Honda HR-V — Big changes, but performance, mpg's disappoint

By Jim Prueter

(July 24, 2022) The smallest of Honda’s utility vehicle offerings, the HR-V subcompact crossover, has been given a complete redo as its second-generation is launched for 2023. The outgoing first generation was popular finding homes for more than 700,000 units in the U.S. during its 2016 debut to 2022 run.

But since that time the HR-V fell behind the flood of some of the best new competitor subcompact crossovers like the Hyundai Kona, Kia Seltos, Mazda CX-30, Volkswagen Taos and others. It came as no surprise that to stay competitive the new HR-V sheds the original platform from the now-discontinued Honda Fit subcompact hatchback stepping up to the newly redesigned Civic platform affording a longer wheelbase, roomier interior, an independent rear suspension that improves both ride and handling and a more powerful engine.

Gaining nearly a foot in length, the new HR-V is noticeably larger than the original including most competitors in its class. It’s just 2-inches shorter than the Honda CR-V. By comparison, the new HR-V puts a lot of distance between it and the outgoing HR-V feeling more mature with a significantly improved level of driving comfort and handling. It doesn’t just look completely new it feels like a completely different vehicle.

Outside the look is more modern and we can’t help but notice similar up-front styling cues similar to the new Ford Escape and an abundance of DNA from the Acura RDX at the rear. The body is smooth and curvy rather than crisply chiseled and while attractive, is staid when compared to stylish competitors like the Kia Seltos, Buick Encore GX, Chevy Trailblazer and Mazda CX-30.

Inside, the HR-V is noticeably similar to the Civic including the attractive honeycomb strip across the middle of the dash that houses the air vents and a number of pleasing climate knobs. The interior is also roomier including seats with ample amounts of adjustment and comfort thanks to its overall longer length and wheelbase. Four adults of average size will find plenty of comfortable room even on longer road trips. Our EX-L trim level came with gray perforated leather seating, heated up front and eight ways to power adjust the driver’s seat.

The HR-V Sport trim offers unique black cloth seating with orange stitching repeated on the doors, dash and center console. The base LX can be had in black or gray cloth seating with embossed patterns and a mélange fabric insert. Honda also claims the new model’s cargo area is larger and a lift-over height to access the cargo bay has been lowered to a height of 27 inches to help with lifting heavy gear and items. There’s just over 24 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats in the up position. Drop the 60/40 folding rear seat down, and cargo room grows to 55 cubic feet that Honda says makes for one of the largest in the subcompact class.

All trim levels include plenty of tech starting with a seven-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto along with a Sirius XM trial subscription. Our EX-L tester upgrades to a nine-inch touchscreen, plus Qi-compatible wireless charging. Alongside the touchscreen is a seven-inch color TFT display with an analog speedometer on the right side, an information panel in the tachometer on the left, and a digital speedometer in the center. There's also a Multi Information zone presenting various alerts and info including Honda's Sensing function.

Regardless of trim level all are powered with one engine/transmission combo, a new 158-horsepower 138 lb.-ft. of torque four cylinder that replaces the old 1.8-liter 141 horsepower and 127 lb-ft of torque four cylinder. Power is delivered through an updated CVT transmission that attempts to mimic a conventional automatic transmission. The new 2.0-liter is the same engine that powers the base Civic. Front-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive is available.

While the bump in horsepower is appreciated it was also one of our main disappointments along with its unimpressive fuel economy. On the road we found the engine to struggle with acceleration getting up to speed with any sense of exigency. And while EPA combined fuel economy is rated at 27 mpg our real-life driving experience recorded a best of 22.2 mpg combined during our weeklong testing. Still, we found the new HR-V to deliver a comfortable, quiet ride even over rough and uneven pavement. Handling on winding roads was confident and enjoyable, brakes sure and confident.

Overall, the new HR-V is generally a nicely executed vehicle that’s noticeably improved thanks to the benefits of the new Civic platform. It’s also among the segment’s most reliable and desirable vehicles with a reputation for a high resale value. It’s especially easy to drive with an attractive new roomier interior and comfortable seats.

We expect fans of Honda vehicles will be well satisfied with the new HR-V, but we found it lacking power with disappointing fuel economy. But without breaking any new ground or offering anything not already offered by most competitors in its class it just doesn’t score any “wow” factors.

Vital Stats
2023 Honda HR-V AWD EX-L
Base Price: $28,950Price as Tested: $30,590
Engine/Transmission: 2.0-liter, 158-horsepower four-cylinder paired with a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT).
EPA Fuel Economy: 25/30/27 MPG – City/Highway/Combined
Seating: 5

Crash Test Safety Ratings: It has not been crash tested by either the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as of this writing.

Where Built: Celaya, Guanajuato, Mexico

Competes With:
Chevrolet Trailblazer
Hyundai Kona
Mazda CX-30
Nissan Rogue Sport
Subaru Crosstrek,
Toyota Corolla Cross
Volkswagen Taos

Composed ride and handling
Roomy, comfortable interior
Excellent reliability and resale value

Lethargic acceleration
Disappointing fuel economy
Breaks no new ground – missing “wow” factors
No hybrid offering