- Easily accommodates five average-sized adults
- Clever cargo solutions make it more versatile than rivals
- Excellent fuel economy figures
- Outward visibility is unobstructed
- Unimpressive power output results in lackluster acceleration
- Infotainment system isn't as easy to use as others
Just because something is small doesn't necessarily mean it will come up short. As a wise Jedi master once said, "Size matters not. … Judge me by my size, do you?" In the same vein, the 2017 Honda HR-V is far more capable than its diminutive size suggests.
As part of the burgeoning subcompact SUV class, the HR-V slots in under Honda's CR-V and larger Pilot. It also utilizes one of the company's clever innovations, the so-called Magic Seat from the related Fit hatchback, which features a flip-up rear seat cushion to accommodate tall and narrow cargo like a bicycle or a flat-screen TV. With all the seats in place, there's suitable space for five average-size adults, too. Besides the HR-V's flexibility, it also benefits from strong fuel economy figures and an unobstructed outward view.
Yes, the Force is strong with the Honda HR-V, but it's not without a twinge of the Dark Side. The admirable fuel efficiency comes at the expense of strong acceleration, and the infotainment system isn't as intuitive or easy to operate as rivals. That said, the HR-V received an Edmunds B rating, as have its chief competitors that include the more engaging Mazda CX-3, chic Fiat 500X and more rugged Jeep Renegade.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2017
The Honda HR-V is unchanged for 2017.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2017 Honda HR-V is a five-passenger subcompact crossover that is available in LX, EX and EX-L Navi trims. There are no significant factory options to add. Standard features for the LX include 17-inch alloy wheels, full power accessories, cruise control, air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver seat, a configurable 60/40-split folding rear seat, a 5-inch display screen, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and streaming audio, and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary/USB input.
The EX trim adds a sunroof, rear privacy glass, automatic headlights, foglights, heated mirrors, keyless entry and ignition, heated front seats, automatic climate control, a passenger-side blind-spot camera (Honda's LaneWatch), a 7-inch touchscreen display, a six-speaker sound system (with an additional USB port), and HondaLink smartphone apps and integration.
At the top of the line, the EX-L Navi comes with roof rails, leather upholstery, a navigation system with voice recognition and real-time traffic information, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and satellite and HD radio.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
No matter which trim you choose, the 2017 Honda HR-V's interior has a pleasant design with decent materials. Getting into the front seats is effortless, but rear seat access is hindered slightly by the sloping rear roofline, the smaller door opening and raised seats. Comfort up front is somewhat compromised by the firm and narrow seats, and taller drivers will likely suffer with the lack of adjustability and legroom. Rear quarters are spacious for the class, easily accommodating average-sized adults.
The larger 7-inch touchscreen and infotainment system on EX and EX-L trims falls short in terms of usability and functionality compared to rivals. The graphics themselves look dated, the menus aren't as intuitive, and there isn't any support for Android users yet. The lack of a physical volume knob and the integration of the climate control system can also be frustrating.
The HR-V does receive praise when it comes to cargo, however. There is 24.3 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats and 58.8 cubic feet available with them folded. Capacity drops slightly to 23.2 and 57.6 cubic feet for the all-wheel-drive LX (55.9 cubes for the AWD EX and EX-L), but these volumes are still generous for the class. More significantly, the HR-V features flip-up rear Magic Seat cushions like those in the Honda Fit. The front passenger seatback can also be folded back for longer cargo.
Standard safety features for all Honda HR-V models include antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and a rearview camera. Honda's LaneWatch blind-spot display is included in both EX and EX-L Navi trim levels.
In Edmunds brake testing, an EX-L Navi AWD stopped from 60 mph in 124 feet, which is an average distance among competing SUVs. In government crash tests, the HR-V was awarded five out of five stars for overall and side-crash protection and four stars for front-crash and rollover protection. Similarly, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the HR-V its best grade of Good for moderate-offset front-impact protection, roof strength, and head restraints and seats. For the small-overlap front-impact and side crash tests, it earned the second-best score of Acceptable.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
All Honda HR-V models are powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 141 horsepower and 127 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on LX and EX trims. A continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is available as an option and is standard on the EX-L or if you add all-wheel drive.
In Edmunds testing, an HR-V EX-L Navi with AWD accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 9.7 seconds, making it one of the slowest in the class.
What the HR-V lacks in performance, it makes up for with efficiency. The EPA estimates fuel economy at 28 mpg combined (25 city/33 highway) for the front-wheel-drive HR-V with the base manual transmission. With the CVT, the estimate increases to 31 mpg combined (28 city/34 highway). The all-wheel-drive HR-V splits the difference at 29 mpg combined (27 city/31 highway). These are as good as they get for the class, and our real-life results support these estimates.
Power output from the HR-V's 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine is disappointing when any sort of urgency is required. When accelerating, the CVT further emphasizes this shortcoming with the loud drone that comes from the engine. Things improve only slightly in dense urban settings or when cruising on the highway thanks to the rather quick throttle response.
Handling is about average for the class, with reassuring composure and precise steering when cornering. The HR-V is not nearly as athletic or entertaining as the Mazda CX-3, but as a family crossover the HR-V's more refined and comfortable feel is a plus. The combination of excellent all-around visibility and maneuverability makes the HR-V easy to back into a tight spot.
There's only so much you can pack into a subcompact SUV such as the 2017 Honda HR-V, but clever engineering gives it the flexibility to overcome its small size.