Honda dove right into the mini Ute race with the new HR-V, which is based on one of our favorite subcompact cars, the Fit. The HR-V reminds us of Honda's popular CR-V when it came out in 1997 with its simplicity. It's versatile, even offering an entry-level 6-speed manual transmission.
Appearance: Honda went with a traditional design for its baby ute rather than the more whimsical looks of small crossovers such as the Nissan Juke or Kia Soul. Instead, the HR-V has some of Honda's more stern new design cues that can be seen in the CR-V and Pilot: drop-down grille with chrome accent bar, upswept headlights and creased hood. Creases also traverse the body, with one joining the curved window line at the hidden rear door latch. Visually, these lines give the HR-V a sense of height. (The ute does have more ground clearance than the Fit.) Our tester also came with 17-inch machine-finish alloy wheels, which add a sporty touch.
Performance: The HR-V's 1.8-liter engine puts out 141 horsepower, which is adequate for city driving, but Lyra thought it made for some white-knuckle moments when merging into busy highway traffic. (The CVT transmission has sport mode, but sport is a relative term here.) The base HR-V comes with 6-speed manual transmission and two-wheel drive. Still, the CVT-equipped HR-V has a better estimated mpg. Our tester had all-wheel drive, and the ride felt confident and stable, even handling rough roads well.
Interior: Storage is HR-V's strength, with a versatile cabin layout that befits a crossover based on the Fit platform. The rear seats fold down for 55.9 cubic feet of space, which would be doing some larger vehicles proud. You can also fold up the rear Magic Seat bottoms to haul things up to 4 feet tall. (The Magic Seats are one of our favorite Fit features.) The front passenger seat leans back all the way to accommodate items up to 8 feet long. As for passengers, the HR-V seats five, though four would be more comfortable. There's plenty of head- and legroom up front, which surprised Peter, and even most adults in the backseat won't feel cramped. Our tester was the top EX-L trim, which includes comfortable and well-bolstered leather-trimmed seats as well as upgraded materials with soft-touch surfaces on the asymmetrical dash and doors. Our major interior gripe: There are no buttons or dials on the console, which has all touch-screen controls. This can be especially annoying for the volume; we used the steering wheel controls.
Our 3 favorites
Standard features: Multi-angle rearview camera, USB and Bluetooth.
Smart Entry: You won't have to dig out your keys to unlock the door in the upper trim levels.
Magic Seats: Love them in the Fit and love them in the HR-V.
Creative storage: Lots of space for a small vehicle.
No backaches: A plush interior with comfortable seats.
Fuel efficiency: Estimated 27 mpg city, 32 highway.
The bottom line: The Honda HR-V is a welcome addition to the fast-growing subcompact-crossover segment. City drivers, especially, will like its size and practicality.