Over the last while I’ve had the opportunity to drive a number of Honda / Acura vehicles, as part of Honda’s media program. My most recent trip to the Okanagan found me behind the wheel of the all new 2016 Honda HR-V.
The HR-V is a scaled down version of the popular Honda CR-V, which has a bigger engine (2.4 litre) and quite a bit more cargo space. That said, the HR-V is still surprisingly roomy, especially for a sub-compact, with plenty of space for a few cases of wine. And it comes with a peppy 1.8 litre, 4 cylinder 16 valve, SOHC engine. I was impressed with its overall performance, handling, and gas mileage.
1. Paddle Power
My car (a Honda HR-V EX-L Navi) featured the top end package. It includes Honda’s continuously variable transmission (CVT)—and paddle shifters. It’s the latter that piqued my curiosity. Paddles make an appearance usually on higher end vehicles. I was interested to see how they would perform on this model, and decided to put it through some sporty paces. No better stretch of road for that than BC’s Hwy. 3 (The Crowsnest). It yields mountain passes, steep hills, precipitous outside curves and occasional suicidal hairpins.
The automatic transmission offers two forward settings: Drive and Shift. Heading into the hills I left the Honda HR-V in Drive. But you can still down shift with the paddle in “D”, without changing to “S” (Shift mode). It’s a nice touch. In ‘Shift’ you can work your way through all seven gears. Most likely, however, you’ll spend most of the time in 3rd, 4th and 5th. The mid-range delivers a surprisingly sporty feel. Even though I’m a diehard stickshift kind of guy, I soon found myself warming to the convenience of the paddles.
2. Honda HR-V Handling
On the way home, I was hotly pursued by an MDX. But the HR-V more than proved itself in the mountains. Working through the gears delivered more control going into the corners and prompt acceleration coming out. I was duly impressed.
The external temperature reading, right above the gas gauge, is indispensable for mountain driving in cooler temperatures. And the prominent, easy to see, tachometer is essential for paddle shifting.
Michelin ICE tires all round made the car just a tad more ‘sticky’. The ride is firm without being harsh. And while being high off the ground takes some getting used to, the visibility is excellent.
The Honda HR-V interior is nicely done, with minimal fuss and a well planned, comfortable cockpit. My vehicle lacked nothing, with enough—but not too much—in the way of electronics. And they include plenty of hands-free conveniences. My only quibble was the location of the USB port, for charging your phone. It’s a little awkward to locate, well forward, under the dash. However, convenient ledges on the sides of the console hold your device while charging.
4. Cargo smart
Most sub-compact rear seating is sorely lacking but the HR-V’s interior benefits from the height of the vehicle. The rear seat configurations are smart. The backs fold down for extra storage while the seats themselves also fold up. That means you can fit in taller items behind the driver’s seat. Another nice touch, the rear headrests fold right down when not needed. All smart ideas.
5. Honda HR-V Economy
I had a fun and safe drive, at good speeds, with lots of shifting—plus some in town driving during the week. Some of the time, Honda’s nifty green fuel economy rings around the instruments were not showing. I was interested to see how the gas mileage wound up. Considering I wasn’t exactly trying to conserve gas, I was pleasantly surprised. The final tally of 8.5 litres per 100 kms was not too far off the manufacturer’s combined city / highway figure of 8.1 litres / 100 km.
Prices range from $20,690 to $29,990.
In wine terms the Honda HR-V is definitely more Riesling than barrel fermented Chardonnay. It’s light and lively, utterly refreshing to drive, and easy on the pocket book. 91 pts!
Read more on paddle shifts here.