Ever since the Honda Element (RIP), with its backseat that folded down into a flat floor, enabling in-car camping, the Japanese manufacturer has been a favorite of adventurers. The FIT followed, and its surprising capacity—some stuff as many as five bicycles in the back—endeared everyone from campers to cyclists to the hatchback lover. But ground clearance on the FIT was an issue for some who traveled rough roads, and, even with impressive capacity, it was too small for many. The 2016 Honda HR-V, however, is more off-road capable with added clearance as well as impressive gas mileage, plenty of room for gear, and a sticker price of less than $20,000.
It just might be the best deal in brand-new adventure vehicles.
The newest member of the growing subcompact sport-utility vehicle market, the HR-V is the smaller, younger sibling to Honda’s best-selling SUV, the CR-V, which continues to grow in size and price. With 141 horsepower, the HR-V is more powerful than the 131-horsepower FIT thanks to a 1.8-liter four-cylinder 16-valve DOHC i-VTEC engine lifted from the Civic that’s available with continuously variable transmission (CVT) or six-speed manual transmission (available on LX and EX models with 2WD.)
Although we love the idea of the manual transmission for quicker acceleration and overall driving fun, the all-wheel drive (AWD) might be the call for folks with limited experience driving in adverse weather conditions. The AWD on the HR-V regularly runs in front-wheel drive, but, thanks to tech Honda dubs Intelligent Control System, when a wheel slips, like it may in wet or icy conditions—hello, snowy mountain roads—the AWD kicks in automatically.
Less efficient than the FIT and more efficient than the Element, miles per gallon varies with transmission choice, but the HR-V gets about 35 mpg on the highway and about 27 mpg in the city.
Cargo volume also varies slightly depending on model, between 96 and 100 cubic feet; there’s enough room for five people or three cyclists and their bikes inside. The HR-V also features the debut of the “magic seat” that enables the front passenger seat to fold flat with the reclined seat behind (thanks to a center-mounted fuel tank layout), just by removing the headrest. The result? The ability to carry a surfboard or the typically difficult-to-haul kayak. And with the rear seats folded down, the HR-V provides a minimum of 55.9 cubic feet of space.
And because you can’t avoid what you can’t see, the HR-V also includes tech that Honda call LaneWatch, which displays what’s in the driver’s blind spot on the center console screen after the driver turns on their blinker.
So far, the critics are impressed. “The HR-V gets it all done, and it will be doing it while other big, go-to manufacturers like Toyota, Ford and Hyundai aren’t yet an option,” raves Autoweek.
CNET writes, “A great little package offering plenty of genuinely usable space, reasonable performance and a driving feel that is far more engaging than your average SUV.”
Car and Driver believes we’ll be seeing a lot of these CUVs soon: “Honda should have another hit on its hands. In fact, we expect the HR-V to outsell the Fit on which it’s based—marking yet another milestone in the migration from cars to SUVs.”
Available with three different trim styles, the LX with two-wheel drive and a manual transmission is the least expensive, with a sticker price of $19,115. And the EX-L Navi with all-wheel drive is the most expensive, with a base price of $25,840. HR-Vs are slated to arrive in Honda showrooms on May 15. We might be there too, because with its enticing price tag, good gas mileage, and adventure-friendly functionality, we’ve all but stopped daydreaming about the awesome Subaru XV Crosstrek.
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