We haven’t been sold on any of the subcompact crossover sport-utility vehicles we’ve tested, but our first encounter with the Honda HR-V brought us within an inch or two of aiming two thumbs skyward. The 2017 HR-V EX-L was peppy, refined, quiet, fuel-efficient and supple – and reasonably priced, given its long standard-equipment list.
The “inch or two” reference was not figurative; it was literal. Our 6-foot-tall driver wanted and needed more leg room. Oddly, this same driver, taking a turn in the back seat, found there was plenty of knee room even with the front seat levered all the way to the pegs. An additional inch or two of rail under the seat (or even a power seat, unavailable on this model) would provide ample legroom for tall drivers, while leaving enough room for small adults and children in back.
As for the rest, the HR-V was everything we could have wished for in an economical, versatile, all-weather-capable little SUV with all-wheel drive and a respectable 6.7 inches of ground clearance.
The HR-V, little brother to the acclaimed CR-V, is in its second year of production in Mexico. Based on the Honda Fit subcompact hatchback, it includes many of the versatile Fit’s good qualities, but with a stronger engine and more refined feel. It comes in three flavors, ranging from the front-wheel-drive LX for $19,465, to the EX-L with navigation, also with front-wheel drive, for $24,940. All-wheel drive added $1,300 to our test car’s price.
Items on that long standard-equipment list included a continuously variable automatic transmission, paddle shifters, leather upholstery, heated front seats, satellite-linked navigation, satellite radio, Bluetooth audio and hands-free link, NextGeneration HondaLink system with smartphone applications, USB audio interface, Pandora Internet Radio interface, SMS text-messaging functionality, automatic climate control, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, one-touch power moonroof, and roof rails.
Also included in this package was a rear-view camera and Honda’s LaneWatch system, which shows a view of the exterior passenger-side roadway on the center-mounted infotainment screen. This view comes up when the right turn signal is activated, or when the driver pushes a button at the end of the turn-signal stalk. It has received mixed reviews, but as safety features go, it’s at least as effective as conventional blind-spot warning systems.
Speaking of safety, the HR-V received a 5-star overall vehicle score in government crash tests.
The HR-V’s fuel-economy rating reaches 34 mpg on the highway with the CVT and front-wheel drive. We averaged just short of 30 mpg in mostly highway driving, with the less fuel-efficient AWD system.
Not all automakers build subcompact-crossover SUVs. Among the leaders are the Buick Encore, Chevrolet Trax, Nissan Juke, Mazda CX-3, Fiat 500X, Subaru Crosstrek and Mitsubishi Outlander Sport. Toyota expects to get into the game with a subcompact SUV called the C-HR this spring.
For taller drivers, the Encore comes closest to providing sufficient leg room.
Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.
2017 Honda HR-V AWD EX-L
Engine: 1.8-liter inline Four, 141 horsepower, 127 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: continuously variable automatic
Weight: 3,062 lb.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, torsion-beam rear
Wheels: 17×7.5-in. alloy
Tires: P215/55R17 all-season
Ground clearance: 6.7 in.
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 23.2 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 55.9 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 13.2 gallons
Fuel economy: 27 mpg city, 31 mpg highway
Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline