The new Honda HR-V is finally back after a few years of absence. It was mind-blowing to see Honda was missing out a lot in a subcompact crossover segment, which is one of the most popular choices for the last few years. The previous HR-V wasn’t known to be very competitive, as it prioritized practicality over anything else. The 2023 Honda HR-V is a step up pretty much in every category.
The HR-V had always been considered as a lifted Honda Fit with all-wheel drive, offering a great amount of interior space, mediocre driving dynamics and build quality. In a wildly competitive subcompact SUV segment, you just need to have a competitive product to survive. Honda decided to take a different path with the new HR-V. It no longer feels like lifted Fit, but it feels more like a baby CR-V in every way.
The exterior and front fascia represents Honda’s new design language. There are lots of straight body lines going throughout the vehicle, especially the front end. The front grille doesn’t look too big and definitely not offensive. I don’t think it is aesthetically pleasing to look at, but it is much better than the previous generation. It clearly has more road presence, almost as much as a compact SUV.
From the side and rear, you realize how big the new HR-V is, compared to the previous generation. It has a very long hood, an almost hatchback-like roofline, and a subtle rear-end design. I have found the new HR-V is just as long as a CR-V from 10 years ago, showing that this is actually meant for larger families, offering a lot of space for all passengers. The previous generation was known to offer a lot of space as well, but that was more vertical space available for tall items.
The baby CR-V effect is also obvious even more when you get behind the steering wheel. It no longer feels like a budget rental car, although technically it is still a budget small crossover. The dashboard and overall interior feeling are better than the price tag. It has nicely padded surfaces on commonly touched parts anywhere in the interior. It looks similar to the new CR-V and Civic interior except for the center console, which is already class-leading when it comes to overall usability, fit and finish.
In the interior, you will find a lot of carry-over parts from the other Honda models, and it is always a great thing for lower-tier models. The front seats, steering wheel, shifter, infotainment screen and HVAC buttons. It is the first time the HR-V gets half digital screen inherited from the Accord and Civic, which shows a lot of information and is relatively customizable. Those parts are where you touch and use them every day, meaning that the HR-V feels more premium than other entries when it comes to overall refinement.
The infotainment system is located at the center of the dashboard because we use it more than anything else. You get the same screen that you would find in the latest Civic, and it is one of the most user-friendly options available. You get a physical volume knob and a few extra buttons. The touchscreen works accurately, and the resolution is quite impressive in this segment. The only gripe that I’ve had is the wireless smartphone integration, as I was having problems connecting to Android Auto. When it works properly, it has both wireless CarPlay and AA available.
Honda did a great job hiding the cost-cutting measures in the areas where you do not see, or use that often. The HR-V has always been built to a price point, and it is still the same. For instance, you do not get power seats, USB ports in the rear, or a power tailgate. Like the other Honda models, the HR-V comes with impressive legroom space in the front and the rear and the seats are quite comfortable, but it no longer comes with the signature feature of the previous generation – the magic seats. At 6’1″, I had absolutely zero issues sitting behind my driving position and had a decent amount of headroom.
The 2023 Honda HR-V is one of the most family-oriented subcompact crossovers. Rear-facing child seat can be installed quite easily, and you do not have to move the front passenger seat all the way forward. Although the magic seats are gone, Honda offers more interior space, especially in the trunk. It has 24.4 cubic feet (690 L) of cargo space behind the rear seats, and 55.1 cubic feet (1560 L) with these seats folded.
The drivetrain is also used in other Honda models for the last few years. It only comes with the 2.0L naturally aspirated inline 4 engine that generates 158 horsepower and 138 lb-ft of torque. The K series engine dates all the way back to the 2000s, but it is heavily revised for better fuel efficiency. It is also one of the few platforms that offers port fuel injection instead of direct injection, which means the maintenance costs will be much lower in the long term.
The 2.0L port fuel-injected engine also offers a quite smooth powerband, and also it is more silent than direct injection engines. You hear a little bit of engine noise coming through the firewall, but it is expected for this price range. As expected, it is matched with a continuously variable transmission for optimal fuel economy and a smooth driving experience. Overall, I find this drivetrain comfort-oriented, but a little bit mellow at highway speeds which keep the HR-V from racing to the front of the pack when it comes to the drivetrain choice.
Unlike the 2023 KIA Soul we have just reviewed last week, the biggest difference is that HR-V comes with an all-wheel-drive drivetrain. You can still get it with front-wheel-drive, but it is only available with the base trim. The AWD system does not offer any sort of torque vectoring like we used to see in high-end Acura and Honda models, but it will get the job done and will get you out of trouble. It sends most of the power to the front wheels for better fuel economy and sends power to the rear wheels when needed.
The 2023 Honda HR-V might be the right choice for someone looking for a nicely balanced, well-thought-out non-premium subcompact crossover. It is almost as refined as the Mazda CX-30 and offers a great interior space like the Subaru Crosstrek, and that makes the HR-V best of both worlds. Compared to the outgoing generation, the new HR-V is going upmarket to challenge heavy hitters in this segment. The biggest flaw is the underwhelming powerband from the performance standpoint, which can easily be solved if Honda offers the 1.5 turbo engine in the future.
|Engine||1996cc naturally aspirated 4-cylinder|
|Transmission & Drivetrain||Continuously variable automatic|
|Max power||158 hp @ 6500 rpm|
|Max torque||138 lb-ft @ 4200 rpm|
|0-100 km/h||9.5 sec|
|Curb Weight||3293 lb – 1494 kg|
|Fuel Economy (combined)||26 MPG – 9.1L / 100 km|
|Price (as tested)||$39.211 CAD|