For 2019, Honda’s pint-sized HR-V receives a flurry of enticing updates.
The HR-V ($20,520) is known for its solid build quality, frugal appetite and segment-busting utility. This year, it gets a mild facelift, adds two new trims and piles on a raft of new technology.
The little crossover is available in three trims, each of which can be had with front- or all-wheel-drive.
Four adults ride comfortably, with plenty of headroom and legroom — with enough real estate remaining for a Costco run.
Underway, the HR-V is not quick or sporty, but it is responsive and modestly engaging. Ride quality is generally quite good, although rough roads can upset its composure. Aggressive cornering induces body lean and corners are best taken gently.
With its subcompact dimensions and excellent sight lines, the HR-V is handy in traffic and easy to park. It’s less compelling as a touring machine, though; it’s settled and stable at speed, but vague steering and firm, flat seats — adjustable lumbar support is not available — can induce fatigue.
The younger drivers the HR-V targets likely won’t let that stop them. They’ll focus instead on the amount of usable space Honda packs into this tidy footprint. Credit smart packaging and Honda’s innovative second-row “Magic Seat.”
The Magic Seat tips up vertically to create a cavernous, car-wide cargo space behind the front seats. Or, it can be folded flat to create a 58.8 cubic-foot cargo hold, the equal of many midsize CUVs.
New infotainment system debuts
This year, a new, user-friendly infotainment interface debuts. Dubbed Display Audio, the new system is easier to navigate — and it brings Apple CarPlay and Android Auto into the Honda fold.
Display Audio also marks the return of the volume knob, whose omission over the past few years has been duly noted by the Peanut Gallery.
The base audio system features a 160-watt stereo with four speakers, a USB input, Bluetooth streaming audio and a 5-inch LCD color display. All others get a 180-watt system with six speakers, a high-resolution 7-inch screen and a second USB port.
EX ($24,715) models and above add HD and SiriusXM receivers. The top-level Touring ($29,535) is equipped with satellite-based navigation. Lesser trims rely on smartphone-based nav.
New noise-reduction techniques — including electronic noise-cancellation on all trims but the LX and the new Sport trim— cut cabin noise. Nevertheless, a fair amount of tire noise finds its way inside.
The Honda Sensing suite of driver-assistance features—it includes automated emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control — is newly standard on all but LX and Sport models.
New trims, new choices
The new Sport ($23,125) features gloss-black lower-body trim, a honeycomb grille and unique 18-inch alloys. Blackout headliner, contrast stitching on the seats, a leather-covered steering wheel and shifter and sport-style pedals complete the look inside.
The other new trim, the top-dog Touring, adds LED headlights and fog lights and 17-inch machined alloy wheels. Inside, double-stitched leather seats and an eight-way power driver’s seat plump up the HR-V’s most upscale cabin.
There is nothing luxurious about the HR-V cabin, though. Excellent ergonomics and first-rate fit and finish are undercut by uninspired design and abundant hard plastics. Materials are of a generally high quality, though, and the plastics have the advantage of being easily cleaned.
All HR-Vs are powered by a 141 horsepower, four-cylinder engine paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Last year’s 6-speed manual has slipped into the ether.
This year, Honda retunes the CVT to simulate the action of a conventional automatic. Even so, it noisily spins up engine speed under acceleration.
The HR-V strolls from 0-60 in a tick or two over 10 seconds.
Tweaks to the AWD system improve performance in low-traction conditions, such as snow. Let it be noted that our AWD HR-V tester aced the snow test presented by our steep and sometimes-plowed driveway.
Some little CUVs are more refined than the HR-V and some more sporty. But if utility and frugality matter, Honda’s smallest offering is one of its biggest values.
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2019 Honda HR-V AWD Touring
Vehicle base price: $20,520
Trim level base price: $28,540
As tested: $29,585 (includes destination and handling)
Options: Our test vehicle included no options.
EPA ratings: 28 combined/26 city/31 highway
Regular unleaded gasoline specified