Honda’s new HR-V is a little hustler of a crossover and particularly well-Americanized for how motorists use and connect with their cars.
It is another new entry in the popularity contest for these cute wagon-like things, which include the Buick Encore, Fiat 500X, Mazda CX-3, Chevy Trax, Jeep Renegade and Nissan Juke. And there are luxury entries, too.
These are all small “cars” but most seem larger inside than their subcompact classification. The HR-V shares an architecture with Honda’s Fit, but there is little to give that away except the second row reconfigurable Magic Seat and the center-mounted fuel tank.
The HR-V is sold in three trim levels in front- or all-wheel drive with a 141-horsepower, 1.8-liter four cylinder. A six-speed manual transmission is available on the LX and EX front-drive models, but all other trims get a continuously variable transmission.
Starting prices range from $19,995 to $26,720 for the top-line HR-V AWD EX-L Navi, todays test car. The loaded HR-V tester was a sweet treat with such standard features as smart key entry and push-button ignition, leather-trimmed upholstery, LaneWatch rearview camera, heated front seats and electric parking brake.
The price includes a 60/40 split folding back seat, map lights and lighted vanity mirrors, floor mats, power moonroof, 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, heated side mirrors with turn signals and roof rails.
The engine gives perky performance but the CVT feels mushy on hard takeoffs. Anticipate your need for power but once rolling the pickup is quicker and Sport mode helps a bit. My average fuel economy of 28.7 mpg was just below the EPA’s 29 mpg.
The ride is comfortable, but there is some body roll in speedy cornering, though it always sticks. The rear torsion-beam setup can be clunky in some applications, but Honda got this one right for smooth transitions. Four-wheel disc brakes have generous 11.5-inch vented front rotors at the front and 11.1-inch solid rear rotors.
The tester is the technologically advanced model with a 7-inch touchscreen to access all cabin functions — radio, climate and navigation. Except for on-off switch, there is not one button for alternate adjustments, though there are some redundant controls on the steering wheel. It takes time to figure out where the various touch points activate — and every time I tried (in my week of driving) I took my eyes from the road.
There is not a lot of shelf space to chisel features into a small cabin such as this, but those clever Honda engineers have persevered. Carving out the lower console as a charging/USB station with connectivity portals for Bluetooth audio and phone, smartphone apps, satellite and Pandora radio. A slim ledge to prop a phone is within the driver’s field of vision.
About the only features not offered are advanced safety aids, such as adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, etc. But Honda does have such a suite for larger vehicles, called Honda Sensing. It includes Collision Mitigation Braking System with Forward Collision Warning, Road Departure Mitigation with Lane Keeping Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control. Some makers are making such safety feature available on their subcompacts.
“The segment is brand new and we’re still exploring who the customer is and what they want in their vehicles,” a spokesman said. “As it is, it’s pretty well equipped at the standard level, and we anticipate a Top Safety Pick rating when it gets tested by IIHS.”
Sightlines are clear all around and the raised seating point is comfortable for entry and exit. The front seats are supportive for even large occupants. The cabin is well soundproofed and even has fabric-like material on the front and rear fender wells. And the cargo area fender bulges are carpeted, which is a treatment I’d never seen before on a mainstream car.
The back seat is quite roomy with a raised bench and a lot of footroom and a surprisingly huge 39.3 inches of legroom. That’s more of a magic trick than the folding second row, but it is slick in how it folds flat.
The square cargo area is about 62 inches long (with the seat folded) by 39 1/2 inches wide, so it will hold some serious gear.
Honda will sell a lot of these because the HR-V is so well targeted to this market. And many new buyers will make a value statement while enjoying a rich level of features and perks.
Mark Maynard is online at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find photo galleries and more news at Facebook.com/MaynardsGarage