Expert Reviews

Day-by-Day Review: 2016 Honda HR-V

Day 1

It's a rare day that I get a base model of any vehicle, but here it is, a Honda HR-V LX 2WD with a manual transmission. This is the least expensive Honda HR-V you can buy and probably something of a unicorn. It is equipped with the dying manual transmission, a six-speed in this application, essentially the very same as the one in the Honda Fit.

The HR-V is powered by a 1.8L four-cylinder engine with 141 hp and 127 lb-ft of torque, fairly small numbers all around even when compared to its competition such as the Mazda CX-3 and Chevrolet Trax. In this odd case I'm glad that my tester is not equipped with the 4WD system as it would be zapped of power even further than this little buggy already is.

CVT transmissions (4WD models are not available with the manual) tend to deliver power more efficiently to hide that "lack of power" feeling, although I'm not sure if this is the case or not for the HR-V as the engine is certainly no powerhouse.

Despite the base model designation the HR-V has quite a bit of features previously only available in higher trims. Things like automatic climate control, heated front seats, cruise control, a large infotainment system, 17-inch alloy wheels and more. Of course it is also missing some features you might want that are available as standard on some other vehicles, like keyless start or more importantly automatic headlights and windshield wipers.

Model: 2016 Honda HR-V LX
Pricing: $20,690
Options: None
Freight: $1,695
A/C Tax: $100
Price as Tested: $22,485

Chevrolet Trax
Fiat 500X
Hyundai Tucson
Jeep Renegade
Mazda CX-3
Mitsubishi RVR
Nissan Juke
Subaru XV Crosstrek

Day 2

The Honda HR-V is built off of the same platform as the Fit -- as a result you get a lot of the same traits that the Fit exhibits, both good and bad. For example: the rear seats both flop down 60/40 for a nice low, flat cargo floor or can flip up for a super tall cargo area behind the front row.

For a subcompact crossover vehicle it has a ton of space inside, much more than a Mazda CX-3. Rear seat legroom is good and usable unlike the Mazda and even the rear hatch somehow manages to impress with its size. The front seats are okay but not spectacular, taller people will not like that the seat cushions are very short resulting in little thigh support. Even less tall people may fatigue as a result after a long drive; I know my legs were less than ideal when I got out of the car after I spent nearly two hours in the car on one drive.

Visibility is good pretty much all-around, though reversing is not ideal because of the small-ish rear hatch glass but it isn't too bad. There is a back-up camera, which is great during the day, but at night without light around does not work very well.

The touch-sensitive controls for HVAC seem to work well as it is an automatic climate control system, so not too much fiddling is required. I still do not like the volume control touch slider on the new Honda radio system, but thankfully there are backup controls on the steering wheel.

The passenger side has this weird array of four vents along the face of the dash. It looks odd and is... well, ugly. Why not just use a single vent like every other vehicle... ever.

Day 3

The similarities with the Fit continue on the road as well. The Fit is powered by a 1.5-L engine while this HR-V has a 1.8L but they are similar in power delivery. In other words they both require you to rev the snot out of them to get any kind of power out of them. This has been Honda's bag for a long time but it doesn't really fit with a crossover in my opinion.

If you do not rev the snot out of it, it is an absolute slug, thankfully it is agile and somewhat fun to drive, as a result you can keep your speed up when hitting an on-ramp because you will need it if you actually want to get up to highway speeds. With four people and some luggage in this vehicle and the short on-ramps in the city I was certain I wasn't going to make it without merging in third gear.

That Honda toss-ability is present so it can be fun to drive, but the steering is very numb, you never really know for sure where the wheels are pointed but they turn in quick when you do move the steering wheel. The saving grace here is the wonderful manual transmission with the short throw shifter -- alwasy a treat but most likely not a huge seller. I fear the CVT transmission would just make this vehicle and ultimate bore.

Out on the highway the revs are high, over 3,000rpm and even driving on secondary roads at around 90km/h the engine is turning around 2,300 rpm in sixth gear. The result is a lot of engine noise all the time, heck at times I thought maybe I had accidentally left it in fourth. It's a Honda trait, I guess I have grown to dislike despite loving their vehicles for so long, the vehicle just seems too light and under sound deadened.

The oddest thing is probably the doors, they are so ridiculously stiff to open and close. Almost like someone at Honda was told to make the doors feel heavier to fool buyers into thinking the vehicle was larger and more solid, the doors aren't really heavy, the hinges are just stiff as all heck -- on all four corners.

Day 4

Considering that I averaged 6.6L/100km with the Mazda CX-3 I drove, I assumed I would average something similar in the HR-V. Both being small engined, sub-compact crossover vehicles driving only the front wheels. But I was wrong, of course it was a little colder and the HR-V was running on winter tires during winter fuel seasons so I'll give it the benefit of the doubt.

I averaged 7.5L/100km over the course of the nearly 1000km I drove the vehicle. A lot this driving was highway and country roads travelling at mostly ideal speeds for optimum fuel economy. But the small engine forces you to rev the engine out quite a bit, especially when merging onto the 400-series highways.

Overall, for me the HR-V was somewhat of a letdown. So was the redesigned Fit that I tested back in October 2015. I suppose I'm waiting for Honda to catch up to the competition, by themselves there is nothing wrong with these vehicles.

But when compared to the ever improving competition, Honda has been playing catch-up when it comes to refinement and solidity of their vehicles. I hear the new Civic is their big comeback and as a best selling car I hope it is.