Review: 2015 Honda HR-V EX-L Navi

Review: 2015 Honda HR-V EX-L Navi

Early this year, we traveled to Florida to be among the first to drive Honda’s new miniature crossover. Honda’s test route took us from downtown Miami to the flat flood plains of the Everglades National Park. It was scenic and memorable, but provided limited opportunities to really put the little Fit-based ‘ute through its paces.

To that end, Honda was kind enough to loan us an EX-L NAVI model for some real-world driving. Does the HR-V hold up to a second (and much longer) look? Read on to find out.

What is it?


To differentiate it from its subcompact hatchback cousin, the HR-V gains some ground clearance, a larger engine and an available all-wheel-drive system.

The HR-V is powered by a 1.8L, four-cylinder engine making 141 horsepower at 6,500 RPM and 127 lb-ft of torque at 4,300 RPM. The Fit’s 1.5-liter engine is available in some overseas markets, but not in the United States.

Power goes to the ground by way of either a 6-speed manual transmission (front-wheel-drive models only) or Honda’s now-ubiquitous continuously-variable unit (front- or all-wheel-drive). The 6-speed is available on LX and EX trims. EX-L Navi cars can only be optioned with the CVT.

It’s only fitting (forgive the pun) that a small, practical crossover would be efficient. Six-speed, front-wheel drive models are rated for 25 mpg in the city, 34 on the highway and 28 combined. With the CVT, those figures jump to 28 mpg city, 35 highway and 31 combined. Add all-wheel-drive (CVT-only, remember), and you’re looking at 27 mpg city, 32 highway and 29 combined.

The HR-V’s suspension is fairly typical of the segment and indicative of its subcompact roots. Up front, you’ll find MacPherson struts; in the rear, a torsion-beam setup. All models are equipped with (now-universal) electric power-assist steering, and all models come with disc brakes front and rear.

The HR-V is also fairly light, weighing in about the same as a Civic sedan. In FWD/MT form, LX models tip the scales at only 2,888lbs. EX models range from 2,917 to 2,933 and loaded-up, EX-L Navi models with AWD cap out at 3,190.

What’s it up against?

The HR-V slots into Honda’s lineup as a competitor to the Chevrolet Trax, Kia Soul, Fiat 500X, Nissan Juke, Mazda CX-3 and Jeep Renegade, among others. Honda claims the Subaru XV Crosstrek hits the sweet spot for the HR-V’s competitive set, despite its origins in a slightly larger platform (the Impreza).

How does it look?

The Fit borrows quite a few styling cues from its bigger siblings, the CR-V and all-new Pilot. With its large grille and upright proportions, the HR-V could be mistaken for a CR-V at a distance. Up close, there’s no confusing the two, however. The HR-V’s sharper rear cut-off and shorter front overhang set it apart from its big brother.

To our eyes, the exterior works best from the rear, where the underlying Fit’s simple hatchback proportions lend themselves well to the crossover treatment. From some angles, the exterior looks abrupt or somehow awkwardly tall, but it’s not an offensive design by any means.

And the inside?

Up front, controls fall to hand with little fuss. The elevated seating provides an excellent view of the road, and Honda’s available Lanewatch feature makes merging on the right side a snap. When the right turn indicator is activated, a camera in the right-side mirror is activated, showing the area obstructed by the passenger-side pillars, making it nearly impossible to overlook blind-spot loiterers.

The real differentiator here boils down to two words: Magic Seats. The “Magic Seat” system is ripped directly from the Fit, where it incorporates the 60/40 split, fold-flat rear seat with a flat-folding front passenger seat to accommodate all sorts of awkwardly shaped or otherwise-oversized cargo. What fits? Long objects (center and front passenger seats folded down), wide objects (rear bench folded flat) and various combinations of the above with a rear passenger (60/40 split as necessary).

With all the seats up, the HR-V can hold five people, but just because it can be done doesn’t mean it should. Rear legroom is adequate (and in fact rivals that of hatchbacks that are technically a size class up from the Fit), and its hatchback shape means rear headroom doesn’t suffer, but unless your friends are particularly fond of rubbing shoulders, we’d suggest you limit the number of rear passengers to two or fewer.

But does it go?

So, 141 horsepower and 127 lb-ft of torque in a ~3,000lb small crossover. Oh, and it has a CVT. No, we weren’t holding our breath either.

The HR-V is not dangerously slow by any means, but it’s certainly not quick. We had the chance to drive the six-speed model in Florida and we found the acceleration to be adequate and the transmission pleasant enough to use, but our all-wheel-drive, CVT-equipped tester is the heaviest way you can configure the HR-V, and let’s be honest, nobody’s buying a car like this to win races.

Good thing, too. While the HR-V can handle a twisty road just fine, it’s not the tool to do the job. The ride is soft, which helps mask the ride quality shortcomings of the twist-beam rear suspension. It’s not nearly as sharp or light-footed as the Fit on which it is based, but it’ll keep its composure in an emergency well enough to inspire confidence. On our first drive, we found the brakes to be less than impressive, but our loaner was less intimidating in that regard.

Leftlane’s bottom line

If you want to play road racer in this segment, you want a Nissan Juke, a turbocharged Jeep Renegade, or, to a lesser extent, a Mazda CX-3. The HR-V is a dutiful and competent partner in day-to-day driving, but for excitement, you’d best look elsewhere.

Honda HR-V EX-L NAVI, base price, $25,840 (AWD)

  • Aesthetics

    B-

  • Technology

    A

  • Green

    A-

  • Drive

    B-

  • Value

    B+

  • Score

    B+

Review: 2015 Honda HR-V EX-L Navi Reviewed by Byron Hurd on December 2 We got our hands on Honda’s mini-ute for an extended test drive. Rating: 3.5

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