Honda HR-V — Refreshed for 2019

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Honda introduced its HR-V small crossover in 2016 into a rapidly growing segment. It came with a thoughtful interior layout that accommodated four adult passengers and 23 cubic feet of cargo space behind the seats, as well as excellent fuel efficiency. The crossover-buying public quickly warmed up to the HR-V and it has become one of the bestselling vehicles in the segment.

Since then the segment has heated up and Honda has answered with a 2019 freshening that includes exterior styling updates and an expanded list of features, many of them standard equipment.

The refreshed styling is rather subtle and you might not be aware of the changes unless an older model is parked side-by-side with the 2019 edition. The grille is enhanced by a new interpretation of the “flying wing” rendered in dark chrome and extending over the new projector-style headlights. The grille opening has been restyled to emphasize a wide look, and the fog light housings have been enlarged to help give the HR-V a more aggressive stance. In the rear, new smoked turn signal lenses are connected by a thin chrome band.

Inside, the HR-V benefits from a new display audio system featuring a simplified interface that includes a real old-fashioned volume knob and the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. By the way, we also like knobs and physical buttons for climate control, but unfortunately they are digital in the HR-V and can be difficult to use while driving. A disappointment for us is the lack of an optional upscale sound system. The standard 180-watt six-speaker setup is OK, but we would like the choice of upgrading.

Honda's suite of driver-assistance features — called Honda Sensing — makes its way to the HR-V and is standard on top trims EX, EX-L, and Touring. It includes automated emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control. Unfortunately, blindspot monitoring continues to be an option.

The 2019 HR-V benefits from refinements to its standard Continuously Variable automatic Transmission (CVT), resulting in a more natural driving feel and quieter operation. HR-V Sport models receive variable-ratio electric power steering, while upgrades to the available all-wheel drive system yield improved performance in low-traction conditions such as snow.

One of the HR-V's weak points since its inception is the rather pokey 1.8-liter 141-horsepower 4-cylinder engine. It's slow and rather unrefined when compared to the competition. For comparison purposes, 0-to-60 takes about 9 seconds in front-wheel drive and pushes 10 seconds in the available all-wheel drive. We like a more engaging, performance-oriented experience even in our small SUVs.

On the plus side, the HR-V handles quite well and offers a pleasant ride, doing a good job soaking up most road imperfections. And the engine does deliver excellent mileage on regular gas measured at 27 mpg city, 31 highway and 29 combined in two-wheel drive and 26/31/28 with AWD — an important attribute in a small crossover.

Probably the HR-V's best feature is its rather incredible passenger room and cargo capability. Front seat room is good, the seats are excellent and remain comfortable even on long drives. Rear-seat passengers are not short-changed rewarded with excellent legroom — not an attribute of all smaller crossovers — and good headroom. (Note, you probably will have to duck your head to get into the back seat). And the seats are just as comfortable as those in front.

One caveat — lower car seat anchors in the back seat are easy to locate, but making the connection can be tedious because they are set too deep into the seat cushions.

With the rear seatbacks folded, cargo space opens up to 56 cubic feet. The HR-V excels because its fold-flat and flip-up rear seats are useful for all sorts of cargo combinations. Honda calls it "Magic Seat."

For 2019, the HR-V comes in five trim levels —†LX, Sport, EX, EX-L and Touring. To get the most features at the best price, we recommend the EX trim, which starts at $24,965 including the $1,095 destination charge. And the EX comes with Honda's safety suite as standard equipment.

Standard equipment across the range includes tilt and telescoping steering wheel, a 5-inch central display screen, a four-speaker sound system, air conditioning, cruise control, power equipment, Bluetooth streaming audio, hill start assist, 17-inch alloy wheels, and tire pressure monitoring.

The Touring trim provides everything available as options in lower trims — and it comes with standard AWD, which otherwise is a $1,400 option. The bottom line on our Touring test car was $29,735 including destination charge.

Base price: $21,665; as driven, $29,585
Engine: 1.8-liter 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 141 @ 6,500 rpm
Torque: 127 pound-feet @ 4,300 rpm
Transmission: continuously variable
Drive: all-wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 102.8 inches
Length: 169.1 inches
Curb weight: 3,093
Turning circle: 37.4 feet
Luggage capacity: 23.3 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 55.9 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 13.2 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 26 city, 31 highway, 28 combined
0-60: 10 seconds (estimated)
Also consider: Hyundai Kona, Subaru Crosstrek, Mazda CX-3

The Good
• Excellent passenger space
• Well sorted suspension
• Decent gas mileage

The Bad
• Harsh-sounding engine

The Ugly
• Disappointing performance