However, the North American definition of “small” has changed yet again. For us, anything that was once small has grown in size.
Let me get this correct: Subcompact SUVs are no longer relevant?
Surely that’s not the case. There is still a market for small city-sized runabouts that offer SUV-like practicality. After all, Hyundai, Chevrolet, Jeep, and Nissan still offer their subcompact SUVs.
However, the North American definition of “small” has changed yet again. For us, anything that was once small has grown in size. Maybe by a few inches into the next segment.
In some cases, the growth in size equals to a growth in purpose. It also equals to consumer wants and trends. It could be a welcome change to meet the demands of the marketplace.
Case in point: The 2023 Honda HR-V.
Prior to this new model, the HR-V shared the same platform as the Fit subcompact hatchback. While it was powered by a larger engine, the HR-V shared a lot of the practicality as its hatchback sibling. For example, the Magic Seats in the rear added more options for HR-V customers for more flexible cargo management.
Now, the 2023 HR-V has grown. It is now on the Civic platform, using Civic power, and with some of the Civic’s design elements in some places.
Does it mean that the HR-V is more Civic-like nowadays? That would be a good thing, right?
Design-wise, it is a slight departure from the brand’s language. The distinctive front end and grille might remind you of the former CR-Z sports coupe. Then, we get a nice curvy profile with a long roof and a slight rake in the liftgate. Doors open wide for four-to-five occupants.
Inside is where you can see some of the Civic’s influence. The honeycomb grille for the vents across the dashboard, the fully digital instrument cluster, and the seven-inch infotainment touch screen on top of the center stack. The controls are logical and easy to the touch – including the shifter.
Our EX-L tester is adorned with leather-trimmed seating across both rows of seats. Room is pretty good for four adults. Behind the second row is 24.4 cubic feet of cargo space that is expandable to 55.1 cubic feet.
You know what’s missing? The Magic Seats! Sadly, they did not make it onto the new HR-V. We’re going to miss those…
Powering the HR-V is the Civic’s 158-horsepower 2.0-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine. It is connected to a continuously variable transmission and our tester’s available Real Time All-Wheel Drive system. You can select from a few drive modes, including Snow mode.
The driveline does a good job in traffic and away from it. Honda makes a good CVT that shifts “normally” without the high-revving drama of the other transmissions. As for fuel economy, I averaged 28.0 MPG.
In all, ride quality of the HR-V was pretty good. It offered the best balance with decent absorption of rougher road surfaces – including potholes and cracked tarmac. Handling offered up good reflexes on the curves and through evasive maneuvers.
As for the steering system, the turning radius is quite good, and wheel feel was pretty decent. We just wished there was a bit more on-center feel within the lanes. There is the Lane Keeping Assist System that will help to keep the HR-V on course. Brake pedal feel was also pretty good, as well. In all, I experienced solid stops in normal, panic, and winter situations.
Pricing for the 2023 Honda HR-V starts at $23,800. There are three trim levels to choose from, all available in either front- or all-wheel drive. My EX-L all-wheel drive tester came with a sticker price of $30,590.
There is one thing to clear up about the Honda HR-V. A reader from Europe pointed out that the HR-V you’re seeing on this page is not the same as they get elsewhere in the world. In fact, he favored the design of the ne they get in the EU than this one.
Before anyone gets triggered, yes, there are two HR-Vs sold in many parts of the world. This one is assembled in Mexico and sold in North America. The Chinese version looks like this, but s sold under another name. There are plans to sell this one under another model nomenclature alongside the “global” HR-V.
I apologize in confusing you here, but it was worth pointing out to this site’s global audience.
Nonetheless, the new HR-V for North American consumption offers a good starting point for Honda’s SUV/crossover lineup. Size-wise, it is quite competitive and useful. Perhaps, it is worth considering given a recent focus of quality and execution of Honda’s products of late that has brought back the attention of everyone.
Then again, Honda has always had a very good reputation for good vehicles. The HR-V serves as a reminder of that exact fact, even if it has grown in size.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by American Honda Motor Company, Inc.
All photos by Randy Stern