As the oldest vehicle in Honda’s lineup, the outgoing HR-V was well overdue for replacement, but that didn’t make it a bad vehicle. With the innovative, flip-up rear Magic Seat and plenty of space for four passengers, its comfortable cabin and teensy exterior rivaled Mary Poppins’ carpetbag for packaging efficiency.
Still, with competitors like the stylish Mazda CX-30, turbocharged Kia Seltos, and sensible Toyota Corolla Cross arriving in the last couple years, Honda’s entry-level crossover needed to evolve. Gone is the Fit-based platform (and the Magic Seat along with it), replaced on the 2023 HR-V with the Civic’s more conventional bones. The Civic also donated a good chunk of its interior design details, helping the HR-V feel much more mature and stylish than most of its competition. But the bland exterior design and upsized dimensions hide a cabin that’s not much more spacious than before, and the HR-V is a bit on the pricey side.
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|Quick Stats||2023 Honda HR-V EX-L AWD|
|Output:||158 Horsepower / 138 Pound-Feet|
|Drive Type:||All-Wheel Drive|
|Fuel Economy:||25 City / 30 Highway / 27 Combined|
Gallery: 2023 Honda HR-V Review
- Exterior Color: Nordic Forest Pearl
- Interior Color: Gray
- Wheel Size: 17 Inches
Although no one would call the outgoing HR-V pretty, it was at least pretty distinctively styled. The 2023 model, however, is just plain dull. A drooping front end and trapezoidal grille opening recall the Ford Escape, hardly a high-water mark for beauty, and the stubby tail is likewise featureless and bland. The Nordic Forest Pearl paint is a worthy use of $395, providing subtle sophistication to the merely adequate sheetmetal shapes.
Inside, it’s a completely different story. The Civic donates its dashboard mesh to the HR-V, hiding the air conditioning vents behind some Kennedy-era style. However, the crossover’s overall design theme is rounder than the rectilinear Civic, with a bulging shift binnacle that invokes Honda’s legendary sportbikes. Very cool. A half-digital instrument cluster is the only big design misstep – why not just make the whole gauge display powered by pixels?
save over $3,400 on average off MSRP* on a new Honda HR-V
- Seating Capacity: 5
- Seating Configuration: 2 / 3
- Cargo Capacity: 24.4 / 55.1 Cubic Feet
In the transition from the Fit platform to the Civic’s, the HR-V has lost some of its packaging magic. The Civic’s fuel tank is under the rear seat, while the Fit’s was beneath the front passenger. With less rear head and legroom than its predecessor, it’s hard not to ask “Where’s the beef” when looking at the new HR-V’s longer, wider exterior footprint. There’s also less headroom up front, as well as less shoulder room front and rear and less maximum cargo space with the seats down.
But while Honda’s entry in the subcompact class has decidedly average numerical measurements, it’s as comfortable – if not more so – than both its predecessor and its primary rivals. The driver and front passenger get excellent bucket seats, while the 60/40 split-folding rear bench has better thigh support and a more natural seating position than the outgoing HR-V and the current Toyota Corolla Cross. The Honda also feels airier and less cramped than the Corolla Cross and Mazda CX-30, thanks in part to big windows and good outward sightlines.
And in addition to the adequately sized cargo area – with a truly flat-folding rear seat – there’s abundant space to stash your gear in the passenger cabin. The center console boasts an open storage area just aft of the shift binnacle (looking a bit like a seat in our motorcycle metaphor) while a big armrest cubby offers plenty of space and a big lid that makes sorting through it easier.
- Center Display: 9.0-Inch Touchscreen
- Instrument Cluster Display: 7.0 Inches
- Wireless Apple CarPlay / Android Auto: Yes / Yes
Every Honda HR-V comes standard with a partially digital instrument cluster, combining a 7.0-inch screen for the tachometer and on-board computer with a traditional, analog speedometer. The HR-V LX and Sport get a 7.0-inch center touchscreen with wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while my EX-L tester’s 9.0-inch display gets wireless integration.
Unusually, the infotainment system doesn’t include any sort of embedded navigation – most owners will use Google Maps or Waze, but in cases where you’re lost and away from cell service, your phone isn’t going to be of any use. That’s the only complaint I can levy at the tech suite, which boasts crisp graphics, good touch response, and simple operation.
- Engine: 2.0-Liter I4
- Output: 158 Horsepower / 138 Pound-Feet
- Transmission: Continuously Variable Transmission
First, the bad news. The 2023 Honda HR-V isn’t particularly athletic when it’s time to put the hammer down. The biggest culprit is a low torque rating of just 138 pound-feet, though the 158 horsepower is also a bit lackluster. The Toyota Corolla Cross has 169 ponies and 151 torques, while the optionally turbocharged Kia Seltos pegs the dyno at 195 for both units of measure. The HR-V, meanwhile, has to be coaxed up a mountain grade, its uninspiring CVT and coarse engine note making it sound like the car is working even harder than it is. If only Honda had given the HR-V the same 1.5-liter turbo as the Civic, because it plain needs more grunt.
But aside from the dull powertrain, the HR-V is actually pretty fun to drive. A multilink rear suspension comes standard across the board – some cars in this class make do with a twist-beam rear – giving the Honda the sort of composure you’d expect from a more expensive vehicle. Limited body roll and accurate steering make it easy to preserve momentum through corners, and the brakes are likewise confidence-inspiring.
- Driver Assistance Level: SAE Level 2 (Hands-On)
- NHTSA Rating: Not Rated
- IIHS Rating: Not Rated
Honda Sensing comes standard on every HR-V, bundling forward collision monitoring, high- and low-speed automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assistance, and adaptive cruise control into one easy-to-use package. The mid-level Sport and flagship EX-L models also come standard with blind spot monitoring. Neither the government nor the IIHS have tested the new Honda HR-V, but the old model received mostly good crashworthiness ratings, and it’s fair to expect even better from the new one.
- City: 25 MPG
- Highway: 30 MPG
- Combined: 27 MPG
- Base Price: $23,650 + $1,245 Destination
- Trim Base Price: $30,195
- As-Tested Price: $30,590
Starting at $24,895 with destination, the base Honda HR-V LX front-driver feels like a good value, especially since it has the same snappy interior design and mature suspension layout as its siblings. My top-spec, all-wheel-drive EX-L tester cha-chinged its way to a $30,590 price, its lone option being the $395 coat of paint. However, I think the sweet spot in the lineup is actually the HR-V EX-L with front-wheel drive, which gets better fuel economy (up to 32 miles per gallon on the highway) and saves the owner $1,500.
As equipped, though, the HR-V is a pretty good value, costing a couple grand less than the Corolla Cross I drove a few months back while boasting a better driving experience and more interior space. The HR-V also feels better-built than the plasticky Volkswagen Taos, which is more than $35,000 with all-wheel drive, leather upholstery, and a full suite of driver assistance. As usual, the Koreans represent the value play, with the fun-to-drive Kia Seltos SX AWD costing $30,335 similarly equipped – though the cabin does feature more cheap materials than the Honda.
Against that varied competition, the Honda HR-V stands out for its well-designed interior, plenty of in-cabin storage, and sophisticated ride-handling balance. And it’s a good value, even if I’m still getting used to the idea that most small CUVs demand 30 grand these days. If it had more power and got better fuel economy, the 2023 HR-V would be perfect. So Honda, about that 1.5T…
HR-V Competitor Reviews:
2023 Honda HR-V EX-L AWD