Tom Crosby: Honda squeezes new HR-V Crossover into its 2016 lineup

Tom Crosby

Tom Crosby

Sensing a steady appetite for entry crossover vehicles, Honda introduced a new HR-V this year that price-wise, size-wise and marketing-wise slips into a niche above Honda’s FIT and below Honda’s CR-V – both popular and successful models.

The hope for the Japanese automaker is that the HR-V, classified as a small sports utility vehicle, doesn’t cannibalize sales from its siblings, as the HR-V will probably join that duo as one of the 10 best family cars on the market today.

Using the same engine design as the CR-V, the HR-V comes in three trims with front or all-wheel drive, manual or continuously variable automatic transmission. (We drove the top-of-the-line EX-L with Navigation, all-wheel drive and automatic transmission with no options).

The HR-V is roughly $5,000 more than the FIT and $5,000 less than the CR-V, depending upon trims and options.

The 1.8-liter engine isn’t quick off the line but can be goosed with steering wheel mounted manual paddles for highway merges, but be prepared for excessive engine noise and some power lag. Less power means more miles per gallon – 29 on average – which Honda says is best-in-class. The rigid frame and electric power steering helps handling, and a long wheelbase cushions and controls the ride on 17-inch all-season tires using Macpherson front strut and H-type torsion beam rear suspensions.

Visibility is excellent, except flipped up rear head restraints severely narrow rear mirror views. A solid, sporty stance includes a rising beltline, side contours, sculpted lower body, rugged front fascia and concealed clam shell rear door handles for a distinctive appearance. Inside, the cockpit is generously sized, although taller occupants may encounter challenging headroom, front and rear.

Storage spots include a hidden area under a center cup holder and EV connections under the dashboard. Rear seats are easily manipulated to create generous cargo load space.

The interior feels upscale with soft-touch leather-like materials with piping, brushed chrome and comfortable, manually adjusted seats. A flat haptic 7-inch dashboard and lower climate control screen can be swiped like a computer but can be a distraction. However, extensive verbal menus provide voice controls for various audio, information and climate functions. Young drivers will enjoy Pandora compatibility, text messaging, Siri Eyes-free integration, upgraded audio with playback and other features. Audio has automatic speed volume that can be deactivated. Crash safety ratings are expected to be top tier. There is a spare tire.

LIKES: Interior space, versatility, visibility, looks, handling

DISLIKES: Underpowered, headroom

BOTTOM LINE: HR-V will be a hit despite tough competition from siblings and others

FACT FILE

HONDA HR-V EX-L-NAVI 2016

Base price w/destination fee                     $26,720 (price as tested)

Curb weight                                              3109 lbs.

Wheelbase                                                102.8 inches

Length                                                     169.1 inches

Width                                                       69.8 inches

Engine specs                                            1.8-liter, inline 4-cyclinder, SOHC

Horsepower                                              141 hp at 6,500 rpm

Torque                                                     127 ft.-lbs. at 4,300 rpm

Transmission                                            Continuous variable automatic w/paddle shifters

EPA Rating                                               27 mpg city, 32 mpg highway

Range                                                               13.2 gallons, regular

Performance                                            0-60 in just over 8 seconds

Tom Crosby is a former journalist and communications director for AAA Carolinas. He has been reviewing cars since 1996, and has been active in traffic safety issues for more than 30 years.

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