After feeling the heat from competitors in the segment and wanting to reposition it as an entry point to the brand’s bigger SUVs, the 2023 Honda HR-V has been refreshed by the Japanese automaker for its third generation.
For the new model year, the HR-V has a bigger engine, sleeker styling and rides on the same platform as the Civic sedan.
At the front, a honeycomb grille replaces the busy front of the previous year’s model, giving way to an overall simpler fascia with the Honda logo placed squarely above the grille instead of the classic silver strip running between the headlights.
The sides are a little smoother as well, with just one character line running along the bottom towards the back. The rear door handles also return to a normal position instead of being placed at the C-pillar.
Honda wanted more space for people and cargo, stretching the vehicle by 8.7 inches and widening by 2.6 inches. That leads to 98.7 cubic feet of space in the top-level EX-L trim, 2.6 cubic-feet more than the last model.
The cabin is also markedly improved. Over the previous model year, the materials feel less plasticky. The dashboard and center stack are lifted from the Civic sedan including more honeycomb design, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s simple but useful.
Honda’s Body Stabilizing Seats, leather-wrapped on the EX-L trim and cloth on the lower trims, remained firm and comfortable after multiple hours of driving, enough to get an owner from their home in the city to the rural campground a few hours out without any fatigue.
The backseat is also comfortable, with ample space and headroom for the average-sized person. It fits three, but three adults would be too tight for anything but a short trip.
At the top of the trim line, the EX-L trim doesn’t allow for much road or wind noise, even at highway speeds. On the Sport trim, however, there’s a noticeable uptick.
A Honda product planner told Newsweek that the Sport trim, intended to be the volume model, is for younger millennials who won’t mind a little more road noise. Their research shows that a quiet cabin isn’t among their car buying priorities until they get older.
The 7-inch infotainment touchscreen (9-inch on the EX-L trim) is responsive and easy to use. Wired or wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connect seamlessly. On the LX and Sport trims, wired setups are standard while wireless connectivity is standard on the EX-L trim.
Pushing the 2023 HR-V is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, a step above the previous generation’s 1.8-liter four-cylinder. It’s paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and puts out 158 horsepower and 138 pound-feet of torque.
It’s the only engine available throughout the trim line, which has been shaved to three levels: LX, Sport and EX-L. All three are available in front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive configurations.
Thanks to the redesigned and now independent rear suspension, the 2023 HR-V exhibits a smoother ride than the model year before it. Bumps in the road don’t travel into the cabin as much, and the increased stability on a twisty road is noticeable in the all-wheel drive setup.
In most driving situations, the CVT is calm and quiet and stays in the low rev range, but when pushed to merge onto a highway it hangs loudly in the 4,000 rpm range. It quiets as soon as the driver lets off the throttle.
Choosing front-wheel drive gets you EPA-estimated mileage of 26 mpg in the city and 32 mpg in highway driving. That’s thinned a bit when opting for all-wheel drive, netting 25 mpg and 30 mpg, respectively. It’s better than the 2022 Mazda CX-30 and worse than the 2022 Chevrolet Trailblazer.
As with all Hondas, the HR-V comes standard with Honda Sensing, its suite of safety features, at any trim level. That includes lane keeping assist, forward collision warning and adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow.
The base LX trim starts at $23,650 with front-wheel drive. The top-level EX-L trim begins at $27,450 and adds leather seats, Wi-Fi hotspot capability and a wireless charging pad.
There’s no shortage of competition in the small crossover segment. The 2022 Toyota C-HR starts at $24,130. With its sporty handling and refined looks, the 2022 Mazda CX-30 is also worthy of a cross-shop at $22,500. The 2022 Subaru Crosstrek should also be high on the list with an MSRP of $23,145.
Those leaning towards off-roading should start with the Subaru Crosstrek. But buyers looking to get out of town, enjoy the open road efficiently and look good doing it, the better-looking and more refined 2023 Honda HR-V crossover is well worth considering.