2016 Honda HR-V: Honda Joins the Rapidly-Expanding Small SUV Segment – Forbes
Don’t look now, but yet another subcompact SUV is about to join the seemingly endless parade of small sport utilities vehicles introduced over the past 6 months. I’ve personally written about three of these vehicles since mid-December, and with the all-new 2016 Honda HR-V going on sale May 15th it marks an average of one new small SUV arriving in dealer showrooms every month for the past 4 months. That’s a run rate I’ve never seen in my 20 years covering the industry. It’s enough to give one pause while asking the obvious question: can the U.S. market absorb so many all-new models, all focused in a single vehicle segment, in such a short timeframe? With over two million compact crossovers and SUVs sold last year, representing an annual growth rate of 14.5 percent, the answer looks like a resounding “YES!”
In fact, just 3 months into the year Kelley Blue Book is tracking the segment’s growth at an additional 9.5 percent, and that’s with many of these newer models still ramping up to full production. This means Honda’s 2016 HR-V will face a full formation of competing compact SUVs when it goes on sale next month. Yet Honda knows a thing or three about selling small SUV’s. The company’s CR-V has been tearing up sales charts for over a decade, and the new HR-V uses much of the same philosophy in a smaller, more affordable package. The recipe starts with a functional-yet-sporty exterior design wrapped around a space efficient cabin. With over 100 cubic feet of interior volume (including 24.3 cubic feet behind the second-row seat and 58.8 cubic feet behind the front seats when the second row is folded down), the HR-V packs plenty of utility inside a small, easy-to-manage frame. That frame features 27 percent ultra-high strength steel, and Honda reps told use they are confident the HR-V will earn top safety scores from the NHTSA and IIHS.
A solid structure pays dividends beyond crash protection. In the case of the HR-V we noticed trademark Honda refinement in the small ute’s ride and handling characteristics. With an approximate 3,000-pound curb weight the HR-V feels light on its feet, and its electric power steering was calibrated to provide a proper balance of responsive feedback and confidence. An independent front suspension and torsion beam rear suspension smoothed out road irregularities while allowing minimal lean around corners. Engaging driving dynamics have accompanied Honda vehicles for decades, and the HR-V continues this tradition. The 141 horsepower and 127 pound-feet of torque on tap from the HR-V’s 1.8-liter, 4-cylinder i-VTEC engine stays true to yet another Honda trait — adequate engine power. Many competitors offer higher horsepower and torque numbers and better power-to-weight ratios. So while not exactly sporty, the HR-V doesn’t feel underpowered in either front- or all-wheel-drive form. A 6-speed manual is offered on front-wheel-drive HR-Vs while a CVT is optional on front drivers and standard on all-wheel-drive models. Fuel efficiency is rated at 24 mpg city, 34 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined with the manual transmission and front-wheel drive. The CVT gets 28 city, 35 highway and 31 combined on front-drive models and 27/32/29 on all-wheel-drive HR-Vs.
Augmenting the 2016 HR-V’s space efficient cabin and refined driving dynamics is a comfortable interior with functional storage space and plenty of room for full-sized adults. Interior materials deliver a sense of quality, including a bright, clear gauge cluster and thick steering wheel with standard audio and Bluetooth controls. Like the Honda Fit with which is shares a platform, the HR-V is easy to reconfigure from passenger to cargo mode. The second row “Magic Seat” (Honda’s term) folds away quickly and easily, creating a flat load floor to maximize the small ute’s interior volume. This seat’s lower cushions can also be folded up to create a wide, open area ahead of the cargo area if needed.