Test Drive: 2017 Honda HR-V EX-L Navi

The Honda HR-V was introduced as a 2016 model, and being Honda’s smallest crossover, it finds its place between the clever Fit hatchback and bestselling CR-V compact crossover. Pricing starts at $21,150 for the front-drive LX with six-speed manual transmission, and works its way through a few trim levels to this top-dog all-wheel-drive EX-L Navi at $30,450.

The HR-V is essentially a larger and taller version of the Honda Fit, and as such inherits that hatchback’s brilliant cargo hauling acumen.

The HR-V is essentially a larger and taller version of the Honda Fit, and as such inherits that hatchback’s brilliant cargo hauling acumen. It all stems from a fuel tank positioned under the front seats and a compact rear suspension that lets the back half of the crossover become a cavernous box. Add in the rear Magic Seat with its flip-up seat cushions for haulage of tall items like bikes and plants, and you have a wee crossover that trumps all comers when it comes to load carrying flexibility.

The HR-V is pleasing to look at, if not exactly exciting, and the interior follows suit. Cabin materials are generally of a high quality, and rear seat passengers benefit from the HR-V’s wheelbase stretch (8 mm over the Fit), getting generous legroom and headroom. The seat cushions are a bit hard and flat though, a side effect of them being able to fold down to create that low and level load floor.

Thanks to the thin front roof pillars, outward visibility is good, and the standard back-up camera helps with parking manoeuvres. Also standard is heated front seating, although the front seat lower cushions are short for those long of leg.

The Honda HR-V returns good fuel mileage – 8.0 L/100 km combined for this test week – although the 141 hp and 127 lb-ft 1.8L four that is hooked to a CVT (continuously variable transmission) falls short in the thrust department. And thanks to that CVT, it drones in an unrefined fashion when pressing for some giddy-up. When considering the HR-V is flanked by a pair of standout Honda products (Fit and CR-V), its generally lackluster performance is a disappointment. It seems they’ve engineered the signature Honda flair out of this one, turning it into a bland, albeit accomplished, appliance.

You’ll find the cabin to be quiet and the ride generally quiet and compliant – until you hit a bad patch of pavement. Then the little ute gets crashy and pitchy. A bit of a split personality thing going on here. It does handle with the expected Honda sharpness though, and the steering is direct and linear, sending useful feedback to your fingertips. You can have a bit of fun on a twisty road with this one, although don’t bother with the shift paddles. They call up some virtual gearing in the CVT, but response is lazy and the shifts are slow.

I would also ask for better straight line tracking on the highway – constant little corrections are needed to keep a true path.

This top-spec EX-L Navi comes with a decent laundry list of kit: leather, sunroof, 7-inch infotainment touchscreen with navigation, SiriusXM, AWD, dual-zone climate control, proximity key with push-button start, 17-inch alloys, fog lights, roof rails and wiper de-icer. Safety systems include Honda LaneWatch right blind-spot display, forward collision warning and a nagging lane-departure warning system.

Honda must be sick of hearing auto journalists whine about its knob-less and button-less 7-inch Display Audio System, and we can only hope the next-generation of Honda’s interface will be more friendly to those of us who operate with opposable thumbs. Small mercies, the redundant controls on the steering wheel for audio functions are tactile and of high quality.

There are further nits to pick. After start-up, the infotainment system can’t be accessed until you press “OK” on a disclaimer screen, and conspicuous by their absence are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Whinging aside, the Honda HR-V’s strengths outweigh the annoyances. This test week saw it swallowing a load of furniture, making a run to the metal recyclers and ferrying our hairy Golden Retriever to her favourite provincial park. It really is the Swiss Army Knife of subcompact utes – the brilliant packaging that enables it to carry more stuff than most crossovers even the next size up is pure genius. Honda’s smallest crossover offers good value for the money, and its fuel economy and quality build will serve owners in the long haul. And you sure can’t bet against Honda’s well-earned reputation for reliability.

2017 Honda HR-V EX-L Navi
Engine Displacement: 1.8L
Engine Cylinders: I4
Peak Horsepower: 141 hp
Peak Torque: 127 ft-lb
Fuel Economy: 8.9/7.5/8.2 L/100 km city/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space: 688 L/1,665 L seats down
2017 Honda HR-V EX-L Navi
Base Price $30,450
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,950
Price as Tested $32,500
Optional Equipment None
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 7.7
7 Styling
7 Powertrain
8 Quality
7 Comfort
10 Practicality
8 Drivability
6 Usability/Ergonomics
8 Fuel Economy
8 Features
8 Value