New Honda HR-V helps define subcompact crossover SUV segment

2016 Honda HR-V
The 2016 Honda HR-V represents a new segment entry for Honda, slotted between the Fit and the CR-V. photos by Benjamin Yong.

Never heard of a subcompact crossover? Think of it as the “Mini Me” of the SUV world.

Honda, along with a handful of other manufacturers like Mazda with their forthcoming CX-3, is responsible for carving this figuritively small new niche in the automotive marketplace and is banking on its predicted success. 

Before consumers get their hands on the 2016 HR-V, media were given a sneak preview of the vehicle on the sunny shores of South Beach in Miami, Florida.

2016 Honda HR-V emblem

“We are targeting 12-month sales of 10,000 units. It will introduce a new generation of buyers to the Honda Brand,” says Jean Marc Leclerc, vice president of auto sales and marketing, who referred to the HR-V as the “most powerful new weapon in the light truck arsenal.”

Size-wise, the HR-V (2,610 millimetre wheelbase) is neatly nestled in-between the Fit (2,350 mm) and the CR-V (2,620 mm), and aimed at singles, dual income, no kids couples and empty nesters wanting a fun, sophisticated ride that doesn’t compromise versatility.

2016 Honda HR-V side shot

Hayato Mori, senior product planning and business development senior manager, calls the latest offering a mix of a coupe, SUV and minivan, taking the best traits of all three. Indeed, on the outside, the blacked-out headlight-grille combo and hidden rear door handles give it an instant sporty appeal; the slightly raised stance and fender flares suggest weekends driving to mountain bike trails; and the wide tailgate and cargo area says “Take me on Costco runs.”

Miami’s twisted highways, long, beachfront straightaways and urban roads provided a great testing ground for this vehicle-of-all-trades. Accompanied by two driving companions, I took first shift behind the wheel. The heart beating underneath the hood of the HR-V is a 1.8-litre four-cylinder i-VTEC engine pumping out 141 horsepower and 127 lb-ft of torque. Depending on the trim (LX/EX/EX-L Navi) you can have front or all-wheel drive with a continuously variable transmission or six-speed manual transmission (base LX and EX only).

2016 Honda HR-V manual shifter

Taking out a manual EX, I was delighted at how crisp the shifts felt. The manner in which the lever satisfyingly clicks into each gear is reminiscent of Honda’s racier models like the Civic Si. Handling definitely feels more car than van or even regular-sized crossover-like, something that was tested thoroughly during an emergency manoeuvre initiated entering an onramp to avoid a confused motorist. The four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and electronic brake distribution are also excellent.

As a passenger on the return drive, I revelled in the 998 mm of rear legroom, while playing with the second row Magic Seat — identical to the one found in the fit — which allows for a variety of folded configurations to accommodate large or oddly shaped objects.  With the rear seats folded down, a maximum 1,665 litres (1,631 if AWD) of carrying capacity is yielded.

2016 Honda HR-V hatch

The 2016 Honda HR-V is built in Celaya, Mexico and goes on sale this summer. Pricing starts at $20,690.

Posted by Benjamin Yong

Benjamin Yong is a freelance journalist and communications professional living in Richmond, B.C. He is often found writing about cars and the auto industry, amongst other things, or driving around in his work-in-progress 1990 Mazda MX-5. Twitter: @b_yong Instagram: @popuplights