A Honda HR-V with 2WD and manual transmission.
Rare barely begins to describe the 6MT on Honda lots nationwide.
Perhaps this is an auto-reviewer special!?
It’s certainly possible.
In the craze for small crossovers, it seems like an automatic is de rigueur, and most buyers are finding the added grip and confidence of All-Wheel Drive (AWD to you and me) a temptation too hard to resist.
A while ago, we tested an AWD, CVT, HR-V (OK, it’s alphabet soup) and really liked it. A bit slow perhaps, but with all the brilliant simplicity of design that we think would have had the late Mr. Honda smiling.
Can lopping off a pair of driven wheels and putting in a row-your-own make that much of a difference?
Well, if you’re interested in saving a few bucks, the HR-V won’t telegraph your penny pinching. In fact, an HR-V EX 2WD with manual saves you $2,100 off an all All-Wheel Drive model with CVT automatic transmission. That’s a whopping amount, whether the Whoppers you’re buying are hamburgers or malted milk balls. (we receive no compensation for our comments…darn!)
Outside of an AWD badge on the back, the HR-V looks the same, with handsome, curvaceous lines, sharp 17-inch alloy wheels, and on the EX, nice standard stuff including a power moonroof, fog lights, and rear privacy glass. Our tester in Modern Steel – a dark gray metallic – looked elegant and way more expensive than the $21,415 base price. The color palette for the EX is a bit limited, there’s also Black, White, and an atomic pickle color called Misty Green Pearl that we’d probably go for – if we weren’t trying to be stealthy.
The impression of high quality carries over in the interior. The sweeping dash looks stylish, and along with pushbutton start and heated front seats, our tester’s large standard audio display and auto climate control reinforce the high-ticket feel. The 7-inch touchscreen hi-res display looks great – even if Navi isn’t included in models like ours. The big screen also comes in handy with Honda’s Lane Watch, that uses a camera under the right hand outside mirror and projects what it sees on the display. Very cool and extremely useful.
We also liked the sound of the 6-speaker, 180-watt audio system, but have a couple beefs. First, as we’ve seen on other Hondas, there’s no volume knob. You do get a remote on the steering wheel, but call us old fashioned, we like the positive control and precise feel you get from the knob.
A smaller gripe, Satellite radio is only available with the more expensive Navi setup. We suppose most people just stream their own audio, but most other manufacturers offer this on their lower trim levels now.
That’s about it for the griping, though, the front seats are comfortable and supportive, and in back, Honda’s 60/40 split Magic Seat not only tilts forward – you can even flip the front passenger seat forward and bring along something 8 feet long – but the rear seat bottom tilts up and out of the way, making room for items nearly 4 feet tall. Great for plants and other things you don’t want to lay down horizontally.
Folding the rear seats get you a spacious 55 cubic feet of cargo, and the low liftover height of the hatch makes for easy loading.
All of this is pretty much typical Honda. Well thought out. Quality stuff. What surprised us was how well the front-drive, stick shift model performed.
The stick itself is smooth and easy to operate. It’s not Miata-like, with short throws and a super notchy feel, instead serving up more of an easy-going, long throw that takes just fingertips to move. Combined with a light and smooth clutch, it’s a fine companion, even in heavy traffic. It would also be a great vehicle to teach someone the joys of manual transmissions. An added bonus, the extra work required of the hands driving a stick would probably reduce texting while driving.
The engine really seems to perk up with the stick, too. While the 1.8-liter is not a fast revver, the power is well spread across the powerband, and overall, the car feels light and responsive. Even on the freeway, the little HR-V felt more involving, and more willing to take on passing maneuvers than the CVT/AWD model we tested before. All this and we averaged 30 mpg, even with our heavy-footed driving style.
That added energy the stick brings helps you enjoy the chassis more as well. While not an out-and-out sportster like Mazda’s CX-3, the HR-V has an overall slick, smooth demeanor that reminds us more of an Audi than a Honda. Nice. The ride is spot-on too, quiet, well controlled, but still keeping you actively involved at the same time. It’s a perfect everyday set up.
So while we may bemoan the fact that sedans are fizzling while crossovers are sizzling, vehicles like the HR-V with the stick shift make us optimistic about the future of driving. Little guys like this will be a great breeding ground for enthusiasts, and hopefully will make buyers rethink autonomous cars – when you can have this kind of enjoyment, why give it up?
There’s a lot of appeal with an HR-V. If you had a kid going off to college, you’d have a fun, reliable, and versatile vehicle that they could enjoy for years to come. Probably just keep in the family as a second or third car. We’d guess that like most Hondas, the HR-V will rack up the miles and give years of trouble-free service. If you need a cheap and cheerful runabout, something to do a daily commute, and in the weekends strap on a couple of bikes or camping gear, it’s an easy choice to make.
While you could get a basic HR-V LX for just $19,365, we’d pop for the EX for $21,415. Years of ownership brings real appreciation of niceties like a moonroof, auto climate control, smart entry and pushbutton start, heated seats and mirrors, and that clever Honda LaneWatch.
So we smile when we see HR-V’s on the road. Most of the owners seem to be smiling too. But we’d bet a frosted donut that the odds of seeing one with a stick shift is rare indeed. That’s too bad, because in many ways, the front-driver with the manual transmission is the best one of all.
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.