The 2016 Honda HR-V is basically an oversized, higher Fit with a more powerful engine and all-wheel drive on certain versions to deal with the rigours of our climate. This is almost certain to be a winning recipe for Honda in Canada. Just like the Fit, the HR-V is built on Honda's Global Small Car platform, so the fuel tank is located under the front seats. However, the HR-V is 20 centimetres longer and a tad wider than the Fit.
Honda conducted marketing studies with its clientele before designing this new vehicle, which includes features from three vehicle classes: coupes, minivans and sport utility vehicles. At first glance, you'll notice that the roofline plunges dramatically toward the rear and that the back door handles are less apparent – like on the Nissan Juke or the Hyundai Veloster. The idea was to make it look like a coupe, but the overall design lacks uniformity and certain elements, like the line that connects the front bumper to the C-Pillar or the front grille's H layout, are not particularly nice. The ugly duckling of the subcompact SUV category the HR-V is not, as that title belongs to the Chevrolet Trax/Buick Encore duo, but it's definitely not the slickest from a design standpoint. This serves as a reminder that you shouldn't follow all of the recommendations of focus groups: as they say, a camel is a horse designed by a committee.
Since the HR-V shares its platform with the Fit and the fuel tank is located under the front seats, the passenger compartment features Honda's ingenious adjustable "Magic Seat" rear bench, which offers increased versatility compared to the competition and an impressive amount of space, more so than even that of a Volkswagen Tiguan – a vehicle that belongs to the compact SUV category. The HR-V's central console is equipped with USB and HDMI ports, a space that's supposed to be for a smart phone and a colour touchscreen also found in the Fit. Fortunately, the HR-V's steering wheel includes a volume control for the audio system since it isn't easy to adjust on the tocuhscreen while driving.
Fit platform, Civic engine
In Japan, the HR-V is powered by the 1.5-litre four-cylinder found in the Fit, but that isn't the case in North America, where the Civic's 1.8-litre engine is used instead. With 141 horsepower and 127 lbs.-ft. of torque, the engine can be paired with a six-speed manual gearbox or a CVT for the front-wheel drive versions, while the all-wheel drives come only with the CVT. During our first test drive, on the smooth roads of Florida, the HR-V lived up to expectations by performing very respectably. It’s more fun to drive with a manual gearbox, but this choice will cost you more at the pump compared to the HR-V with the CVT. For example, with the manual transmission, the engine revs at 2,500 rpm at 100 kilometres/hour in sixth gear, as opposed to 1,900 rpm at the same speed with the CVT. We recorded an average fuel consumption of 7.6 litres per 100 kilometres with the CVT on a route comprised mostly of highways; the figure climbed to 8.3 litres per 100 kilometres for an equivalent trip with the manual gearbox.
It has an independent front suspension and a rear torsion bar suspension, and all the shock absorbers feature two pistons. The front suspension does all the work in normal conditions while the rear suspension springs into action when things get sportier to better control the movements of the body. While the HR-V wasn’t designed for sport driving, it remains fun to drive nonetheless. Note that a roll bar has been added to the rear suspension on versions with all-wheel drive.
At the end of the day, the HR-V is a versatile and practical vehicle that offers a nice ride and relatively good fuel consumption. It will be very interesting to be able to compare it to the new Mazda CX-3, which should put a little more emphasis on driving pleasure. Stay tuned…