Will any manufacturer without plans for a small crossover please stand up?
Barely a month seems to go by without a manufacturer announcing a new model aimed at the hottest market segment – crossover vehicles. These vehciles are becoming as ubiquitous on our roads as minivans became in the 30 years following their introduction in 1984.
It shouldn’t surprise because they check all the boxes for today’s drivers: they sit higher than the family sedan a thus providing a commanding view of the road and provide the seating and stowage required by the modern active family. In appearance, they are modelled on much more expensive and larger sport utility vehicles and can even mimic an SUV’s roadholding abilities – to a degree – in poor weather, when equipped with all-wheel drive.
Honda’s compact CR-V has been a winner for years and its prestige division – Acura – has solid performers in the larger MDX and compact RDX. It has been slow to introduce a subcompact version but the all-new 2016 Honda HR-V will likely cut into the market carved out by other lesser manufacturers, especially with a base sticker price under $21,000 (loaded EX-L navi – $29,990).
If your family includes active teenagers (they aren’t all that way) this car is not for you, look at a CR-V or one of its many competitors. However, if you are a twosome or have one or two youngsters this may well fit the bill.
The HR-V has the now obligatory coupe look, without sacrificing rear headroom, reasonable leg space in the rear, and even with the seats up there’s ample stowage for the Big Shop and weekends away.
Space is maximized by mounting the fuel tank in the centre rather than the rear and the remarkable foldaway second row seating. The official specs reveal 2,835-litres of passenger volume (LX) and 1,665 of cargo volume with the second row seats down. I’ll stick with my recommendation on family size, no matter how big Honda says it is!
The base LX is very well equipped and the EX and EX-L Navi trims ramp up the specs in luxury and technology. Standard safety features in all models include vehicle stability assist with traction control; an Anti-lock Braking System (ABS); side curtain airbags; dual-stage, multiple-threshold front airbags; and front side airbags. Thanks to its so-called Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure with enhanced frontal protection it’s also achieved the highest overall score for collision safety from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
If that’s not enough for the safety conscious, extras available across the range include LaneWatch, Hill Start Assist, Multi-Angle Rearview Camera with Guidelines, Forward Collision Warning and Lane Departure Warning, with the latter two available in EX-L Navi only. Not a big fan of many passive safety systems as my theory is they encourage lazy driving habits and inattention.
The interior features belie the HR-V’s frugal price tag. Soft-touch materials abound and the stitch lines, brushed chrome and piano black highlights are more typical of the Acura marque. Instrumentation is clear and controls logically placed.
On the road, you can expect more than adequate performance, which may sound like I’m damning it with faint praise but I’m not. Honda describes it as having a “sporty performance” but to me that’s a buzz phrase all manufacturers trot out.
However, if you want a ‘sporty looking’ machine that gets up to speed in a respectable time, accelerates easily when passing, without inducing whiplash, then this should be on your test drive list. It’s grippy on the road, handles well in the corners without lurch, and overall is pleasant to drive in the city and on a road trip.
You will get decent fuel economy from the 1.8-litre 4-cylinder 16-valve SOHC i-VTEC engine, which pumps out 141 horses. The engine can be paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) or a short-shifting 6-speed manual transmission, on LX and EX models with 2WD. Drive efficiently and you could achieve 6.7L/100 km on the highway (8.3 city) in the 2WD CVT version. The manual stick economy is rated 9.3/7.0 L/100km (city/hwy).
A repeated word about CVT: contrary to many of my colleagues I like today’s CVT. Much smoother than earlier iterations.
keith [dot] morgan [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca