The 2016 Honda HR-V Is Honda's Worst Current Product

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain

Every week, I’m driving something different. Just yesterday, I shuffled out of a Fiat 500X Trekking AWD into a Mercedes-Benz GLC300 4Matic for a true back-to-back nine-speed automatic transmission comparo. (Mercedes-Benz wins.)

But in the real world with real money, our family vehicle is a 2015 Honda Odyssey. It’s not our first Honda; it likely won’t be our last. I consider the Accord to be the best midsize sedan on the market. I managed to enjoy a week with the new Honda Pilot despite a troupe of electronic gremlins. I believe the Integra GS-R is the ultimate expression of all that was right with the auto industry. Yet I am not remotely close to succumbing to the notion that Honda can do no wrong.

Crosstour? It’s ghastly and expensive. CR-Z? Sadly, it’s boring and not terribly efficient. Second-gen Insight? A lackluster response to the all-conquering Prius.

HR-V? Quite successful, but also loud, uncomfortable, slow, overpriced, and frustrating.

Priced (in the United States) at $26,890, the 2016 Honda HR-V EX-L Navi AWD is incomplete and unfinished. There are reviews aplenty for those who wish to read about the HR-V’s positives: we published on GCBC last week; Alex Dykes’ thorough video review went live in April.

Yet besides the very concept of the Fit-based HR-V — and the little Honda’s subcompact crossover rivals — and a handful of niggling issues, there are five chief issues, which on their own could be deal breakers for a large number of buyers.

Sure, the HR-V is popular, and sales have decreased during its tenure only because availability is scarce. Yes, subcompact crossover sales are taking off, essentially doubling month after month. But it’s worth noting that traditional compact SUVs/CUVs such as Honda’s own CR-V, a perennial best seller, attract many thousands more buyers.

That won’t always be the case. After all, the nascent subcompact crossover segment is hurrying to make headway. But the HR-V serves to highlight the reasons a typical buyer’s search for an affordable, practical, flexible, efficient vehicle does not presently end with a subcompact crossover purchase.

DRIVER COMFORT


Of course, driver comfort is subjective. My body type, a lanky frame stretching nearly six-feet tall, is not necessarily yours. But in this leather-clad HR-V’s driver’s seat, the side bolstering is too soft to be effective and, far worse, the seat itself does not slide back to create sufficient legroom.

This is a problem in the Fit, and Honda actually lists less front legroom in the HR-V. (Automaker-supplied measurements don’t always make much sense, particularly when it comes to legroom.) Regardless, as someone who rarely slides the seat back to its most distant location, I couldn’t get far enough away from the HR-V’s pedals. Deal breaker.

ROAD & WIND NOISE


In the tweeted words of TTAC’s managing editor:

And it’s really, really loud. https://t.co/FMRQnjsbA9

— Mark Stevenson (@MarkTTAC) January 31, 2016

I’ll accept the fact that in Car and Driver testing of the quiet CR-V Touring and loud HR-V EX-L, sound levels were basically identical. Tolerating the real world impact of the HR-V’s decibels, however, is downright challenging. I can’t blame the Michelin Primacy MXV4 tires, as the same tires on our Odyssey don’t produce the same resulting steady roar. Nor did this 1.8-litre inline-four create such cacophony when it was positioned under the hood of the last-gen Civic.

Noise is fatiguing on the highway. Conversations are held at bay. Other minor irritants become major aggravations because you’re already tensed by the intrusion of the outside world. The HR-V’s noise levels made me wish I was in a Buick Encore, a thought I ne’er had done thunk aforetime.

In an entry-level subcompact car, maybe such a moaning engine and so much inward-directed outside roar would be assumed. But a top-spec HR-V costs 60 percent more than a basic Fit LX. At $27,000, perhaps even $21,000, this is simply not up to the standards of 2016 NVH.

SLOW


Laden with the equipment of a top-spec model, including approximately 160 pounds of all-wheel-drive components, the HR-V EX-L Navi is slow. Honda didn’t fit the HR-V with the Fit’s smaller, less powerful 130-horsepower 1.5-litre, but the 141-horsepower 1.8-litre is hardly more effective. Acceleration is tepid and produces the kind of noise, already discussed, that prompts drivers to place less pressure on the throttle.

Want to get up to highway speed quickly? Aside from a Nismo-badged Juke or a Mini Countryman JCW, no subcompact crossover will do the deed, but the HR-V is less effective than most.

LIMITED SAVINGS


For automakers, a large part of the reasoning behind subcompact crossovers lies in the profit potential. Take one low-margin subcompact car, elevate ever so slightly, add grey wheel arch cladding, and demand an additional $3,000 – 5,000. Further enhance profitability by sending drive to the rear wheels for at least $1,300.

So we assume that the HR-V and like-minded utilities won’t be direct competitors for their donor vehicles. They’ll line up more directly with compact cars and then, when optioned to the hilt, with their own compact siblings. Honda builds two different all-wheel-drive CR-Vs, the LX and SE, which cost less than this HR-V. The CR-V EX AWD is only $1,305 more than the all-wheel-drive HR-V EX-L Navi.

The CR-V offers 60 percent more cargo volume behind the rear seats; 21 percent more with the seats folded.

Fuel economy? It’s a wash. In our week-long tests, a CR-V Touring AWD on winter tires achieved 23.8 miles per gallon on the U.S. scale during a cold week at the end of January 2015. Almost exactly one year later, the HR-V EX-L Navi AWD did 23.5 mpg on all-season tires. Official EPA ratings are in the HR-V’s favour, but not by much. AWD HR-Vs are rated at 27 mpg city; 32 highway. AWD CR-Vs are rated at 25 in the city; 31 on the highway.

American Honda sold 46,146 HR-Vs during the model’s first nine months on the market. During the same period, Honda also sold 262,276 CR-Vs. Availability accounts for much of the gap. There aren’t fewer than 7,000 HR-Vs in Cars.com’s inventory and nearly 50,000 CR-Vs. But even if Honda had been able to continue the torrid sales pace of the HR-V’s first two months, we’d still be looking at a vehicle that sold once for every four CR-Vs. Money is a factor.

ANCHORS


If you’re a car writer who switches car seats back and forth between a Honda Odyssey — among the easiest vehicles for LATCH — and less accommodating vehicles, you’ll discover that the leather-equipped HR-V is among the most hateful.

Stiff, dual vertical flaps protect the HR-V’s anchors from the very items looking to access those anchors. Making the situation even worse are buckles placed directly in front of the inboard flaps, which are directly in front of the anchors.

Do what you’ve got to do to young fathers. Make the HR-V slow, make the HR-V expensive, make the HR-V noisy if you must. Honda can even make me uncomfortable if the company feels ordained to do so. But don’t make the installation of child seats any worse than it already is.

[Images: Timothy Cain/ The Truth About Cars | Image Source: Honda]

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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  • 18726543 18726543 on Feb 19, 2016

    I put my time in with these little guys last weekend. My girlfriend was looking for a car to replace the 2010 Dodge Caliber she bought new (surprisingly solid car at 92k miles). She wanted something roughly the same size, but with better sight lines and all wheel drive. She's a vet tech and often needs to get to the vet hospital during bad weather, and also she frequently runs Spartan Runs and the like which have some pretty horrible parking situations. Considering that we have no interest in having kids, we aren't going to out-grow a vehicle this size. We drove the HR-V, CX-3, Crosstrek, and Renegade. The HR-V was definitely the least peppy, and I wasn't too impressed with the interior. From the front passenger seat my view of the dash displayed a roughly 12" long by 2" high air vent. It was almost like Honda had decided the interior materials were so cheap they didn't want to display too broad an unbroken area right at eye level, so they jammed in this giant air vent to dress things up. Very awkward looking. The CX-3 had a very nice looking interior, with some carbon fiber (simulated, I assume) inlays, soft red leatherette accents, real (and molded) dash stitching, and a plethora of other surface textures. I was shocked, however, at how small the car was! I know none of these are big, but the CX-3 felt considerably smaller than all the other vehicles we drove that day. As typical of Mazda, the ride felt firmer and the steering more responsive, and the car had noticeably more kick than the Honda. Braking feel was also very impressive. The Crosstrek was a comfortable drive. It felt a little less peppy than the CX-3, but more-so than the HR-V. My girlfriend didn't care about the CVT since it's what she's used to with her Calibur, and I honestly don't think she could tell the difference between a CVT and a geared auto anyway. I really liked the way the Crosstrek looked with the ivory interior. The seat material looked like it was chosen with outdoorsey people in mind...easy to clean, durable, but comfortable. Because of that dealer's proximity to Gambrill State Park we were able to drive some pretty exciting mountain roads all while it was actively snowing. There was about an inch or two of cover on the roads while we were out and I have to give credit to the salesman in the back. He must've had balls of steel because he never once suggested that we turn back, or even slow down. The car steered, braked, and accelerated marvelously. The Renegade we drove had the 2.4L engine so it had plenty enough power to feel adequate. It's a neat looking vehicle, but I think we both felt like we'd tire of it quickly. The mud splatter on the tach designating "redline", the "1941" molded into the center stack, the little Jeep easter eggs hidden everywhere...I can't imagine living with all that crap. It almost felt like eating at the kid's table compared to the other vehicles. A giant Optimus Prime on your table cloth is pretty damn cool when you're 12, but there comes a time when you must enjoy Optimus Prime quietly within yourself and put on your big boy clothes to go to work. Also, the Renegade we drove had the "My Sky" option (the two giant sunroof panels) and the snow falling on the vehicle was surprisingly loud while we were driving. I can't imagine what it would sound like in there if you were caught in a down-pour. After the test drives we went home to do some reliability research because the Renegade and Crosstrek have been out long enough to get some feedback. Truedelta suggested that the 13, 14, and 15 Crosstreks had all been reliable, to very reliable choices. Some quick internet searches showed the 2015 Renegade was quite a heap. I found many complaints about the 9-speed auto, parasitic draws resulting in a dead battery, the key fob being unable to control the door locks, a water leak here and there, and most of these issues surfaced prior to the first oil change. In the end my girlfriend decided on the Crosstrek. With her trade-in she got a 2016 model in Quartz Blue over Ivory cloth, Premium Package for $19k out the door. Hopefully it won't become a basket case when the odometer turns 6 digits, but even if it does that's quite a ways away and Subies have surprisingly high resale values. We'll have amortized the headache over many a mud-run/mountain bike race by then!

  • Laserwizard Laserwizard on Feb 22, 2016

    It's a Honduh. That means buyers don't care it is ugly, expensive, noisy, or fuel thirsty. Honduh buyers have an image of their company that hasn't existed in twenty years or more - dependable, well designed, and unique products. Today's Honduhs are expensive, bloated eyesores that aren't well made or the best at anything. I laugh at those who recommend the Accord. Considering that the Accord was like a lanky 165 pound youngster that has now grown into a 250 pound overweight lunkhead, I can't see how you can recommend the disaster. The Civic is the latest bloatware from Honduh - now bigger than the original Accord, we have a company that has lost its way. But Honduh knows its customers are idiots - they thought so little of the Honditwits that they decontented the Civic only to throw back some goodies and then to hide the disaster they brought out king kong civic - the biggest disaster on the eyes since Pontiac's Aztek (or anything made by Toyoduh). Why should the HRV be any good? Honduh knows these will sell to their seagull customers.

    • See 2 previous
    • Bball40dtw Bball40dtw on Feb 22, 2016

      Please provide me with a list of midsized sedans that are not heavier or larger in footprint then their company's midsized sedan in the 80s/90s. The current Accord doesn't do anything for me, but it's not like it is larger than the competition.

  • Dartdude Having the queen of nothing as the head of Dodge is a recipe for disaster. She hasn't done anything with Chrysler for 4 years, May as well fold up Chrysler and Dodge.
  • Pau65792686 I think there is a need for more sedans. Some people would rather drive a car over SUV’s or CUV’s. If Honda and Toyota can do it why not American brands. We need more affordable sedans.
  • Tassos Obsolete relic is NOT a used car.It might have attracted some buyers in ITS DAY, 1985, 40 years ago, but NOT today, unless you are a damned fool.
  • Stan Reither Jr. Part throttle efficiency was mentioned earlier in a postThis type of reciprocating engine opens the door to achieve(slightly) variable stroke which would provide variable mechanical compression ratio adjustments for high vacuum (light load) or boost(power) conditions IMO
  • Joe65688619 Keep in mind some of these suppliers are not just supplying parts, but assembled components (easy example is transmissions). But there are far more, and the more they are electronically connected and integrated with rest of the platform the more complex to design, engineer, and manufacture. Most contract manufacturers don't make a lot of money in the design and engineering space because their customers to that. Commodity components can be sourced anywhere, but there are only a handful of contract manufacturers (usually diversified companies that build all kinds of stuff for other brands) can engineer and build the more complex components, especially with electronics. Every single new car I've purchased in the last few years has had some sort of electronic component issue: Infinti (battery drain caused by software bug and poorly grounded wires), Acura (radio hiss, pops, burps, dash and infotainment screens occasionally throw errors and the ignition must be killed to reboot them, voice nav, whether using the car's system or CarPlay can't seem to make up its mind as to which speakers to use and how loud, even using the same app on the same trip - I almost jumped in my seat once), GMC drivetrain EMF causing a whine in the speakers that even when "off" that phased with engine RPM), Nissan (didn't have issues until 120K miles, but occassionally blew fuses for interior components - likely not a manufacturing defect other than a short developed somewhere, but on a high-mileage car that was mechanically sound was too expensive to fix (a lot of trial and error and tracing connections = labor costs). What I suspect will happen is that only the largest commodity suppliers that can really leverage their supply chain will remain, and for the more complex components (think bumper assemblies or the electronics for them supporting all kinds of sensors) will likley consolidate to a handful of manufacturers who may eventually specialize in what they produce. This is part of the reason why seemingly minor crashes cost so much - an auto brand does nst have the parts on hand to replace an integrated sensor , nor the expertice as they never built them, but bought them). And their suppliers, in attempt to cut costs, build them in way that is cheap to manufacture (not necessarily poorly bulit) but difficult to replace without swapping entire assemblies or units).I've love to see an article on repair costs and how those are impacting insurance rates. You almost need gap insurance now because of how quickly cars depreciate yet remain expensive to fix (orders more to originally build, in some cases). No way I would buy a CyberTruck - don't want one, but if I did, this would stop me. And it's not just EVs.
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