Auto review: Is the HR-V's roominess, fuel efficiency enough to win over customers?

Detroit Free Press

The 2016 Honda HR-V (I give it three out of four stars) is a face in the crowd, somebody you met at a party but remember only vaguely. Honda's new subcompact SUV fails to make a strong impression, despite delivering good fuel economy and a roomy interior.tmpplchld The HR-V lacks any distinguishing style, features or personality to establish it as a leader in the burgeoning crop of small crossovers.tmpplchld It's a perfectly acceptable vehicle, but not a memorable one.tmpplchld HR-V prices start at $19,115 for a front-wheel-drive model with a six-speed manual transmission. All HR-Vs have a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 141 horsepower. Stepping up to a continuously variable automatic transmission, or CVT, raises the price to $19,915. The least expensive all-wheel-drive HR-V costs $21,165. All-wheel-drive is only available with the smooth CVT.tmpplchld I tested a nicely equipped front-drive HR-V EX-L with navigation, Bluetooth phone and music compatibility, voice recognition, front seat side air bags, curtain air bags, leather seats, heated front seats; 60/40 split folding rear seats, 17-inch wheels and more. It stickered at $24,590. All prices exclude destination charges.tmpplchld The HR-V competes with small SUVs like the Buick Encore, Chevrolet Trax, Fiat 500X, Jeep Renegade, Mazda CX-3, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2.4-liter and Nissan Juke. Its prices are comparable to similarly equipped models.tmpplchld The HR-V's selling points are a roomy interior and good fuel economy.tmpplchld The passenger compartment has a high roof, excellent visibility (thanks to large windows) and accommodating front and rear seats. Its passenger volume is in the middle of the pack: more than the Encore, Trax, CX-3 and Juke; less than the 500X, Renegade and Outlander Sport.tmpplchld The HR-V has the most cargo space, both behind the rear seat and with it folded flat. Despite that, it could use more, and larger, bins and cubbies to store glasses, phones, iPods and the like in the front seat. Road noise is quite noticeable at highway speed.tmpplchld The interior looks good, but the flat panel and touch screen controls for audio and climate are inconvenient.tmpplchld The HR-V also uses Honda's faux-blind spot alert, a distracting video display that projects the view to the vehicle's right-rear on the touch screen when you indicate a right turn. Honda has moved away from this system on more expensive vehicles. Next step: Drop them across the model line.tmpplchld The HR-V's horsepower is at the lower end of the class, topping only the Encore and Trax. It's got the least torque, 127 pound-feet at 4,300 rpm. That trails the competition by 19 to 50 pound-feet.tmpplchld The CVT works hard to overcome that disadvantage, but the HR-V does not feel quick, though it's perfectly adequate around town and on the highway.tmpplchld The HR-V's fuel economy ties that of the Mazda CX-3 for best in class. The Environmental Protection Agency rates the Honda 28 mpg in the city, 35 on the highway and 31 in combined driving. The key combined rating matches the CX-3 and leads all others.tmpplchld The HR-V's styling is unremarkable. The SUV looks big and practical. Its height and large expanses of glass provide good sight lines owners will appreciate. There's nothing objectionable or quirky about the HR-V's looks, but nothing memorable to inspire affection like Honda's Element did with its combination of whimsy and practicality.tmpplchld Automakers are still figuring out how to apply their brand character to the new class of small SUVs. Nissan struck first, and endowed the Juke with odd looks and a sporty persona. Buick went upscale with the Encore. Chevy gave the Trax leading-edge connectivity and iPhone compatibility. Jeep looks and off-road ability distinguish the Renegade.tmpplchld The HR-V's failure to mark its territory leaves plenty of room for other automakers to stake their claims. Next candidate: the Mazda CX-3. tmpplchld ___tmpplchld Behind the Wheeltmpplchld Honda HR-V 2wd EX-L with Navigationtmpplchld Front-drive five-passenger subcompact SUVtmpplchld Price as tested: $24,590 (excluding destination charge)tmpplchld Rating: Three out of four starstmpplchld Reasons to buy: Passenger and cargo space, fuel economy, visibilitytmpplchld Shortcomings: Controls, voice recognition, distracting blind-spot displaytmpplchld ___tmpplchld Competitive EPA fuel-economy ratingstmpplchld (Automatic transmission, front-drive models)tmpplchld Honda HR-V EX-L with Nav: 28 mpg city/35 highway/32 combined. Regular gasolinetmpplchld Buick Encore: 25/33/28. Regular gasolinetmpplchld Chevrolet Trax TZ: 26/34/29. Regular gasolinetmpplchld Fiat 50X Trekking: 22/31/25. Regular gasolinetmpplchld Jeep Renegade Latitude: 22/31/25. Regular gasolinetmpplchld Mazda CX-3 Touring: 29/35/31. Regular gasolinetmpplchld Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2.4 ES: 22/28/25. Regular gasolinetmpplchld Nissan Juke SV: 28/32/30. Premium gasolinetmpplchld Source: www.fueleconomy.govtmpplchld ___tmpplchld Comparative base prices (excluding destination charges)tmpplchld (Automatic transmission, front-drive models)tmpplchld Honda HR-V EX-L with Nav: $24,590tmpplchld Buick Encore: $24,065tmpplchld Chevrolet Trax TZ: $22,645tmpplchld Fiat 50X Trekking: $23,100tmpplchld Jeep Renegade Latitude: $21,345tmpplchld Mazda CX-3 Touring: $21,960tmpplchld Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2.4 ES: $21,295tmpplchld Nissan Juke SV: $22,300tmpplchld Source: Autotrader.comtmpplchld ___tmpplchld Specifications as testedtmpplchld Engine: 1.8-liter 16-valve four-cylindertmpplchld Power: 141 horsepower at 5,800 rpm; 127 pound-feet of torque at 4,300 rpmtmpplchld Transmission: Continuously variable automatictmpplchld Wheelbase: 102.8 inchestmpplchld Length: 169.1 inchestmpplchld Width: 69.8 inchestmpplchld Height: 63.2 inchestmpplchld Curb Weight: 3,094 lbs.tmpplchld Where assembled: Celaya, Mexicotmpplchld ___tmpplchld Key features on vehicle testedtmpplchld Standard equipment: Anti-lock brakes; stability control; electronic brake distribution; brake assist; daytime running lights; hill start assist; front seat side air bags; curtain air bags; backup camera; Bluetooth phone and audio compatibility; leather trimmed seats; heated front seats; leather wrapped steering wheel; navigation; touch screen; voice recognition; AM/FM/CD audio; six speakers; HD radio; XM satellite radio; USB port; Pandora Internet radio interface; push-button start; power windows, locks and mirrors; heated front seats; automatic climate control; Lane Watch; 60/40 split folding rear seat; cruise control; 12 volt power outlets; 17-inch wheels; automatic headlights; fog lights and LED taillightstmpplchld Options: None tmpplchld ___tmpplchld ABOUT THE WRITERtmpplchld Mark Phelan is the Detroit Free Press auto critic. He can be reached at mmphelan@freepress.com.tmpplchld ___tmpplchld (c)2015 Detroit Free Presstmpplchld Visit Detroit Free Press at www.freep.comtmpplchld Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.tmpplchld

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