Mountain Wheels: Expanded Honda HR-V offers all-season utility for Civic fans |

Mountain Wheels: Expanded Honda HR-V offers all-season utility for Civic fans

Honda’s 2023 HR-V features a redesigned look and an interior loaded with many of the looks and features of the new Civic, which it shares a platform with.
Courtesy photo

On paper, there should be a lot of positives to go along with Honda’s all-new compact crossover, the vastly reengineered 2023 HR-V. It’s got loads of Honda-specific pleasantries, it easily gets 30 mpg on every outing, even with all-wheel drive, and it comes in a more convenient size than its ever-expanding cousins: the CR-V, Passport and Pilot.

Honda has been successful with the previous HR-V model, which was America’s 19th-best selling SUV in 2022, beating out the Subaru Forester (national numbers, not Colorado numbers, you dig) and just slightly eclipsed by the Ford Broncos which actually made it to consumers.

But it still only sold half as much as the larger CR-V, or maybe a third as many CR-Vs were sold in 2021, so the brand is looking for some new traction with a vastly reimagined model.

For buyers who are intrigued in accessing Honda reliability, decent mileage and a scaled-down rendition of the larger crossover/SUV goodies, the Mexican-assembled 2023 HR-V begins at about $23,800 for a front-wheel drive model.

I drove the all-wheel drive version of the top-of-the-line EX-L model, priced at $29,400 plus paint and delivery charges, with standard 17-inch wheels, a 9-inch color touchscreen, built-in wireless CarPlay and Android Auto, and a basic version of the Honda Sensing safety system — including adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping and road-departure assistance and automatic precollision braking.

The 8.7-inch-longer car is designed to compete with other smallish crossovers such as the Hyundai Kona and the Mazda CX-30 and act as an entry point for Honda enthusiasts seeking the Civic’s versatility and reliability (HR-V is built on the same platform), but with some additional crossover stance and all-season versatility.

The looks are indeed all-new for 2023 and depending how much you care about the nearly universal homogenization of modern vehicle design, HR-V will strike you as mostly cool. The strangest part is the new open-grate-style nose vent, positioned in a way that it makes the car look almost identical to a Ford Mustang Mach-e from the front. LED-outlined headlamps also add to that appearance.

The rear glass is a little taller and the wheel openings much larger than the outgoing model, and the whole thing is marginally longer and wider than the previous HR-V. I’d almost say the arches are too large given the size of the wheels.

Many of the crossover-version-of-Civic advantages have to do with its cargo space, which is an impressive 55.1 cubic feet with the rear seats dropped, or 24.4 with them in place. You also get big-car-styled rear leg room and a more spacious and stylish, entirely contoured cabin.

A big part of my own less-than-enthusiastic reception to the HR-V during drives was the limitations of its 158-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder, matched to a one-speed continuously variable transmission. Provided you are not in a hurry to go much more than 65 mph at any time, even on non-inclined road surfaces, HR-V will suffice, and easily grant you that 30 mpg highway figure. The engine, strangely, is touted as one of the 2023 HR-V’s big improvements, so maybe that will sway more newcomers.

Driving dynamics are also reflective of the new Civic and result in better steering feel, stability, cornering and overall ride quality, partly due to a 1.7-inch-longer wheelbase and more than two inches of additional track in the front and rear wheels.

Design inside incorporates a crossover-scaled interpretation of Civic’s more pleasant features, plus some oddities. The central console, shift knob and open storage space looks like a tiny motorcycle, complete with an elbow armrest as a seat, with two old-style USB plugs and a drive mode selector that most decidedly does not give HR-V a sport mode, at all.

You do got hill descent control, a snow and economy mode, plus open cupholders and a large, flat phone charger pad. The cool Civic grate-styled air vents, the controls and the glossy-edged Civic wheel are all nice touches, plus slightly oversized door tops and extra-cushioned doors and edges of that sportbike console.

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