See full image gallery >>
Monsters like the new Cadillac Escalade-V may dominate SUV headlines (and profit margins), but by far the most prolific niche for SUV-ification is the baby crossover segment. Examples like the first-generation HR-V, Hyundai Kona, and Jeep Renegade were born out of subcompact sedans and hatchback platforms, but the latest round of baby CUVs (like this 2023 Honda HR-V) is approaching the segment with something more ambition — and corresponding price increases.
Unlike its predecessor, which was essentially a Fit on stilts, the new 2023 HR-V is closely related to the larger Civic (odd angle, isn’t it?), with a few tweaks from the last CR-V to good measure. Not only does the HR-V inherit some of the styling cues of the new Civic interior, it has also been upgraded in terms of material quality, fit and finish. Gone are the hard plastic door panels and the ugly hodgepodge of air vents and faux leather. In their place, we get the soft-touch materials and a variation of the full-width Civic’s eggcrate vent cover. Another variation of this can be found in the new CR-V.
The interior of the previous HR-V was reasonably good for the segment when it debuted for the 2016 model year, and represented a clear step up from the modest Fit in terms of materials. It was showing its age, however, especially as more rivals came up with more interesting ones designs and far better infotainment systems emerged. The redesign improves everything to about the same degree. The infotainment system is shared with the Civic, meaning the lower fascias get a 7-inch touchscreen backed by physical menu shortcut buttons (and yes, a volume knob), while the EX-L gets a larger 9-inch touchscreen. Inch screen that gets rid of most of those physical buttons and replaces them with menu icons that stay docked at the bottom of the screen. These real and virtual buttons, along with other user interface improvements, mean there are fewer menus to go back and forth in the new HR-V. It also appears to be less prone to slow response and glitches. One potential problem though: the lack of a touring fairing (this EX-L is as loaded as the new HR-V) means there’s no longer an option for integration GPS navigation. You need your smartphone and a working cell signal.
The Civic platform migration has some downsides. One of the HR-V’s most popular party bits (around here, anyway) was the “Magic Seat” system, which it inherited from the Fit. These allowed for multiple configurations and a low, truly flat-folding rear cargo area. Unfortunately, these were lost in the transition, so the HR-V’s rear seatback can only be folded down to the slightly reclined angle that’s universal for small hatches and crossover SUVs (despite some clever engineering to ensure the seat bottom folds down a bit). to make way for the seat back). The end result isn’t quite flat, but flat enough we suppose. Two-wheel drive models even gain about 2 cubic feet in overall cargo volume.
The move from the Oddball Fit to a more conventional, Civic-related platform also makes comparing rear-seat space a head-scratcher. The specs say the old HR-V had more rear legroom, but that’s a bit deceptive. That old “magic seat” sat higher off the ground, creating a more chair-like seating position that offered a surprising amount of legroom, even if your knees were actually fairly close to the seats in front of you. The new one has more space between the rows but is lower to the ground. Because of this, the dimensions are a little worse on paper, but there’s a greater sense of space and more room for rear-facing child seats. The rear seat is wider, too, although if you routinely seat three people abreast, something fairly larger is in order – think Passport or Pilot, not something ending in -V.
All in all, it’s a nice set of upgrades that enhance the experience while keeping the price from shooting too far past the $30,000 mark. Our tester, All-in, chimed in at $30,590, which just undercuts the entry-level CR-V. We’d normally expect some overlap between the two, but perhaps Honda decided it’d rather bump into its larger (and more profitable) sibling for those considering a well-appointed HR-V.
You might like it too