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Sat., July 11, 2015, 11:21 a.m.

New Honda HR-V brings family virtues to micro-crossover segment

After spending a week exploring the delights of Acura's flagship MDX, we climbed into its diminutive new cousin, Honda's HR-V micro-crossover.

The pint-sized, four-passenger HR-V packages traditional Honda virtues -- rock-solid body structure; firm-but-compliant ride; quiet, comfortable cabin — into a small, efficient footprint.

The HR-V is a family affair. Built on the Fit’s front-drive platform, it’s powered by the Civic’s 141-horsepower four-cylinder engine. Build-quality feels first-rate, cabin fit-and-finish is excellent and so is materials quality. The spacious cabin accommodates four six-footers.

There’s room behind those 60/40-split second-row seats for a week’s worth of groceries. Fold them down and the flat-floored cargo hold will swallow enough gear for a Himalayan trek.

The cabin exudes a richness of design rare in the price range. Simplicity is the theme, in shape, color and function. The effect is underscored by the absence of buttons and knobs, which are replaced by a dash-mounted touchscreen. 

Using a touchscreen while driving is tricky business. Here, redundant steering-wheel controls are a safe and convenient shortcut.

The HR-V cabin bristles with clever ideas. The passenger-side dash houses a long and remarkably effective three-segment vent; a rubberized cell-phone storage cubby nestles hidden in an open nook beneath the center console; miscellaneous small storage nooks are carved into or added onto a variety of surfaces.

In days past, entry-level Hondas scrimped on the extras. No longer. Even the base HR-V carries full power accessories, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone connectivity, Pandora Internet radio and 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels. 

My loaded EX-L ($26,720) brought the works —  keyless entry and ignition, leather upholstery, sunroof, heated front seats, leather, satellite and HD radio, navigation — and included LaneWatch, a passenger-side blind-spot warning system. When the driver signals a right turn, a video image looking rearward along the right side appears in the display screen. In town, LaneWatch alerts the driver to the presence of bicyclists; in freeway traffic, distance markers signal when it’s safe to return to the right-hand lane after passing another vehicle. 

A six-speed manual transmission is standard on front-drive trims, with an optional continuously variable transmission (CVT). The CVT is standard on AWD trims.

The HR-V’s torque curve brings out the less appealing aspects of CVT technology — i.e., the annoying rubber-band effect. However, the transmission has seven pre-programmed stops that simulate gears and a Sport mode that holds those ratios longer. When instant acceleration is needed, one selects “S” and uses the paddles to actuate shifts.

In tandem with the power-sapping CVT, the HR-V’s 141 ponies are insufficient to power it with authority. At 9.5 seconds, the 0-60 dash is more stroll than sprint.

Out on the road, the HR-V tracks straight and true, steering is direct and accurate and body roll is well-damped. Wind and road noise are subdued, making for a surprisingly serene cabin.

A wide gulf separates the HR-V and its upscale MDX cousin, but the family resemblance resonates all the way down to its bones.

2016 Honda HR-V AWD EX-L Navi
Vehicle base price: $19,115
Trim level base price: $25,840
As tested: $26,720
Options: Our AWD EX-L tester, with navigation, is a fully equipped trim and had no options.
EPA rating: 29 combined/27 city/32 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified

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Don Adair
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer.