Really wanted to love the new HR-V as an emblem of new Honda mojo.
But after a brief drive, the HR-V is a huge letdown and not in the top five cars in the compact-crossover segment.
How to go from excitement to extreme aversion in just an hour on the road?
The HR-V is perhaps not as bad as it seems when I end this drive video with “Hate It.”
But Honda desperately needs to ace at least four big criteria for its next-gen models, this HR-V and new Civic included:
— Cabin tech
— Cabin comfort
As far as this drive concluded, the Drive and Comfort results are extremely poor for the new HR-V. First off, this HR-V is one of the slowest vehicles we can recall driving. Ever. It gains speed with such ponderous laziness as to not be moving forward at all, let alone accelerating.
The AWD CVT automatic of the test car of course does not help versus the standard stick-shift in the HR-V, which is around a second quicker to 60-mph. As it stood, the HR-V’s AWD system or CVT created a strange whine on throttle. This irritating whirr of sound is unpleasant and feels like a mechanical trait — to accompany you on all your travels. Whining away every time you bash the gas pedal through the floor trying to merge onto the highway.
Second big ding for the machine inside is its very compromised driving position. Sharing its platform with the Fit tiny-van, the HR-V puts its gas tank under the front seats versus under the back seats like most crossovers. There is no safety concern for this, and it allows the rear seats their party trick of folding down or flipping up — offering a deep variety of storage and cargo loads.
But as a first-time driver, the space-efficient design is a compromise too far. There is a huge fixed bulge in the footwell of the HR-V that creates a spooky drive position.
This short and disappointing drive in the HR-V will likely not hurt the machine’s sales prospects. As a Civic-priced SUV, the HR-V was always going to sell like hotcakes at a football tailgate.
Luckily for the HR-V, it does do very well on two of those other big improvement categories detailed above: Design and Cabin tech.
Sure, the lighting and details up front are mostly dirt cheap — and look it versus the Mazda CX-3 — but the HR-V does have a fresh and fairly premium full-frame grille this year, plus some gloss black for the main grille frame and look.
Around the side, a swoopy upward rising sill becomes the rear doorframe and a chopped tailgate. The design flourish creates a satisfying design cohesion as a sporty compact SUV — with the tail and its LED brake lights confirming that impression.
Inside, the tech is a massive improvement, at least on this loaded test car, with its numerous new touchscreens versus previous button-fest Honda dashboards.
2016 Honda HR-V AWD