The Honda CR-V has been a hit since its introduction as a major player in the crowded compact SUV/CUV, in no small part because of its versatile interior, unmatched by any other vehicle in its segment. The same utility has been present in the Honda Fit, but the Fit lacks all-weather capability of the Honda CR-V.
So what to do? Shrink the CR-V onto the Fit platform and create the Honda HR-V. For all the other assets that set the CR-V apart from its alternatives, the HR-V has them as well. We’re talking about the seat system in both Hondas.
Honda places the fuel tank under the back seat, and that allows space for the rear seatback to fold into the space where the seat bottom had. With the seatback folded, it makes a flat load floor, something that we look for in SUV’s and CUV’s of all sizes and seldom see. That makes the HR-V’s cargo capacity more useable for flat-bottomed items—and that’s most of what the stuff to stuff in a cargo bay is. It helps if the cubes really are cubic.
The Honda HR-V, like the CR-V, beats the competition with something no other carmakers else has. The back seat bottom folds up against the rear seatback, leaving a flat floor allowing tall items—a tall potted plant, for example—to be put in from the side doors. The HR-V puts the utility in crossover utility vehicle.
Speaking of utility, the HR-V goes the Fit one better, at least for snowbelt drivers. Although it comes standard with front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive is available which, at least to stay within the Honda brand, would mean moving up in size to the CR-V.
The HR-V, however, looks happier with its lines and overall exterior lines than the CR-V, looking more like a CR-Z, with distinctive rising character lines on its sides, arcing up to the rear corner of the side windows and the rear door handle that’s incorporated into the side profile. The hood is higher than that of the CR-Z, somewhat more truckish but not obsessively so, and comes off well with the horizontal chrome bar and large grille.
The roofline approaches fastback curvature, and the rear of the car leans forward, but despite the bend of the roof, the tailgate is high and the flat floor makes up for a lot. The spoiler is standard, and rather than the Honda-typical vertical taillights on the D-pillar, the HR-V’s are horizontal, producing a wider—and sportier—look.
The interior is less radical than other Hondas we could name. The instrument panel is relatively conventional with a large central speedometer, a tachometer—admittedly with only about a 120 degree sweep—on the left, with lesser gauges and driver information on the right. For EX trim level and above, a seven-inch multi-information screen is angled towards the driver on the center dash.
Oddly for a Honda utility vehicle, the shifter for the transmission is mounted on the center console, not on the dash somewhere. This places the cupholders further back in the console, however, not one of the more convenient placements we’ve seen.
The front seats are wide and comfortable for long rides, but the narrow width of the Honda HR-V puts the seats close together. The back seat, for all its adaptability, is suitable only for two, and it’s a tight fit for adults at that. But again, there are larger crossovers if that’s required. The HR-V is a subcompact crossover, remember.
The 2015 Honda HR-V is powered, so to speak, by a 141 horsepower 1.8-liter four cylinder engine. What more—or less—is its 127 lb-ft of torque. Even with the less than 3,000 lb curb weight, relatively svelte for a CUV, the HR-V might as well stand for “hurry, run, vehicle” Pulling into traffic is an I-probably-should-have-waited-for-a-bigger-gap affair. The HR-V isn’t spunky, quick, lively or anything else in that part of the thesaurus.
The 2015 HR-V is available with either a six-speed manual transmission or a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with the curiosity of paddle shifting. Our test 2015 Honda HR-V was an EX-L Navi top trim level, which is only available with the CVT, and in drive-around-town mode, the CVT would mimic a conventional automatic, with “gear ratios.” The paddle shifters were there, of course, to change “gears.” Still, at its heart it’s still a CVT. Press the noise pedal all the way down and the revs go almost to redline while the car accelerates to catch up with the engine speed.
If the HR-V isn’t particularly energetic, it’s definitely agile and particularly adept at the parking lot polka, thanks in part to its size, but we expected a tighter turning circle with a car with a 102-inch wheelbase. And while the HR-V isn’t sporty, it’s secure in corners and stable and quiet on the highway.
High fuel mileage is expected from a vehicle this size, and the HR-V comes across with an EPA 27/32/29 mpg estimate. In a week of driving in a hilly fuel economy-zapping area, we managed 29.1 mpg.