At the rate the subcompact crossover segment is growing, we're not in the least surprised that Honda has jumped into the game with its new HR-V. It's the latest proof that you can go small without giving up the essential qualities that endeared Americans to crossovers in the first place.

Pricing and Equipment

Like many vehicles these days, the HR-V dispenses with individual options altogether and gives you a choice of three comprehensive trim levels:

  • Priced at $19,115, the LX comes with all the basics like power windows and locks, air conditioning and a four-speaker sound system. There are a few surprising touches for a base model, including a rearview camera, 17-inch wheels, and Bluetooth phone and audio. A six-speed manual transmission comes standard, and a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is available for $800.
  • The mid-level EX ($21,165) benefits from a slate of comfort upgrades such as heated front seats, a sunroof, automatic climate control and rear privacy glass. You also get keyless ignition and blind spot monitoring. The CVT remains optional.
  • For $24,590, the EX-L Navi adds the CVT, a leather interior, navigation, and HD and satellite radio.

All models equipped with the CVT are eligible for all-wheel drive, which we consider a bargain at $1,250.

Performance Pros

Every HR-V is powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder good for 141 horsepower, a reasonable amount for this type of vehicle. The engine feels peppy enough in two-wheel drive models, but things slow down a tad with the all-wheel drive system installed.

Performance highlights include:

  • Transmissions: We're glad Honda saw fit to offer a six-speed manual, and not just on the base model. Of course, most buyers will go for the CVT (it's required with all-wheel drive), which includes a Sport mode and shift paddles, both of which will come in handy when you need quick acceleration.
  • Steering/handling: The HR-V's suspension is tuned for comfort rather than tackling curves. We agree with that approach, especially in light of the Honda's smooth and compliant ride. We found it superior to everything in this class, including the fancier Buick Encore.
  • Fuel Efficiency: With the manual transmission, you can expect 28 mpg in combined driving, which seems good enough until you consider that the CVT boosts that figure 31 mpg. So equipped, the HR-V is nothing less than the benchmark of small crossover efficiency. With all-wheel drive, though, it achieves a merely excellent 29 mpg combined.

Performance Cons

  • The CVT is obviously tuned for economy, so you might be tempted to reach for the Sport button for snappier response. That habit will surely take the shine off the HR-V's stellar mileage ratings.
  • The extra weight of all-wheel drive is a noticeable drag on performance. We don't recommend it outside of the snowbelt.

Interior Pros

  • The so-called Magic Seat folds down like any other second row, but can also fold and flip backward, leaving a deep storage well in its place (that's the "magic" part).
  • You can arrange the interior for up to 59 cubic feet of cargo space, enough to put the HR-V clearly ahead of most competitors.

Interior Cons

  • The back door handles are mounted high on the rear pillars, requiring an odd contortion if you want to get out.
  • We found the touch-sensitive climate controls to be challenging to operate while driving, not to mention needlessly fancy. Conventional buttons would work just fine.

The Most Pleasant Surprise

In defiance of the HR-V's petite footprint, the back seat can accommodate two adults with no problem (until one has to open the door, that is).

The Least Pleasant Surprise

The HR-V didn't inherit any of the athleticism we've come to appreciate in Honda's passenger cars.

The Bottom Line

Any driver with a tape measure will walk away impressed by how much crossover Honda has stuffed into a pint-sized package.