The Honda HR-V debuted in the United States in 2015 as a sibling of the brisk-selling Honda CR-V. It was a good idea, a subcompact crossover for consumers seeking utility in a smaller dose.
The 2023 edition, the seventh model year, is the debut of the third generation. The HR-V, which Honda says stands for “Hi-rider Revolutionary Vehicle,” remains a solid choice, as are all Honda offerings. The manufacturer builds reliable vehicles with strong resale values.
But the carmaker’s smallest SUV has increasingly stiff competition. Once based on the Honda Fit, the nimble, scoot-around-town, five-door hatchback, the HR-V is now based on the Honda Civic platform since the Fit was discontinued after its 2020 model. Something is now different, although it’s hard to pinpoint.
As the new smallest Honda transport vehicle, the 2023 Honda CR-V features a non-turbocharged 2.0-liter, four-cylinder that produces 158 horsepower and 138 lb-ft of torque. It’s a slight boost from the previous model but it’s not enough.
The HR-V has never been quick, but the increases just seem like numbers that don’t transfer into even the slightest difference in performance. Plus, the competition includes some peppy choices: the Chevrolet Trailblazer, Mazda CX-30, Toyota Corolla Cross, Subaru Outback and Volkswagen Taos.
The 2023 Honda HR-V is available in LX, Sport and EX-L trims. All are matched to a continuously variable automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel-drive is optional.
All trims include forward collision mitigation (warns of an impending collision and applies brakes in certain situations); lane departure mitigation (warns a lane departure when a turn signal isn’t used and can automatically steer to maintain lane position); and adaptive cruise control (maintains a driver-set distance between the vehicle and the vehicle in front).
To Honda’s credit, the base model is well-stocked, with LED headlights to three USB ports and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration to single-zone automatic climate control.
The top-line EX-L has much of the Sport trim’s stuff — gloss black wheels to a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a six-speaker audio system to heated front seats. The wheels are 17s not 18s, but there’s a better 9-inch navigation system, leather upholstery, ambient lighting, satellite radio and a wireless smartphone charging pad.
Further, the new Honda HR-V has appreciable cargo space, although the liftgate is manual-only. The interior is well-designed but uninspired. Its functionality is pedestrian, the layout without innovation. It defines utilitarianism. Braking and maneuverability are satisfactory. The HR-V also still has flush, high-positioned rear door handles. They’re as modern as the SUV gets.
Shortcomings are frustrating. Don’t expect any brisk negotiation in complicated situations or even on a wide-open freeway entrance ramp. The HR-V accelerates from 0-to-60 miles per hour in 9.6 seconds. There was a time when that tally would be good enough. It’s no longer; aggressive driving is the norm whether right or wrong. The HR-V is easily left behind.
The reviewed all-wheel-drive HR-V is rated by the EPA with an estimated of 25 miles per gallon in city driving, 30 mpg on the highway. Again, those averages were once satisfactory but not anymore. It provides a smooth ride for the segment and fits four adults comfortably.
It’s nothing new Honda’s basic warranty remains three years and 36,000 miles of basic coverage and five years and 60,000 miles for the powertrain. With its retail values some of the highest in the industry, Honda doesn’t have to change, but it should be aligned with other manufacturers’ better warranty values.
With taxes and destination fees, the top-line 2023 Honda HR-V costs $30,580.00. It’s a Honda. It’s an SUV. It will be dependable. If transportation only is the top buying point, it’s a solid choice. It’s just that the HR-V no longer stands out like it once did.
Article Last Updated: July 14, 2023.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.