2023 Honda HR-V: A Big Step Back – Road Test

2023 Honda HR-V: A Big Step Back – Road Test


of Honda HR-V The last generation was a model that we really liked at RPM. Affordable, reliable and versatile thanks to its Magic Chair technology, it remained very important in its class even if, in our opinion, it was starting to wear out against newer rivals.

So you will understand my excitement when Honda announced the arrival of the second generation. That’s why I tested it for a week to see if Honda continues to master the art of the small SUV.

Bigger, because competition requires it

At first glance, you can see this 2023 Honda HR-V It has gained in size compared to its predecessor. Honda had no choice but to make it bigger given that it now faces new, bigger competitors, the Toyota Corolla Cross, Volkswagen Taos and Kia Seltos, among others.

So HR-V 2023 has been extended by 221 millimeters and widened by almost 70 millimeters. Honda also took the opportunity to modify its design. It’s a more mature and streamlined pencil stroke than its predecessor, making it feel better.

However, my model – the EX-L Navi – looked strange with its black paint and horribly designed 17-inch rims shod with skinny 215-millimeter-wide tires. Ultimately, it’s not very good.

Honda is asking $30,795 for the base 2WD LX. My copy, the most expensive in the lineup, retailed for $39,195, which is nearly $3,000 more than the Corolla Cross XLE. I’d say the best value for money goes to the HR-V Sport at $35,995 because of its all-wheel drive and generous list of standard equipment.

However, there are affordable and well-equipped competitors such as the HR-V Sport, Corolla Cross LE AWD and Taos Comfortline, among others.

Well made interior, disappointing paint quality

As we approach the HR-V, we see that Honda has cut corners in terms of build quality, especially in terms of color where we see orange peels and uneven thickness.

At least the booth shows good quality. The new dimensions make access on board easier thanks to the wide opening of the doors. Once on board, I noticed good lumbar support and good side support from the driver’s seat, as well as a good 360-degree view. On top of that, I can’t fault him.

The finish quality of this interior is also pleasing, which allows the HR-V to mature compared to the model it replaces. The grille on the air vents – which extends from the center to the passenger side door – gives this SUV a premium touch, while recalling the interior of the Civic. It’s convenient, but I blame the lack of durability of the components, such as the center console and dashboard that can easily be folded with a touch.

True to Honda products, the level of ergonomics is not found, that is, the controls are well placed, easy to grasp and in any way difficult to understand.

The digital interface (only offered on the Sport and EX-L trim levels) keeps the HR-V up to date with today’s trends, while the 9-inch multimedia interface is responsive, displays great image quality and, in my case, is fast. integrated into Android Auto.

Not surprisingly, the fact that this HR-V is larger allows it to offer spacious and comfortable rear seats. If the old model can be small in this area, it is completely opposite to this new version where even a big person can find comfort there, and this, without his head touching the ceiling or his knees hitting the seat.

Surprisingly, this abundance of specifications does not allow the HR-V to stand out from the competition. On the one hand, Honda has completely removed the Magic Seat technology that, in the old HR-V, allowed the seats to be folded into several configurations to improve the level of versatility.

Amazing decision! Not only does the HR-V lose the feature that allowed it to beat its rivals in terms of versatility, but it’s not necessarily more spacious than the old model, from 1,665 to 1,559 litres. In fact, this HR-V eats the wool off its back with its new competitors, Corolla Cross (1,891/1,855 liters), Taos (1,866/1,705 liters) and Seltos (1,778 liters) in particular.

Familiar mechanics… but no innovation

The 2023 HR-V ditches the old Fit system and is now based on the same architecture as the Civic. This is also what allowed him to gain in size.

Under the hood, Honda has replaced the old 1.8-liter 4-cylinder with a slightly beefier engine. It is basically a 2.0 liter engine that has been powered by the Civic since 2016 and has proven to be reliable time and time again.

In the HR-V, it develops 158 horsepower and produces 138 lb-ft of torque. It is connected to continuously variable transmission (CVT). The base HR-V LX is a hatchback, while all other versions come standard with all-wheel drive.

Honda does not offer a second engine or electric option. Let’s say the HR-V hybrid would be interesting to compete with the Corolla Cross hybrid, or some kind of turbocharging to go against the Mazda CX-30 Turbo. But no.

Bad driving experience

I’m not exaggerating: the HR-V was one of the cars I hated to drive for the simple reason that its handling is not up to today’s standards.

Of course, I completely understand that it is a cheap model and in any way sporty, but against more modern and more efficient competitors, the HR-V has a motorization whose disappointing performance threw me down from my seat.

Not only does this little engine lack punch under load, but due to the CVT constantly revving it up, it produces an unbearable din in the cabin. Indeed, Honda has significantly improved the soundproofing of this cabin, and I agree that, at high speeds, it is better than the old model. But the noise from this engine ruins everything.

To help the driver make better use of the power, Honda has added S and L modes to the transmission. S-mode helps things a bit by leaving the engine higher in the powerband, but L-mode does nothing more than push the engine to the limit to make it more!

However, there is a glimmer of hope: I was impressed by the feeling of solidity that this small SUV provides, one of the advantages of being based on the Civic platform. The HR-V has a smooth, refined ride, and its suspension is perfect for Quebec’s rough roads. In the corners, it was calm, giving a good level of confidence to the driver and allowing him to enter the car quickly in a curve without worry.

Finally, the fuel consumption did not impress me at all. I recorded a combined average (highway/city) of 9.0 L/100 km. Let’s just say it’s nothing revolutionary, especially since the Corolla Cross with all-wheel drive easily manages under 8 L/100 km.

You are rarely told to go and see elsewhere than at Honda!

If we could recommend the old Honda HR-V with our eyes closed, our observations are not the same as this new model. Indeed, it is true that its mechanics have been proven, and that it is a model that will undoubtedly be very reliable and whose maintenance costs will remain low; however, against its competition, this HR-V doesn’t measure up. In fact, it’s a big step back from the model it replaces.

However, due to the poor performance of its mechanics, the poor build quality of the product and its overall high price for the standard equipment board, we recommend that you look elsewhere. As a suggestion, let’s wait to see if Honda fixes the situation before deciding.

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