Greetings fellow youths, how do you do? Would you like an angry-looking subcompact crossover good for carrying things and going places? Sure you do! Say hello to the new 2023 Honda HR-V, it’s a lot like a Civic but bigger. Mark my words, you’re gonna see these things absolutely everywhere no matter your demographic.
From the front, the new HR-V looks decidedly unimpressed, like it loathes the concept of being a vehicle. It’s seething with contempt for its purpose – schlepping Lack coffee tables home from IKEA after its owner’s housemate had a Marinara disaster. It know the chances of receiving an ugly state-mandated front license plate and approaches such a possible fate with a cynicism usually reserved for deeply disappointed optimists. Things get a bit better around the side – think five-eighths-scale Acura MDX if someone didn’t quite nail the scaling on the vertical axis.
While the HR-V’s profile styling is quite agreeable, things get worse as your eyes wander toward the ground. Is it just me, or are the wheel designs on this thing quite dreadful? The Sport trim drowns its wheel design in a bath of black paint, while the EX-L’s convex five-spoke design with five thin machined strips look downright sad. Those EX-L wheels just make the HR-V look like a water buffalo on roller skates. I’m not saying that better wheels would transform this into a fabulously sharp vehicle, but come on. Thankfully, things tidy up nicely out back.
Ah yes. See that unadorned panel between the tail lights? That’s quite neat. Clean and minimalist, a breath of actual air in today’s sea of overstyled cars. The HR-V’s tail lights themselves are also quite good, a fun bit of nostalgia for the aughts. Altezza-style tail lights that are actually pleasant instead of heinous, with lots of neat detailing. The little LED strip beneath the red swoosh looks to be either for reverse lights or indicators. I’m crossing my fingers for amber blinkers.
Also, let’s talk about the use of glossy black plastic cladding on the EX-L trim instead of unpainted tupperware. Sure, it’ll scratch like DJ Lethal, but it should age so much better than simple textured plastic. Mind you, lower trims don’t get massive slabs of plastic down their flanks, so good on Honda for trying to be somewhat restrained with the trim.
There’s actually some neat stuff going on inside the new HR-V. Check out the USB charge ports in the center console positioned just right so you can drop devices in a little cubby underneath the center console’s switch bank. That’s simply great design, just like the really cool ribbing on the lower door panels and cargo area plastics. As for the rest of the interior, Honda’s ‘simplicity and something’ (yes, that’s the real name) design ethos is on full display here, with very Civic-like full-width mesh for the dashboard air vents, three nice-looking knobs for the HVAC controls, and some nice stitched materials on the center console. Honestly, this interior looks much nicer than what’s in the bulk of subcompact crossovers. It’s a cabin ready to take the fight to the Mazda CX-30.
There’s decent tech on board too. While Honda’s native infotainment interface feels like a $40 head unit you bought off of Wish, available wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is pretty nice, while Honda’s active safety suite has been upgraded with a wide-angle front camera, traffic sign recognition, and a traffic jam assist function to ease the tedium of commuting. Also, hey, a physical tuning knob on lower-trim seven-inch infotainment systems! That’s certainly a dying feature and a really nice one to have at that.
As for cargo space, it looks pretty alright. 24.4 cubic feet (690.9 L) behind the rear seats, 55.1 cubic feet (1,560 L) with the rear seats folded. Admittedly, the Kia Seltos is roomier with 26.6 cubic feet (753 L) of cargo space behind the rear seats and 62.8 cubic feet (1,778 L) with the second-row folded, but it also feels quite cheap. If the new Civic’s anything to go by, the new HR-V should feel quite nice, a wonderful cocoon of tightly-grained soft-touch plastics and pleasantly clicky controls.
Power comes from an adequate two-liter four-cylinder engine making some sort of horsepower. Let’s be honest, 158 horsepower and 138 lb.-ft. of torque is enough to move a vehicle like this forward but not enough to really matter. Like getting Cs in school, the HR-V’s engine will get you by just fine. The only available gearbox is a CVT that can send power to the front wheels or all four. Look, if you really care about acceleration, buy a Hyundai Kona N or something. The HR-V’s powertrain is here to get the job done without a massive amount of complaint and with a modest fuel bill. The EPA’s rated this thing at 26 mpg city, 32 mpg highway, and 28 mpg combined for the front-wheel-drive version, while all-wheel-drive models lose one mpg city, two on the highway, and one combined. That’s definitely not hatchback territory, but it’s not awful either.
Much better than simply “not awful” is the HR-V’s general underpinnings. It’s based on the new Civic so it features a nice stiff structure, independent rear suspension, and a much more usable footprint than the old model. More importantly, there’s some wonderful nerdiness going on. The roof is laser-brazed to eliminate rubber rain gutters, while the windshield wipers are largely concealed for a sleek look. Lovely stuff.
Pricing for the new HR-V ranges from $24,985 for the base LX front-wheel-drive model through to $30,195 for the loaded EX-L all-wheel-drive model, including a $1,245 destination charge. Not ultra-cheap, not expensive, just smack dab in the middle of the compact crossover market. Honestly, the new HR-V looks to be a really nice step up from the old one. Mind you, I hold the old HR-V in contempt – I came into testing one expecting nothing and still ended up disappointed. In contrast, this 2023 model looks pretty decent. It says the right things on paper and should be perfect at doing what subcompact crossover owners need their vehicles to do.
However, Honda seems to think that they’ll sell this thing to young people. The marketing team’s even used the term “GenZennials” in the press release for the new HR-V’s marketing which makes me want to claw out my eyeballs out with a rusty melon bowler. Speaking as a “GenZennial,” whatever the Cinnamon Toast Fuck that means, I can tell you this – young people aren’t going to buy this thing in droves. They’re going to walk into Honda dealerships, see the fuel economy figures for the Civic hatchback and buy one of those instead.
Who could blame them? The Civic hatchback is practical, economical, well-equipped, and just a little bit cheaper than an HR-V. I’m not saying this as a young person who’s into cars, I’m saying this as a young person full-stop. Small cars are generally good with my demographic. You know who will buy a ton of HR-Vs? Our parents and grandparents. Empty-nesters who want to haul bags of mulch home from Home Depot because they have the time and energy to spend keeping their backyards nice. People who welcome a higher driver’s seat because the ol’ back just isn’t quite what it used to be. You know what? That’s absolutely fine. A small crossover SUV with a nicely-designed interior is absolutely perfect for that demographic, and unquestionably a good option to have on the market in general. Expect the new HR-V to roll into showrooms this month and appear in every single big box store parking lot from coast to coast shortly thereafter.