Opinionated at any speed . . . Silvio Calabi

Honda HR-V 5DR AWD EX-L (2023)

Wed, 07/13/2022 - 10:00am

Honda is a sneaky company. Well, it’s a brilliant engineering company; but it’s sneaky. Its forte is creating machinery that seems to fly below the radar but nonetheless enjoys great sales success. Who raves about Hondas as gorgeous, sexy or breathtaking? But look how Honda has populated the automotive ecosystem. Other cars awaken our lust and envy; Hondas merely get us to sign 36-month leases or 48-month loans.

Consider the HR-V: Few people point as it passes by and exclaims, “Look! An HR-V!” But the HR-V is so practical and versatile that it has now set 14 consecutive monthly sales records. This new, much-improved version is a contender for top dog in the hot CUV—compact utility vehicle—segment.

And, unlike some so-called CUVs, the HR-V truly is compact: As the smallest in Honda’s SUV lineup, below the Passport, Pilot and CR-V, it’s just 11 inches longer (and 6.7 inches taller) than a Mini Clubman. Previous HR-Vs were based on the tiny Honda Fit; this one shares a platform (and an engine) with the larger, more capable Civic. This makes all the difference.

So the HR-V grew this year—or rather next year. This is a 2023 model and it’s 9.4 inches longer and 2.6 inches wider than its predecessor (and just 0.2 inches taller). It not only looks more substantial, it’s also roomier. In addition to up to 55 cubic feet of rear cargo space with the back seats folded down, the new HR-V has six cupholders, large door pockets, front and rear consoles with clever storage spaces and (in our EX-L) a wireless phone-charging tray. Honda calls the HR-V “right-sized” and only larger families might disagree.

A bigger vehicle needs more power. The HR-V’s 2.0-liter Four, also borrowed from the Civic, is up 17 horsepower and 11 lb-ft of torque (to 158 and 138) over last year. It’s still no rocket, but the continuously variable automatic transmission has been upgraded also, and the HR-V driver now has three drive modes to choose from: Normal, Snow and Econ. Handling and braking are exemplary; the new HR-V feels like it could handle much more power than it has.

The upside of less power is better fuel efficiency—an EPA rating of 25 miles per gallon in town and 30 MPG on the highway. We averaged right in the middle of the range.

The Real Time all-wheel-drive system senses snow and hills and sends extra power to the rear. And for slippery conditions, the HR-V gets Hill Descent Control for the first time—the driver can select a speed between 2 and 12 MPH and the computerized drivetrain will ease the vehicle down to level ground with no skidding and no braking by the driver.

Honda offers the 2023 HR-V in three trims, each with front-wheel drive standard and all-wheel drive as a $1,500 option. Appropriately, each trim gets all of Honda's many safety-related driver aids. (Why should more affluent drivers be safer?) Including destination and handling fees, the base LX starts at $24,895 and the Sport at $26,895. Our sample EX-L, with AWD and special paint, came to $30,590.

A bottom-feeder no longer, the all-grown-up ’23 HR-V should satisfy the driver who wants the comforts, features and substance of the CR-V but not the size or price.