2023 Honda HR-V review
JAMES RISWICK: I'm West Coast Editor James Riswick. I'm in the spectacular Columbia River Gorge. And this is the all new 2023 Honda HR-V.
And it really is all new. Specifically, this is now based on the Honda Civic as opposed to the Fit. And among other things, that means it's a lot bigger, 9 inches longer, which in car terms is a whole heck of a lot. It's also 2 and 1/2 inches wider.
The rear suspension, it's a multi-link set up as opposed to the older rudimentary torsion beam setup of the old HR-V.
The result, this has a more sophisticated ride. It is impressively comfortable for this segment. And it does deal with mid-corner bumps particularly well. And you do notice the added size.
In total, this does feel like a more substantial small SUV, and not just compared to the old HR-V. No, for the segment in total.
In terms of interior space, I would say do notice a little bit of extra width in here. Overall, though, this really isn't that much bigger inside, if any, compared to the old car, despite it growing so much on the outside.
And that's because the old HR-V was based on, again, the Fit, which was ingeniously packaged. You see, the back seat could sit up fairly high and yet fold incredibly far into the floor.
Honda went so far as to call that the magic seat. And that was the result of the gas tank, instead of being somewhere around here, being under the front seats.
Now, this car does not have it. It's based on the Civic now. And as a result, although it's bigger on the outside, it's not as ingeniously packaged. So the back seat, no, it's not that much bigger.
That said, it's actually still pretty spacious. I'm 6 foot 3. That seat is set perfectly normally. I have a decent amount of room.
My head is not touching the ceiling. That said, again, the seat itself is a little low. You don't have that much under-thigh support.
Also, in terms of some small comfort elements, this is an EX-L top of the line. But there's no air vents back here. There's no mat pocket on the driver's side. There is one on the passenger side. And there's no center armrest. That's a bit disappointing.
Now, although the back seat isn't the magic seat as before, it doesn't flip up, and it doesn't fold into the ground as far, there's still a trick up its sleeve.
Honda engineered a second set of hinges into the seat bottom so that it folds deeper into the floor well, allowing for the seat back to fold perfectly flat.
So although removing the gas tank from under the front seat reduced the back seats versatility, it dramatically increased the range of motion and overall comfort of this front seat.
The old HR-V, I couldn't come remotely close to fitting comfortably in that car. This one, totally comfortable.
If you've seen the new Honda Civic interior, the new HR-V interior, well, it's going to look awfully familiar. The main element is shared, this hexagon honeycomb metal look trim that goes all the way across the dashboard, disguising the air vents.
Now, there's a key difference. The air direction controls, well, instead of being round, kind of joystick controls, well, it's a horizontal element that goes through the metal trim, goes all the way across.
But otherwise, kind of the same. You still do have physical controls buttons and knobs for the climate control system. That's excellent.
And then, the touchscreen is a 9 inch unit here in the EX-L. But it's a 7 inch unit in the lower two trims. Both are a lot easier to use than the old HR-Vs. And again, this is shared with the Honda Civic.
The interior itself, the quality of the materials, this is well above average for the segment. This is a nicer interior than what you'd find in a Kia Seltos or Volkswagen Taos. And not just this EX-L top of the line model. No, the Sport is pretty consistent with this as well.
And although we see floating center consoles a lot in cars these days, the HR-V was one of the first to have one, and it still does here in the second generation.
If there was a main problem with the old HR-V, it was that it was very slow. And its CVT did it absolutely no favors.
With the new one, yeah, yeah, it's basically the same. It's slow. And CVT is not doing it any favors. Yeah, it has more horsepower, 158 versus 141. And yeah, it has more torque, 138 pound feet versus 127.
But that torque doesn't come on until like 4,200 RPM, meaning there is like no low end power. Nothing happens at all when you lay into it. And in general, yeah, it's still slow. And the CVT even with the Sport mode, yeah, it just doesn't do it any favors.
And I'm not talking compared to the entire automotive landscape here. No, I'm talking about being slow for the segment, even the base Subaru Crosstrek engine has more torque than this car. And its 2.5 liter engine upgrade has 182 horsepower.
The Mazda CX 30 has 186 horsepower as its base engine. And that has the way more powerful turbocharged engine. So yeah, this continues to be quite slow. Why does Honda not offer the turbocharged engine available in the Civic? It's a very good question.
So this all new 2023 Honda HR-V is unquestionably better. It's more sophisticated than the vehicle that it replaces. The trouble is just how far down the ladder that HR-V had fallen as newer and better competitors had emerged since it was introduced.
So this thing had a lot further to go. Did it get to all the way to the top? No. See, although it's based on the Civic which is definitely, I would say, on the top of its segment, this one isn't.
And the reason I say that is besides being quite slow, it's not as sporty as some of the other vehicles in its segment. It's not as roomy inside as some of the other vehicles in the segment. It's not as rugged or versatile for going into the great outdoors.
There are more interesting and attractive and more useful choices out there than this car. That means it's kind of mid-pack, kind of a safe choice. And for a lot of people, I suppose, that's going to be good enough.
But it's definitely not to level that the Civic is which is just about all-around excellence. I don't think this gets to that level.
It's very well made. Probably going to be extremely reliable. It's going to be efficient. It doesn't have a lot of bad habits. But I think in general, others might make you happier.