2019 Honda HR-V: Small size, big value
In the hotly contested small crossover market, the 2019 Honda HR-V has a big advantage over much of the competition — it is actually a crossover, not just a tall wagon.
By that I mean two things. First, it is based on a car, the subcompact Honda Fit. And second, it is available with all-wheel-drive. That's what the term crossover meant when Honda helped invent the concept with its original CR-V compact.
But now, many manufacturers are selling vehicles they call crossovers that are designed from scratch and are only available with front-wheel-drive. Most are good cars, and several of the smaller ones are both practical and fun to drive. But they are not available with AWD, which is a big plus during the rainy season in the Pacific Northwest, which is most of the year.
Honda has pretty much left the HR-V alone since it was first introduced in this country in 2015. It is refreshed this year with a bigger grill, different headlights, the availability of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a few other tweaks. The company has put more effort into its larger vehicles recently, including the redesigned Pilot and all-new Passport, which is Honda's most off-road capable SUV.
Fortunately, the fundamentals of the HR-V are strong enough that it still competels well against other subcompact crossovers and wannabes. They include a surprising amount of interior room for such a small vehicle and a quiet, comfortable ride under most circumstances. The build quality is also very good, giving the HR-V a solid feel.
One notable feature is the rear split "Magic Seats." The bottom cusions fold up for more floor space, or down into the floor where the back cusions fold on top of them for a larger, flat cargo space. The arrangement is clever and practical.
The HR-V is also available with HondaLaneWatch, a company-only safety system that is well designed for Portland area drivers. It includes a rearview camera in the passenger side side mirror that shows what is along and behind that side of the vehicle with the right turn signal is activitated. It is ideal for spotting bicyclists coming up from behind, a constant hazard in bike-crazy parts of the region.
The biggest disappointment is the standard normally-aspirated 1.8-liter inline four cylinder engine, which seems unrefined and underpowered off the line, although its performance improves as speed increases. Still, with competitors offering more sophisticated powerplants — including smaller but more powerful turbocharged fours — its time for Honda to step up with at least an optional engine that produces more than 141 horsepower, or at least produces it more smoothly.
But the engine should not be a deal breaker for most drivers. It is used in other Honda vehicles, after all. And the overall quality of the HR-V is high enough to compensate for that minor shortcoming.
Subcompact crossovers with available AWD are obviously geared at specific markets that include singles or very small families that enjoy the outdoors. If that sounds like you, the 2019 Honda HR-V should be near the top of your list.
2019 Honda HR-V AWD Touring
Base price: $20,520 (LX FWD)
Price as tested: $29,585
Type: Subcompact crossover
Engine: 1.8-liter inline 4 (141 hp, 127 ft-lbs)
Transmission: Continuous Variable Transmission
Mileage: 26/31 to 28/34
Overall length: 170 inches
Curb weight: 2,906 to 3,150 pounds
Final assembly: El Salto, Jalisco, Mexico