Second generation Honda HR-V a satisfying ride
By Jim Bray
Honda's smallest SUV/Crossover thingy is back with an all-new set of clothes and other new features, and while its new look may be a tad generic, it's a very nice vehicle that should compete well in its market niche.
Honda says the new HR-V features "aspirational qualities beyond its segment," whatever the heck that means, appealing to "young, active buyers" thanks to its "stylish, sporty exterior and roomy, feature-rich interior." Perhaps, though I think its new "stylish, sporty exterior" is less Honda-like (I liked the outgoing version's exterior styling better, because it was less generic and more "Honda-like" than the new one, which at a quick glance could almost be mistaken for a Ford Escape).
Still, as I've said many times, beauty in a vehicle's styling is in the eye of the key holder, and I do think this new one may appeal to new buyers anyway because, however you slice it, it's still an attractive and pleasant and efficient vehicle that will probably serve its customer base extremely well.
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HR-V's now come with standard digital instrumentation, a larger and more responsive engine, and new suspension design that helps add some quite "Mazda-like" fun-to-drive to the occasion – even though it's saddled with the type of continuously variable transmission that can suck the fun out of nearly any drive.
At the mechanical heart of the HR-V, or "Harvey" as I like to call it, is two-litre four-cylinder engine Honda says produces 158-horsepower @ 6,500 rpm and 138 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4,200 rpm. That's compared to the outgoing generation's 1.8-litre four banger and its 17 fewer horses and 11 fewer torquey thingies. Not a huge difference, but it works okay (though I'd have liked to see more acceleration), and Honda says the new engine also delivers better drivability, refinement, and lower emissions.
Honda says that its damn, and standard, continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) has been reengineered for better delivery of power, as well as more refinement and even a better engine sound (though I didn't really notice it in my admittedly short preview of this vehicle). Honda says the transmission also features "a more naturally responsive feel thanks to improved G-Design programming and the addition of Honda's "Step-Shift" programming, which simulates gear changes when accelerating at full throttle."
I didn't notice any "simulated gear shifts" while I drove the HR-V, though I had it when the roads were snow-covered and the temperature in the minus 20 range and so couldn't really exploit it. I'll take Honda's word for it, though.
That said, Honda's CVT is better than most, and it also includes a new "Snow" mode that both softens throttle response and alters "gear" ratios.
Honda has also tweaked Harvey's "Real Time AWD system with Intelligent Control," to send more torque to the rear wheels when required, which should help its handling in inclement road conditions. They've also programmed in a "Hill Descent Control" that lets you maintain the vehicle's speed at anywhere between three and 18 kilometres an hour when you're tackling steep downhill sections of road.
The second-generation HR-V is longer and wider than the old model, features more rear seat legroom and, according to the manufacturer, "one of the largest cargo areas in its class." One thing Honda Canada's sample didn't offer is a power-operated tailgate, which is a bit of an oversight these days but hardly a deal breaker.
Inside, the HR-V is reminiscent of the current generation of Civic, which is not a bad thing at all. Visibility out of the greenhouse is better than before – and I especially liked the fact that the outside side mirrors have been moved so they don't block your view as much as the old ones did, which should help keep HR-V drivers from mowing down oblivious pedestrians.
The interior also seems a tad more upscale than before, and its new centre console features a nifty pass-through section that includes USB charging ports. Seats are comfortable and everything is laid out well.
There are nannies in spades, too, though Honda for once didn't beat me over the head with them, a nice change. You get stuff like the all-new (for this generation of HR-V) Traffic Jam Assist (TJA) and Traffic Sign Recognition (TSR – which flashes the speed limit on the instrument panel if you dare exceed it; I got that notice a lot!). Honda also says there are now "more natural responses" for some of the earlier nannies, such as the Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow (LSF) and Lane Keeping Assist (LKAS).
You can now get blind spot information (BSI) on the HR-V, which wasn't available before, and EX-L Navi grades also come with four sonar sensors on the front and rear bumpers to allow for Low-Speed Braking Control and front and rear false-start prevention.
HR-V's now get a Driver Attention Monitor, as well, which means if the HR-V's robotic brain thinks you're "becoming inattentive" it'll holler for attention. There' also a standard Rear Seat Reminder, that flashes a display on the instrument panel when you shut off the vehicle, nagging at you to ensure you haven't left any ankle biters or pets in the back seat. Of course, you could just pay attention on your own…
Regardless of the trim level you choose (base, front drive HR-V's start at about $28,730), you'll get a seven-inch colour LCD instrument panel in front you, rather than the analogue dials of olden days. Base LX and Sport trim levels also come with a seven-inch touchscreen atop the centre stack, though top line models (the AWD EX-L Navi starts at about $37,130) get that touch screen stretched to nine inches in diameter and come with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities. There's also a wireless charging pad and an upgraded audio system.
Meanwhile, the 2023 Honda HR-V is an attractive and comfortable beast, with a chassis that even allows some fun despite the vehicle being saddled with a CVT. In all, it's a pretty decent compromise.
Copyright 2022 Jim Bray