2023 Honda HR-V

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2023 Honda HR-V First Drive Review: The Big Upgrade

Honda rarely does just good enough, but the previous generation HR-V could be filed under that category. The small crossover was based on the Honda Fit's platform; the interior was fine, the cabin was fine, but a little tinny, power was just okay, and the back seats were too small for kids to grow into. The new generation of HR-V is America-specific (the rest of the world gets a smaller model) and gets a ground-up redesign based on Honda's latest and decidedly excellent Civic chassis, with the 1.8-liter engine replaced with a larger 2.0-liter i-VTEC four-cylinder making 158 horsepower and 138 lb-ft of torque. The interior is plusher than before and features the latest in Honda's infotainment tech and safety systems. To check the new generation Honda HR-V, we took ourselves to Washington state and crisscrossed in and out of Oregon for our first drive.

2023 Honda HR-V Models

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
LX
2.0L Inline-4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$23,650
Sport
2.0L Inline-4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$25,650
EX-L
2.0L Inline-4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$27,450

Best Deals on HR-V

See all Trims and Specs

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Exterior: Confident And Memorable

Let's face it, the last generation HR-V needs frequent looks out the window onto the driveway to remember what it looks like. The new one features Honda's latest design cues and is all the better for it. It has a wider track, lower belt line, and styled fenders to help turn the sub-compact into a more assured-looking vehicle. The small patterned grille and sleek Accord-style LED headlights give the HR-V a sense of elegance to its front-end design. The windshield wipers are now tucked away, and there are no roof moldings, helping the new, sleeker look.

Your trim selection changes the front grille from a honeycomb matte-finished unit to a horizontal design grille and upgrades the 17-inch silver-painted alloy wheels to 18-inch split five-spoke wheels on the Sport trim or Shark Grey 17-inch alloy wheels on the HR-V EX-L. The Sport receives chrome exhaust tips to set it apart while the range-topping EX-L gets a power moonroof. Both top trims feature tinted rear privacy glass.

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Engine & Performance: Smoother, More Responsive

The new HR-V's 2.0-liter engine gets 17 hp and 11 lb-ft upgrades compared to the old car, but we're more interested in how the engine drives as a whole. Honda promises more efficiency and refinement, which is excellent news if the engine is smoother, quieter, and more responsive than the outgoing model's. It is, and we immediately appreciated the smoothness with which the HR-V pulled away for the first time. The standard CVT gearbox had the potential to cause alarm, but it's a refined unit that adds to the experience, programmed to create stronger engine braking when going downhill rather than feeling like a loose rubbery thing separated from the rest of the experience.

In standard form, the HR-V is front-wheel-drive, but Honda's Real Time AWD system is optional and was equipped to our tester, adding Hill Descent Control. The HR-V comes with three main drive modes, Normal, Snow, and Econ. Normal is self-explanatory, while Snow softens the throttle response, increases the adjusts the transmission and AWD for slippery conditions, and turns off the automatic engine stop/start function. Econ does the same as other Honda models by changing the input ratios for the throttle to maximize efficiency and uses a more efficient cycle for the air conditioning. In this mode, two-wheel-drive versions return an estimated 26/32/28 mpg city/highway/combined, while the all-wheel-drive models return 25/30/27 mpg.

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Driving Impressions: Mature And Sophisticated

The first thing to hit home is how much more refined the ride quality is, and the second is how much quieter the cabin is. New multilink rear suspension and a focus on cabin-noise suppression have paid off, and by the time we had an hour in the car, there was a long list of improvements to list. The steering has a lot of electrical assistance with sensors measuring inputs, but the result is a remarkably natural feeling. It's safe to say the new Honda HR-V has taken on a lot of the Civic's attributes with its chassis and then been fine-tuned for purpose. The HR-V isn't as dynamically fun as the Civic, but we don't expect it to be. However, it's more than dynamically competent and more fun than it should be to toss down a back road. We wandered off the prescribed route in search of somewhere to take photos and ended up on a long dirt track, perfect for giving the AWD system a workout. It did everything correctly, with a sense of balance making it easily maneuverable and simultaneously highly predictable. While few people will be bombing down dirt tracks in the HR-V, it helped assure us that the HR-V could react with agility and predictably when the road throws up dangerous surprises.

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Interior: The Honda We Know And love

The thing that no doubt cramped the previous-generation HR-V's sales was the interior, particularly the cramped rear seats. With the new platform comes increased length and rear legroom - enough now for an average adult to not complain about. The seats are all new frames, and having spent a few days in cars and planes, they helped relax our back over the day's test driving. Manual adjustment is standard, but if you spring for the leather-trimmed seats exclusively available on the EX-L derivative, you gain eight-way power adjustment for the driver's perch. Both Sport and EX-L derivatives feature front-seat heating, while features like dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and ambient LED lighting are reserved for the EX-L.

Practicality is a hallmark of Honda products and the HR-V delivers with 24.4 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats. These 60/40-split items can be folded to increase capacity to 55.1 cubic feet. The former is only slightly more than the old model and the latter a little less, but it showcases that the extra size went right to the rear-seat occupants where it was needed.

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Honda has aimed for simplicity inside and succeeded while packing in everything needed. Larger vents for the HVAC are on show, the metallic finishes of the switchgear look and feel good, and visibility is excellent. Behind the steering wheel is a standard new seven-inch color digital gauge display that's clear and easy to read or navigate through the different views.

A seven-inch touchscreen is standard as the window into the infotainment system while a nine-inch unit is available in the top-spec EX-L. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, made wireless on the EX-L, which also adds wireless charging, a Wi-Fi hotspot, HD Radio, and SiriusXM satellite radio. The top trim receives an upgrade to the sound system, adding two speakers to the standard six but retaining the 180-watt system output.

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Prive, Verdict, and Trims: A Hefty Upgrade

If you've passed over the HR-V before but are still looking for a small SUV, it's worth waiting for the new generation to hit dealers and take a test drive. We already prefer it over the perfectly competent yet instantly forgettable Toyota Corolla Cross. Just about everything we could have listed to be improved has been for the HR-V, and it's no longer the Honda you buy because you can't budget for a CR-V. It's now a great little crossover in its own right and will suit new families down or make a great first car for someone getting their career growth on. We can't argue with the pricing, either. The LX model starts at $23,650 in FWD guise, and the HR-V tops out with the EX-L at $27,450. Between these two, the Sport has an MSRP of $25,650. A $1,245 destination charge is applicable on all models, and stepping up to AWD will only cost you $1,500.

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