Honda’s baby ute has grown up.
All new for the 2023 model year, the HR-V has gained not only size, but power and technology. The new HR-V is based on the Civic platform where the old came from Fit roots. It is 221 millimetres longer, 66 millimetres wider and rides on a 44-mm longer wheelbase.
It has also gained an independent rear suspension and 240 kg.
The design is new, and those extra dimensions show inside where rear seat legroom and cargo space are the big beneficiaries of the larger body.
Everything you see, use and touch is new in the 2023 Honda HR-V.
The overall impression is of a much more upscale vehicle than the outgoing version. The styling is akin to that of the Civic, including the slick honeycomb-like grill that runs from side-to-side on the dash, incorporating the air vents. Soft-touch and padded surfaces complete the more refined feel.
The driver faces an 18-cm wide instrument display. Alongside that is another 18-cm screen, this one for the infotainment system – 23-cm in higher trim levels. In both cases, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included, wirelessly on the EX-L trim which also comes with a smartphone charging pad.
The designers thankfully included actual knobs for volume, and selecting stations.
The front seats of the 2023 Honda HR-V deserve special mention for their long-session support and comfort.
Both front and rear seats offer plenty of headroom. The rear seats, unfortunately no longer can be flipped up and folded up like the ‘Magic Seats’ in the outgoing HR-V. But they do benefit from more legroom and the wider body.
The measured cargo volume is slightly less than the outgoing model, which benefited from those trick rear seats which allowed floor to ceiling storage. But the actual cargo area aft of the rear seats is much larger than the old HR-V and the lift-in height lower for easier loading and unloading. Fold the second-row seats down and this is a commodious cargo hold.
Visibility is exceptional thanks to the low belt-line and amount of glass.
Sound levels are also low, under less than full-throttle conditions. Which happens all too often.
The larger 2.0-litre engine in the 2023 model produces 158 horsepower and 138 lb.ft. of torque, up from 1.8 litres, 141 hp and 127 lb.ft. in the outgoing model.
Added weight in the HR-V causes a ‘leisurely performance’
Unfortunately, this does not make up for the increased weight of the new HR-V. There is no way around it. This is a very slow automobile, requiring more than 11 seconds to reach 100 km/hr from rest. Passing requires patience, and a lengthy section of clear road.
The leisurely performance is not aided by the continuously variable automatic transmission. Future updates would benefit from a hybrid powertrain or the Civic’s turbocharged four.
The new suspension, in particular the independent rear, imparts the second-generation HR-V with more spirited handling, combined with an improved ride. The light, but communicative steering, combined with the newfound prowess makes thus is fun little ute when the road develops the bends and a treat in tight quarters.
All-wheel drive is the big seller in Canada
The new HR-V is offered in four trim levels: LX-2WD, LX-4WD, Sport and EX-L navi. You’d be hard pressed to find a base front-driver. Canadian consumers and dealers prefer all-wheel drive. But the $2,500 cheaper 2WD model allows for a more attractive price in the marketing efforts.
Larger, better looking and packed with new features, the 2023 Honda HR-V battles it out in a crowded segment. The upgrades result in a more refined and pleasant small crossover. But more power would make it even better.
FACTS & FIGURES – 2023 Honda HR-V EX-L
As tested: $41,615 including freight
Collision mitigation braking, and forward collision warning systems, lane departure warning, road departure mitigation, blind spot information system, rear cross traffic monitor, traffic sign recognition, lane keep and traffic jam assist systems, automatic high beams, automatic LED headlights
23-cm colour touchscreen, Bilingual Bluetooth wireless mobile phone interface, Apple CarPlay & Android Auto compatibility, satellite radio, Siri Eyes-Free compatibility
17-in alloy wheels, adaptive cruise control, heated power mirrors, power sunroof, dual zone automatic climate control, remote keyless entry, cruise control, heated front seats, wireless charging
Protection package, $454.30
2.0 litre four-cylinder, 158-horsepower, 138 lb.-ft. of torque, regular fuel, continuously variable automatic transmission, all-wheel-drive. NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 9.4/7.8
Length, 4,568 mm; wheelbase, 2,655 mm, width, 1,894-mm; weight, 1,513 kg