The original Honda HR-V had a certain magic to it, much of that due to the “magic seats” that made its cabin so surprisingly flexible and roomy. As I discovered one day loading up with cargo, it packed in more than some crossovers a class or two larger.
The 2016 entry was basic transportation but did its job well. With the new model growing longer and a bit more sophisticated, the question I wanted to answer was whether the 2023 Honda HR-V would be a worthy successor.
To find out, I caught a flight out to Portland, Oregon and then headed out to a rustic lodge along the Columbia River Gorge for a long day of test driving. Here are my first impressions of the second-generation Honda HR-V.
The 2016 Honda HR-V was one of the first compact crossovers and, while it can’t match the sales numbers of the bigger CR-V, it’s actually been gaining momentum in the past year. Whether the 2023 makeover will keep that going remains uncertain, but it does have plenty going for it.
The second-generation crossover is longer, wider and taller. It’s loaded with a number of new features and a more sophisticated interior. There’s new technology, such as wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto — depending on your trim package — as well as new advanced driver assistance systems.
But the interior actually grows a wee bit tighter and, with the added size and weight — and the more powerful engine the 2023 model needs to move it all — you also lose 2 mpg in combined fuel economy.
Technically, the 2023 Honda HR-V still falls into the subcompact crossover category, but just barely. It’s grown bigger in most directions, but for two that proved especially appealing to first-generation buyers.
Where the original CUV shared its platform with the old Honda Fit hatchback, the 2023 HR-V moves to the same architecture as the 11th-generation Honda Civic. It’s wheelbase grows 1.7 inches, while total length is stretched 9.4, to 179.8 inches. At 72.4 inches, it’s 2.6 wider, and height climbs to 63.8 inches.
Americans typically like to see their favorite products grow larger with each new generation. But it’s hard to be sure this will click with those urban buyers who liked the small and nimble shape of the original HR-V.
The overall look of the 2023 Honda HR-V is more sophisticated — with sculpted side panels and a more handsome front end that picks up on the grille, headlight and fascia designs shared by other new Honda crossovers.
If there was one disappointment for me as I checked out the new HR-V, it was Honda’s decision to abandon the “magic seats” that were a key feature on the original crossover. They could fold, tumble and split in a variety of configurations to provide up to 40 inches of rear legroom and 58.8 cubic feet of cargo space. I recall being shocked when I got the 2016 HR-V just in time to help a friend move. The crossover actually packed in more than most compact alternatives.
Honda justifies the decision by pointing to the added size of the new model. The increased vehicle height allows for a more coupe-like roofline without impinging on rear seat headroom. Even so, the back row loses a wee bit of legroom, at 37.7 inches. And cargo space is also ever-so-slightly smaller — though still measures an impressive 55.1 cubic feet with the second row down.
The new HR-V is not only bigger but moves more upmarket, with the high-trim EX-L, in particular, adding nice touches like French stitching and metal mesh accents. No, it’s no luxury model, and falls short of even the current Honda CR-V. But it’s a marked improvement from the original crossover which always reminded you that you were buying a budget entry.
Kudos to Honda for retaining some conventional controls, even with the larger and more sophisticated touchscreen on the top-trim EX-L, including a volume knob. Honda clearly learned its lesson after the negative feedback on the volume slider early versions of the HR-V were saddled with.
Weighing in at about anywhere from 3,159 to 3,333 pounds — about 250 more than the outgoing crossover, it’s no surprise Honda has opted to upgrade the engine in the 2023 HR-V.
The new 2.0-liter inline-4 makes 158 horsepower and 138 pound-feet of torque, up 31 hp and 11 lb-ft from the first-generation CUV’s 1.8-liter inline-four.
The engine remains paired with a continuously variable transmission and is available in both front- and all-wheel-drive configurations.
The additional power offered by the new engine does come with a cost, albeit reasonably modest. It yields 27 miles per gallon with the all-wheel-drive option, 28 mpg in front-wheel drive. Both packages are down 2 mpg from the original HR-V.
Safety and Technology
If the new HR-V hits its target it will draw in young, family-oriented buyers. And you can expect them to be tech savvy, looking for plenty of safety and infotainment features. Despite a reasonably low cost, the crossover generally delivers.
Base LX trim buyers will find a fairly unsophisticated 7-inch touchscreen. Moving up to the Sport package adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality. It’s with the top EX-L trim that things start getting good. The small display is replaced by a 9-inch high-definition display that takes CarPlay and Android Auto wireless. It also packages in Qi wireless smartphone charging and an eight-speaker audio system.
Safety tech plays well with today’s young families and the 2023 HR-V adds a fair bit with an upgraded version of the Honda Sensing system — though the exact combination of features also varies by trim package.
On the EX-L you’ll find current technology such as forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind spot warning, lane-keeping assist and active cruise control. But it now adds features like traffic jam assist which helps hold your speed and your lane at speeds below 45 mph. There’s also a new traffic sign recognition feature and improved pedestrian recognition.
Also introduced on the 2023 Honda HR-V, a first-time Hill Descent Control which operates something like a low-speed cruise control. Rather than jumping from throttle to brake on a steep or slippery slope, you simply set it to smoothly descend at speeds of between 2 and 12 miles per hour.
One other new feature: a driver mode selector that adjusts vehicle functions such as traction control, shifting and throttle response. There are three settings: Snow, Econ and Normal.
I spent a long day pushing an all-wheel-drive version of the 2023 Honda HR-V EX-L through the painfully scenic Columbia River Gorge west of Portland, Oregon. It was an opportunity to challenge the crossover with a variety of different roads and driving conditions, from twisted, fast-rising mountain routes in Washington, to the high-speed I-84 on the Oregon side of the river.
Even with the added size and weight, the new 2.0-liter engine delivers a notable improvement in performance. For one thing, there’s far less lag when you slam down the throttle — though I can’t quite use the word, “sporty,” to describe the experience. The transmission is better paired here, with far less of that unpleasant “motorboating” one often has to suffer through as a CVT catches up with the engine.
Handling is likewise improved with the switch from a DeDion suspension on the old AWD model — and a torsion bar on the FWD package. Both versions of the 2023 crossover now boast independent rear and front suspensions.
The overall package proved reasonably fun to flog around the corners as I headed up into the lush hills of Washington, just over the Oregon border. Steering proved more precise than with competing compact models, the Toyota Corolla Cross, in particular. But the drive back along the freeway side of the Gorge proved a little less entertaining, the HR-V making more road and engine noise than I might have expected.
2023 Honda HR-V Specifications
|Dimension||L: 179.8 inches/W: 72.4 inches/H: 63.8 inches/Wheelbase: 104.5 inches|
|Powertrain||2.0-liter inline-4-cylinder engine, CVT|
|Fuel Economy||25 mpg city/30 mpg highway/27 mpg combined|
|Performance Specs||158 horsepower and 138 pound-feet of torque|
|Price||Base price: $24,895; As tested: $30,195 including $1,245 in delivery fees|
|On-Sale Date||Available now|
The first-generation Honda HR-V was one of the original entries in the compact crossover segment. And it scored well with a mix of interior space, features, reasonable fuel economy and frugal pricing. That helps explain why sales actually jumped sharply this past year, despite the crossover coming to the end of its lifecycle.
The new 2023 model changes the formula quite a bit. The new model is bigger, even if more powerful, and actually sacrifices a wee bit of interior space and a couple miles a gallon. You’ll also pay a bit more. The base 2023 Honda HR-V LX with front-wheel-drive starts at $24,895 — including $1,245 in delivery fees — a $1,780 increase over the outgoing, gen-1 crossover. The top-end HR-V EX-L goes for $28,695. Add $1,500 to those prices for all-wheel drive.
Even at the higher price, you get a good bit for your money. And while that should please potential buyers, Honda has to be nervous that the second-generation HR-V could wind up stealing budget-minded customers who might otherwise consider the more mainstream CR-V model. Then again, that bigger crossover gets a redesign of its own later this year and Honda will almost certainly find ways to keep CR-V buyers loyal.
The 2023 HR-V does have some more direct competition, notably including the recently added Toyota Corolla Cross. It’s a solid, if lackluster offering and has some disadvantages compared to the Honda, starting with an anemic 4-cylinder powertrain. But Toyota is offering a peppier, and much higher-mileage hybrid option with the 2023 Corolla Cross that could catch buyers’ attention at a time when fuel prices are bumping up into record territory.
On the whole, despite a few drawbacks, there’s a lot to like about the 2023 Honda HR-V. It would be a surprise if it didn’t continue building sales — as long as the automaker can get enough semiconductor chips to keep the assembly plant running.
2023 Honda HR-V — Frequently Asked Questions
Has the Honda HR-V been redesigned for 2023?
The second-generation Honda HR-V has been completely redesigned for 2023. It migrates to the Civic platform and grows longer, taller and wider. It gets a new, more powerful engine and a complete interior makeover, as well.
Is the Honda HR-V a reliable car?
The outgoing Honda HR-V routinely scores among the highest models in the compact SUV/crossover category for initial quality and reliability. The new 2023 model is a complete makeover but expected to perform well.
Will the 2023 Honda HR-V get a price hike?
The base 2023 Honda HR-V LX with front-wheel-drive starts at $24,895 —including delivery fees — a $1,780 increase over the outgoing, gen-1 crossover. The top-end HR-V EX-L goes for $28,695. Add $1,500 to those prices for all-wheel drive.