Daily Driven: 2019 Honda HR-V Sport
Introduced for ’16, the HR-V is Honda’s entry into the hot subcompact crossover (CUV) market currently inhabited by the Chevrolet Trax, Ford EcoSport, Toyota C-HR, Mazda CX-3, and new-for-’19 Hyundai Kona and Nissan Kicks. While the subcompact car segment is shrinking, small CUVs based on them are big sellers.
Our test HR-V was a Sport AWD version, one rung up from the base LX, which lacks navigation, push-button start, a driver information center (DIC), automatic headlamps, auto-dimming mirror, and satellite radio. While we’re spoiled by well-equipped media vehicles, we got along fine without most of that but sorely missed SiriusXM radio. And we didn’t get to experience the Honda Sensing suite of driver-assist and safety features that comes on EX and above.
The Sport AWD’s $24,615 (including $995 destination) sticker does bring such features as steering-wheel shift paddles, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, foglamps, LED taillamps, a 7-inch infotainment screen with Multi-View rear camera, Hill Start Assist, Honda’s 60/40 split second-row “Magic Seat,” and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration. The HR-V’s only powertrain is a 141hp, 1.8L four-cylinder sending 127 lb-ft of torque through a constantly variable transmission (CVT), and the Sport’s 18-inch alloys wear 225/50R18 all-season tires.
While styling is subjective, we like the Sport’s black-out exterior trim (including rear door handles hidden in the C-pillars) and midrange interior materials. Yet we had some complaints. First, Honda (foolishly) started eliminating all knobs and buttons from its infotainment systems a few years back, so every change from radio to media to phone to whatever requires well-aimed pokes at the touchscreen and volume adjustment by clumsy slide controls. For ’19, the volume knob is back, but everything else is still in the screen.
A Honda engineer once told us that his young son is fine with that because he spends much of his life on a touchpad. True, but his pad isn’t bouncing up and down in a moving car. We think Honda and some others whose interior designers have convinced them to declutter IPs by putting all controls into touchscreens should look hard at what their best competitors are doing with two knobs (for volume and select/scroll) and a half-dozen or so hard buttons for single-touch switching from one major function to another.
Driver-seat legroom was a bit tight for long legs, but rear leg- and kneeroom were surprisingly good for the HR-V’s modest size. Cargo space behind the 60/40 back seat is 23.2 cubic feet, which expands to a generous 56.7 with both sides folded flat. The center console offers an adjustable cupholder and a small covered box but no other open storage. A tray below it contains (hard to see) 12-volt, auxiliary, and (2) USB ports. Storage pockets in all four doors are crowded by large speakers. A set of large, easy-to-use manual HVAC controls resides just below the touchscreen.
Driving the HR-V seemed fairly typical for its segment. The little 1.8L four felt eager around town but lost enthusiasm and turned noisy at higher-rpm wide-open throttle, while the CVT (though better than before) didn’t help by pushing engine rpm well ahead of vehicle speed. To the good, the HR-V Sport’s handling is pleasingly athletic and its steering crisp enough to make it fun to drive on two-lane twisties, and its brakes felt strong and sure.
With no DIC, we selected “Info” on the screen for fuel economy, where we saw trip-computer numbers usually between 25 and 26 mpg—not up to the HR-V AWD’s 27 mpg city, 31 highway, and 29 combined EPA ratings. Refilling the tank following our week of driving took 8.06 gallons over 203.3 miles, an average of 25.2 mpg. Bottom line: We liked the HR-V Sport and found it satisfying in most ways, yet less than best in this highly competitive class.
2019 Honda HR-V AWD SportBase price: $24,615
Price as tested: $24,615
Engine: Naturally aspirated 16-valve SOHC 1.8L I-4
Transmission: Continuously variable transmission
Horsepower: 141 @ 6,500 rpm
Torque: 127 lb-ft @ 4,300 rpm
Towing capacity: NA
EPA fuel-economy rating: 27 city/31 highway/29 combined
Actual calculated economy, 203-mile trip: 25.2 mpg
Passenger volume: 100.1 cubic feet
Cargo volume, seats up/down: 24.3/57.6 cubic feet