The HR-V's design – especially up front – is a bit busy for our tastes, but hardly offensive. The 2019 version benefits from a mild refresh that includes revised bumpers, a more aggressive grille and lower air intake, and narrower headlight enclosures. In back, a narrow chrome strip bridges the gap between the taillights (with new standard LED brake lights), while the lower valance is more sculpted.
Our tester, an example of the new Sport trim finished in Orangeburst Metallic, kicks things up a notch over the base LX with gloss black outside mirrors and lower side sills, larger 18-inch matte black-trimmed alloy wheels, brushed silver roof rails, fog lights, a chrome exhaust tip, and a quicker steering ratio.
Moving inside, styling points are gained with a simple cabin that's functional and more than a touch stylish. There are plenty of soft-touch materials throughout the cabin, giving the HR-V a more upscale feel than its moderate price tag may indicate. Features are plentiful in each trim.
Interior comfort is another high point, especially for those up front with firm, comfortable seats that are nicely bolstered, making the HR-V more comfortable than most of its competitors. The backlit gauges in front of the driver (tach to the left, speedo center, and info and gas gauge on the right) are clear and easy to read, while the various buttons and knobs are silky smooth, intuitive, and within easy reach of the driver. Responding to criticism that dates back to the original model, Honda has added a real on/off volume button to the in-dash infotainment screen, although simultaneously eighty-sixing the CD player.
The highlight, of course, is the HR-V's roominess and incredible versatility. Borrowing a page from the Fit's playbook, the back "magic seat" lower cushions individually flip up and back, and can be locked in the vertical position to carry tall items (large boxes like a big screen television or, in our case, an antique chair behind the driver's seat) – something no other vehicle in this class can do. Flip those seats down, and passengers are treated to 39.3 inches of rear-seat leg room. But the goodness doesn't end there. Cargo volume behind the back seat ranges from 23.2 cubic feet on AWD models to 24.3 cubes on those with 2WD. Flip the back seats forward – they fold completely flat – and you expose 57.6 cubic feet of cargo space on AWD models that rises to 58.8 cubes with 2WD – making the HR-V the most cargo-friendly vehicle in its class.
At the same time, the HR-V does itself no favors with its coupe-meets-crossover styling. It tries to be playful, which is fine, but despite the clever way the rear door handles are hidden, it ultimately delivers a mixed message that only certain buyers will love.