2023 Honda HR-V EX-L AWD Review – Enticing Yet Flawed

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey

Fast Facts

2023 Honda HR-V EX-L AWD Fast Facts

2.0-liter four-cylinder (158 horsepower @ 6,500 RPM, 138 lb-ft @ 4,200 RPM)
Transmission/Drive-Wheel Layout
Continuously-variable automatic, all-wheel drive
Fuel Economy, MPG
25 city / 30 highway / 27 combined (EPA Rating)
Fuel Economy, L/100km
9.4 city / 7.8 highway / 8.7 combined (NRCan Rating)
Base Price
$28,950 (U.S.) / $37,130 (Canada)
As-Tested Price
$30,590 (U.S.) / $39, 563.50 (Canada)
Prices include $1,245 destination charge in the United States and $2,133.50 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.
2023 honda hr v ex l awd review enticing yet flawed

Once upon a time, the Honda HR-V was a nice little affordable urban runabout with a cramped interior, unremarkable dynamics, and boring styling.

The 2023 Honda HR-V is a much nicer package, with a roomier, nicer cabin and styling that will get noticed – though not necessarily in a good way.

It also offers handling that actually has some verve – Honda remembered that they’re Honda – and a comfy ride. Now, let’s talk about giving that engine some more guts. And giving this crossover some better tires.

The 2.0-liter four-cylinder makes 158 horsepower and just 138 lb-ft of torque, and that’s disappointing. There’s a lack of passing punch here, and merging takes some planning. The HR-V could be a fun little urban commuter if it had, say, 200 lb-ft of torque. Maybe even 175. But there’s just not enough grunt here.

The other thing that’s lacking is rubber – the tires here give up the ghost a bit too easily when pushed, especially if the pavement is a bit wet. Yes, yes, we know – few folks are slaloming a small crossover around an autocross. But even accounting for vehicle type and use case, Honda should shoe the HR-V with grippier tires.

Especially since the handling here is good enough that you might want to have a little back-road fun, crossover or not. For reference, my test car had the available all-wheel drive system.

Credit the MacPherson strut suspension up front and rear multi-link for this. The electric power steering manages to feel actually connected to the road and not too artificial.

At least the continuously-variable automatic transmission doesn’t annoy. Most of us disdain CVTs but this is one of the better ones.

The HR-V’s interior will be familiar to anyone who has spent time in the Civic, and that’s a good thing. It looks classy, it’s functional, and everything just sort of works. There’s leg- and headroom a plenty, and the seats are comfy. The only downside is that some materials feel cheap, especially in the top-trim EX-L I drove – a vehicle that costs $30,590. Oh, wait, there’s one more downside – the tacked-on infotainment screen.

Honda gave the HR-V new styling, and it’s more than a tad polarizing, thanks to the snub-nose shape. It looks better in person than in pictures, but it’s still a bit of a puzzling choice. Similarly puzzling was the decision to not include a power tailgate – something competitors offer.

My test unit – a top-trim EX-L with all-wheel drive – had a base price of $28,950. That price included features such as leather seats, heated front seats, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, blind-spot information monitor, rear cross-traffic monitor, driver attention monitor, Bluetooth, satellite radio, USB, keyless starting, wireless phone charger, dual-zone climate control, 17-inch wheels, LED headlights and taillights, keyless entry, remote start, adaptive cruise control, collision-mitigation braking, lane-keeping assist, road-departure mitigation, and traffic-jam assist. The only option was the $395 Nordic Forest paint.

Taken as a whole, I found the HR-V to be a pretty decent choice as a small crossover – and it’s certainly a more appealing choice than it was before. It needs a bit more power, a better tire choice, and some nicer interior materials to really stand out. As for the divisive looks, well, keep in mind you don’t have to see the grille while driving.

Honda took a huge step in the right direction with this generation of the HR-V. A few tweaks and the company will have one of the stronger entries at this price point.

[Images © 2023 Tim Healey/TTAC.com]

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2 of 23 comments
  • Tonycd Tonycd on Jul 11, 2023

    Tell me about it. I have a family member whose CR-V has been soldiering on for over 20 years now.

  • Joel Sturm Joel Sturm on Jul 20, 2023

    My 2011 CR-V continues on--like new. In all this time, with lots of kilometers, two items have "given up"--the a/c compressor and the actuator in the passenger front door. This isn't bad for a pleasurable, reliable vehicle entering its teenage years. I've owned and driven autos from GM, Ford, Chrysler, Honda, and Mercedes-Benz. My current buddy, the '11 CR-V, is by far the most reliable and most pleasurable to drive--especially in a blizzard, grin. I believe that my CR-V and I will will be "friends" well into its "twenties".

  • Lou_BC " GMC Canyon sales during the second quarter of 2023 kept Big Red’s midsize pickup last in its segment when ranked by sales volume. The Toyota Tacoma continued to command the top spot, while also being the only model to be in the green with a 14 percent bump to 63,262 units year-over-year, representing nearly half of all segment deliveries. The  Chevy Colorado (see running  Chevy Colorado sales), the Canyon’s corporate cousin, placed second with a 12 percent dip to 19,909 units. The Nissan Frontier took third with a 17 percent slide to 17,213 units, followed by the Jeep Gladiator in fourth with a 34 percent drop to 13,751 units. The  Ford Ranger (see running  Ford Ranger sales) took fifth with a 22 percent decline to 12,618 units. The GMC Canyon (see running  GMC Canyon sales) finished out the short list with an 11 percent slip to 6,708 units"
  • 2ACL If you weren't throwing away your Mercedes after the warranty expired, this will fix that. This is an overly complex answer to the AMG question I don't think will endure the test of time.
  • Kwik_Shift Looks like what a redesigned Nissan Murano would be. I believe Murano is done.
  • MaintenanceCosts This is a Volvo EX90 with swoopier styling and less interior room. I'm really not sure I understand the target audience.
  • Stuki Moi If government officials, and voters, could, like, read and, like, count and, like, stuff: They'd take the opportunity to replace fixed license numbers, with random publicly available keys derived from a non-public private key known only to them and the vehicle's owner. The plate's displayed number would be undecipherable to every slimeball out there with a plate reader who is selling people's whereabouts and movements, since it would change every day/hour/minute. Yet any cop with a proper warrant and a plate scanner, could decipher it just as easily as today.