We’ve tested Honda’s HR-V a while ago and found it surprisingly sporty and fun – especially when equipped in front-wheel-drive with a 6-speed manual transmission.
So, when Honda announced a new HR-V Sport model for 2019 we were excited – in Europe, there’s an HR-V Sport with a manual transmission and the 1.5-liter turbo we get here in the Civic.
This ain’t Europe.
Unfortunately, we’re not getting that Sport. No turbo motor. And for 2019, the manual transmission is gone, too. Farewell… That said, our HR-V Sport gets some goodies unique to the model that should make it more fun to drive, so we were still looking forward to some seat time.
All 2019 HR-V’s are getting a freshening, which is good. With extroverts like the Toyota C-HR, Kia Soul, and Hyundai Kona, a little eye candy is needed. The front end is most noticeable, with an Accord-like, more aggressive vibe, thanks to revised bumpers, headlights and grille. The Sport is the looker of the pack, with a unique black honeycomb grille, LED daytime running lights, sport side sills, LED taillights, black rear Sport bumper, and body-colored rear roofline spoiler.
The best part of the exterior are the exclusive 18-inch alloy wheels – taking advantage of the time-honored Honda tradition of designing a vehicle that cries out for larger rims. Our tester was finished in Orangeburst Metallic, that really popped – a strong stylish competitor for the rest of the class. This is a great looking small crossover!
Honda also gives the HR-V a touch of sport inside, too, although it’s subtler. There’s a nice leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. A black headliner, gloss black trim, and dual-mode paddle shifters and sport pedals.
The interior also impresses with the quality of materials. The fit and finish are Honda excellent, and the quality of plastics and vinyls are soft to the touch and look premium. You forget that this is actually one of the lower trim levels in the model line.
That’s reinforced with some other new-to-HR-V stuff like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a new 7-inch audio display system with a simplified interface, including – finally! – an honest to goodness volume knob, and two USB ports.
The front seats are large and well padded, with plenty of head and legroom for this class of vehicle. The rear seat legroom is excellent – but headroom’s a little tight. Like the Fit, the rear seat is superbly clever. You can fold the rear seats down to create a flat floor and a jaw dropping 55.9 cubic feet of cargo space. Being a Magic Seat – Honda’s name, not ours – the rear seat bottoms can also be flipped up, to create a lower floor for taller items. Pretty cool.
Sporty to Drive?
Uh, two out of three?
Which is not to say the HR-V is not a good drive – far from it – we just were hoping for more of a Mazda CX-3 or Hyundai Kona fighter. The first give away is the lack of a manual transmission – but we can’t blame Honda, the take rate must be abysmally (at least in our view) low, so that it’s not worth it. And while the 1.5 turbo would be nice, it would probably add a heavy price to a cost-sensitive vehicle.
So, what do you get? Power is provided by the familiar 141 horse, 1.8-liter, 4-cylinder engine. It’s relatively smooth and quiet. All 2019 HR-Vs benefit from sound absorbing materials. Sport trims and higher also receive Active Noise Cancellation, which sends reverse-phase audio signals through the HR-V audio system to cancel out low-frequency road noise.
Hooked up to the quiet engine is a CVT automatic transmission. Honda worked on improving the experience, aiming to make it feel more like a traditional automatic. And on our Sport model, there’s also an appropriate Sport mode, plus paddle shifters for a more engaging experience. We find the improved CVT a mixed bag – in daily driving it’s smooth and efficient, but when driven hard, it holds the rpm’s and feels generally unhappy about being asked to charging around.
Handling feels good, the HR-V is light and easy to drive around, steering feels more direct than before, and it’s notably more maneuverable at low speeds. At higher speeds, like the CVT, the chassis doesn’t seem to want to be pushed hard. The payoff is a smooth, comfy ride It’s a nice city/suburban vehicle, but Sporty? No.
Our tester also had Honda’s Real Time all-wheel-drive, which has been improved for better performance in low-traction conditions such as snow. So the HR-V should be fine as an all-weather runabout.
How much, Sport?
The brightest point about the HR-V Sport is its excellent value. Hey, it’s a Honda! The lineup starts with the HR-V LX at $20,520. It comes nicely equipped with that clever, 2nd row Magic Seat, a multi-angle rearview camera, Bluetooth streaming audio, USB interface, remote entry, 17-inch alloy wheels, and halogen projector headlamps.
Going for a Sport like our tester raises the price to $22,220, and gives you a nice step up in appearance, with the other goods we mentioned. Our tester was an AWD model, which adds $1,400, and with $1,045 for Destination, carried a sticker of $24,665.
We actually think the best choice is the EX trim, which starts at $23,720, but you get a big jump in tech. It starts with the Honda Sensing® suite of safety and driver-assistive systems, including Adaptive Cruise Control, Collision Mitigation Braking System, Lane Keeping Assist and Road Departure Mitigation including Lane Departure Warning. Also included is Honda LaneWatch, where a small camera on the passenger side mirror will turn on and display live video on you’re the touchscreen when you signal a right turn.
That would be worth the price of admission, but the EX also adds a moonroof, pushbutton start, Sirius XM Radio and heated front seats. Terrific value.
Those looking for added luxury can pop for the EX-L, which gives leather seats, 180-watt, 6-speaker audio system and unique 17-inch alloys. Yours for $25,320. At the top of the HR-V line is the Touring model at $28,540, including standard AWD, navigation, LED headlights and LED fog lights.
There are loads of competition out there. Car_Revs_Daily has been in most of them, so we’re happy to be your go-to source.
Comparable to our HR-V Sport, a Nissan Kicks SR comes in at $22,115 – but AWD is not available. If you’re looking for the true sport experience, the Mazda CX-3 Sport AWD is $23,430 comparably equipped and is a Miata in crossover clothing. And a comparable AWD Hyundai Kona is $22,435, but the roller-skate alloys at the lower trim levels would have us finding a nice set of accessory wheels.
So, while we came in drooling over the idea of a HR-V Sport, we’d probably drive out the dealership with an EX model, and we’d be pretty darn happy. It’s a great all-rounder.
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.