2019 Honda HR-V
Nifty little city slicker
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- 24 Jun 2019
By James Park
Tiny urban utility vehicles take to city streets like cops to donuts.
These pseudo utilities fit into tight downtown parking spaces and have enough ground clearance to tackle potholes, bus knuckles, frost heaves and occasional unpaved roads leading to cottages and campsites with confidence.
These crossovers have practical hatchback design, fuel-efficient engines, as well as standard or optional all-wheel-drive (AWD) systems that allow many Canadian customers to feel relatively safe driving on winter roads.
No wonder they have become as popular as reverse mortgages among the baby boomers.
Making its 2015 debut as 2016 year model, the Honda HR-V counts itself among the pioneers in this nifty niche. While the upstart Hyundai Kona has taken over as the Canadian sales leader in this segment, HR-V is following closely behind.
The 2019 model keeps the same overall shape but gets more aggressive looking mug thanks to new LED head and fog lights, horizontal chrome accent and more distinctive air dam and body kit. As before, the blacked out rear door handles hide in the C-pillars, making some observers to mistake the vehicle as a coupe.
As a regular-sized (5 ft 8) person, this writer can sit relatively comfortably in the rear seat. Those over six-feet may feel little cramped.
The 1.8 litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine provides the motivation as before. It delivers maximum 141 horsepower and 127 lb-ft of torque and mates to a continuously variable transmission. Unlike the previous model’s CVT, the new version feels much more like a regular transmission and only shows its inherent limitation during hard acceleration.
The HR-V can be ordered with front-wheel drive only on the base LX model, which starts at $23,300 before taxes and mandatory fees. Cough up $2,300 more for the AWD. Sport ($28,800) and the top-of-the-line Touring ($32,000) both come with standard AWD.
All models are nicely equipped but the Touring test-vehicle provided to this writer also comes with heated leather seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle-shifters, navigation, Sirius XM, Apple Carplay/Android Auto connectivity, rain-sensing wipers, etc.
Electronic driver aids include front-collision warning, lane-departure warning, as well as Honda’s popular Lane Watch system that shows what’s behind the car’s right side when the right-turn signal is activated.
Of course, power from the 1.8 litre four never overwhelms. Still, the engine, while sounding coarse at times, does deliver adequate oomph for most everyday situations. (Am I the only person to wish for the turbo-four – used in say, Civic Si – under the hood and mated to a six-speed manual?)
As befitting a small car, the HR-V shows off plenty of dexterity going around corners. Its taut suspension helps with handling but going over small bumps and potholes feels unsettling at times.
The interior design is clean, well organized and the fit and finish gets above average marks. The infotainment screen looks almost identical to the previous model but Honda has brought back the volume knob – thanks, again.
The seats are comfortable enough but there are no power adjustments, even on the Touring model. It is a mainstream small vehicle that needs to keep within the reasonable price range, after all.
Still, the HR-V deserves serious consideration for its practicality, dexterity, clever design touches and reliability – all the things Canadian consumers appreciate. (James Park is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada.)
2019 Honda HR-V Touring
Engine: 1.8 litre four
Power: 141 hp/127 lb-ft
Fuel: 9.1 litres per 100km (city), 7.7 litres (highway)
Best: practicality, handling
Worst: needs more power
Competition: Hyundai Kona, Mazda CX-3, Nissan Qashqai, Ford Ecosport
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