from a high point on the door, where they don’t disrupt the flow. 

It’s a complex juggling act to draw a small car with clean looks. The HR-V tumbles down at the front, especially, where too many lines and textures compete for attention, a problem the Civic shares. In back, one too many body stampings tries to avoid a whiff of minivan at the tailgate. Sport models have more black trim and tone down the gloss, but more body-color paint might do a better job.

A tidy interior skips most of the glaring flaws. The HR-V’s cockpit has elegant and simple lines, with a wing-like panel that offsets the driver-canted gauges and controls. A high center console and slim passenger-side air vents could be smaller and bigger, respectively; a panel of softer vinyl dresses up the dash nicely, as does the 7.0-inch touchscreen on all but the base LX model.

Performance
The HR-V’s core performance attribute is patience.

Honda fits the HR-V with a small 4-cylinder engine and a continuously variable transmission to eke out good gas mileage, but it leaves the hatchback/crossover/SUV with mediocre acceleration.

We give it a 4 for performance, a point off average for its sluggish behavior.

The 1.8-liter inline-4 works well enough with the CVT, and it’s reasonably smooth. However, its 141 hp and 127 lb-ft of torque aren’t enough to pull even the lightest base model (about 2,900 pounds) to speed with any excitement. Honda subdues the engine’s drone well enough, but the HR-V struggles to climb gentle grades without a full-pedal mash.

On a brighter note, the HR-V rides better than it should, given its short wheelbase. With its torsion-beam or DeDion rear axle (front- or all-wheel drive cars have different rear suspensions, mostly to create more cargo space), the HR-V is compliant enough to absorb potholes at city speeds without jarring passengers much, though the larger wheels and tires on more expensive versions go against fundamental engineering—more weight and less sidewall usually cut into ride control. The well-tuned ride is aided by responsive and quick steering, which helps the HR-V slice its way through twisty roads with confidence—if not with the zest of a similarly sized Mazda CX-3.

Comfort & Quality
The HR-V’s reconfigurable rear seat elevates it over all its small-SUV rivals.

A flexible interior gives the Honda HR-V better utility than some bigger, more expensive hatchbacks and SUVs. A clever flip/fold rear seat gives the HR-V a 6 here.

Passengers won’t find anything special about the HR-V’s front buckets, which could use longer seat cushions for better comfort. Leg room is fine, but the wide console nudges knees and the models fitted with a standard sunroof lose some head room.

The HR-V’s rear seat fits fine for a couple of adults, and leg room won’t be the issue; it’s not wide enough for three large people. The rear seat’s trick feature doesn’t have anything to do with passengers, though—it’s all about cargo. The bottom cushions flip up and allow the rear backrests to fold down to create as much cargo space as possible in a vehicle with a short 102.8-inch wheelbase and a 170-inch overall length. Even without the seat backs folded down, the flip-up seat creates a taller cargo space. Honda calls it a Magic Seat; we just call it creative, and an excellent way to turn the HR-V’s 25 cubic feet of cargo room into a maximum of 58.8 cubic feet in front-drive models. 

The HR-V offers utility on a budget, but we wonder if its interior trim needs to be so relentlessly inexpensive. The vinyl and plastic trims don’t look bad, but they don’t rise to the $30,000 sticker price of the top HR-V, either.

Safety
Automatic emergency braking still isn’t standard on the Honda HR-V.

The HR-V gets the nod from the NHTSA with a five-star overall rating, but some safety flaws bring it down to a 6 on our ratings scale.

The IIHS says the HR-V earns its Top Safety Pick award, but only in Touring trim, with its LED headlights. Every other version has “Poor” headlights, according to the insurance industry-funded group.

Outward vision is fine despite the thick roof pillars. What can get better is Honda’s use of automatic emergency braking; it’s only standard on the HR-V EX, EX-L, and Touring, where it’s bundled with active lane control and adaptive cruise control. It’s past due to be standard on all versions.

Features
The HR-V skips critical features in its base versions.

With a few important features absent in base models, the 2020 HR-V hits its stride at its middle trim levels. That hurts its score here; it’s a middling 5.

The base HR-V LX comes with power features, 18-inch wheels, air conditioning, and cruise control. It costs more than $21,000, and still skimps with a 5.0-inch touchscreen without Apple CarPlay or Android Auto compatibility. At more than $23,000, the HR-V Sport fares a bit better, with its 7.0-inch touchscreen and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

We’d start with the roughly $25,000 HR-V EX. It gains keyless ignition, heated front seats, a sunroof, and automatic emergency braking—but would pass on the $1,600 extra for the leather-trimmed EX-L. On any of these, $1,400 all-wheel drive might be worth it depending on the local climate.
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At about $30,000, the HR-V Touring has standard all-wheel drive, as well as a power driver seat, LED headlights, and navigation. A CR-V LX is a better value, but it won’t have some of those luxury touches.

Fuel Economy
The HR-V’s gas mileage gets bested by Honda’s own bigger crossovers.

The HR-V is small and has a small engine, but those don’t guarantee great fuel economy. Based on its EPA ratings, we think it’s a 5 here.

Front-wheel-drive HR-Vs get pegged by the EPA at 28 mpg city, 34 highway, 30 combined. With all-wheel drive, the HR-V checks in at 26/31/28 mpg.

Honda’s CR-V LX, even with all-wheel drive, merits a 29-mpg combined rating. Aero plays a role, but so does an engine that’s pressed to work hard at most speeds.


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About Udara Madusanka

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