With the expensive price of gas, you might think that SUV/crossovers might be giving way back to small sedans, but nope – they’re as popular as ever. One thing that might be changing is the greater demand for the smaller models that are more fuel efficient. Count in models like the Hyundai Kona, Kia Seltos and Mazda CX-30.
Honda already had a fine competitor in the class, the HR-V, but to keep things competitive, there’s an all-new 2023 model with major upgrades all around. So how does it stack up in this ultra-competitive segment? Let’s take a look.
Bigger and Bolder
The first look makes it clear this is a larger vehicle with a sportier vibe. Based now on the new Civic platform, the HR-V is nearly 10-inches longer, wider and rides on a longer wheelbase. The front is more aggressive and snouty, with a prominent front grille, circular intakes and frowny LED headlights with slim daytime running lights really pop. Adding to the boldness, our EX-L tester also featured a gloss black honeycomb grille and gloss black trim.
The profile goes from short and stubby, to a more coupe-like sleek design, with a fastback roofline. Adding to the rugged look are gloss black wheel arches and unique 17-inch wheels. Typical Honda, there’s plenty of room for larger wheels, and we liked the 18-inch wheels that come standard on the Sport model.
At the rear, the sportiness continues with LED taillights that wraparound the sides and have a signature line that echoes up front. A lower contrasting garnish adds some visual pop as well. Finishing off our tester’s look was a handsome putty-green/cement color Honda calls Nordic Forest Pearl. All in all, a handsome step up from the previous model – some told us it even had an Audi-like vibe. Good company!
Haven’t We Met Before?
Inside, the HR-V looks like a close sibling to the new Civic – not a bad thing, as that’s one of Honda’s most handsome interiors.
Open the door, and like the Civic, you have a wide horizontal dash that creates an impression of width. On our EX-L tester, you’re greeted by gray leather trimmed, heated front seats. Not only do they look good, but they feel great – Honda spent extra time to make the new model’s seats more supportive, and you notice it, especially on longer trips.
Pop into that comfortable throne, and you’re greeted by a lovely instrument display that features a digital screen that houses the tachometer as well as a multitude of displays inside from safety items to fuel economy readouts and more. All super handy and easily adjusted by buttons on the steering wheel.
Info-tainment is served up by a larger 9” color touchscreen, and with wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and wireless charging you can kiss cable goodbye. If you have more than one device running, there are plenty USB ports to keep everybody juiced up – we especially liked the two-level center console for extra storage, with a charging port below and out of the way.
We’re pleased that Honda includes an actual volume knob on the big screen (Yay!), but disappointed that tuning has to be done by a small rocker switch on the screen, or a toggle on the steering wheel. (Boo.) Outside of that, it’s a nice bright display, and like most of Hondas now, you can put in shortcuts for your favorite apps and all – it’s an excellent, friendly system that helps reduce your eyes being away from the road.
We are especially thankful for a regular shift lever, and simple climate controls. Like the Civic, there’s a real metal honeycomb trim piece that divides upper and lower dash, and it looks stylish and fresh.
On a small vehicle like the HR-V, it’s a major plus that the rear seats are larger – adult friendly – and more comfortable as well. Folding the rear seats is easy, and you get a true flat loading floor when they’re down. Another plus, the cargo bay is larger than before, and a low lift over height makes loading easier.
Switching to the Civic chassis brings big dividends in the driving department as well.
Under the hood is more Civic goodness, with a 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder pumping out 158 hp, and 138 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s a substantial bump, up 17 horses and 11 torques from the previous model. Hooked up to an improved CVT transmission, we’d say the HR-V feels peppy around town and on the highway but combined with the added weight of our tester’s optional AWD it didn’t feel very enthusiastic about being driven with some brio.
On the bright side, the HR-V easily returns 30 mpg on the freeway – probably more important to those who will buy Honda’s smallest crossover.
While the power isn’t inspired, the ride and handling are. Again, that Civic connection pays off, with responsive cornering, excellent grip with optional AWD, and a ride that’s supple and quiet. A fine vehicle for commuting or longer drives. If you’re planning a ski trip or live where the weather is wet or slick, the AWD system has been updated for improved traction in snow – the HR-V even serves up driver-selectable Normal, Snow and Econ modes.
And for the first time ever in a Honda crossover, it also features Hill Descent Control. Added capability is always a plus in our book!
Another plus is the standard Honda Sensing suite of safety goodies, including Adaptive Cruise Control, Collision Mitigation Braking, Lane Keep Assist, Road Departure Mitigation and Traffic Jam assist. Blind Spot Information and Rear Cross Traffic Monitor are also standard.
Do I get Bang for the Buck?
Honda, like most manufacturers has been bumping the prices lately, but we think the HR-V remains a good value. The entry level LX starts at just $23,800, and that’s exceptional value for a well-equipped crossover. Our choice would probably be the Sport model with the tough looks, including 18-inch alloys, starting at $25,900.
Our EX-L was the whole enchilada trim level, starting at $29,400 with AWD. Add in $395 for the tasty Nordic Forest Pearl paint and $1,245 for Destination, and we rang the bell at $31,040.
Competitors would include the Hyundai Kona Limited at $31,595, a bit more, and you’ll have to choose between the HR-V’s Audi-like style vs. The Hyundai’s exuberant looks, but at that price you get a 195-horsepower that makes the Kona a rocket compared to the Honda. We also like the Mazda CX-30 in this segment, and it’s a bit more at $32,930, but it also offers 191 horsepower, sleek looks, and a stylish interior. Drive them all and choose the one that speaks to you – they’re all great vehicles.
It may be Honda’s smallest crossover, but with handsome new looks, added fun to drive, and more confidence, room, and comfort, the 2023 Honda HR-V remains a big deal!
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.