The 2023 Honda HR-V Looks Great But Falls Short

2023 Honda HR-V EX-L

Price: $37,430 CAD

Colour: Platinum White Pearl

When I was a kid Honda was the car brand you could afford to buy, specifically vehicles like the Civic Si, that didn’t make you feel like less of a person because that’s all your budget allowed for. They had the added bonus of being well engineered, well made and deeply reliable. This reputation built Honda in North America and my respect for what the company has accomplished runs deep. That being said, for quite some time it has felt like Honda has been resting on its laurels. They have a rabidly loyal customer base that will buy whatever they produce. While this is good for the bottom line, I think it leaves the company with a problem. When you don’t feel the pressure of the marketplace to make your vehicles stand out, sometimes you end up with vehicles that are a little vanilla. The HR-V has suffered from this since it first appeared nearly ten years ago. It’s not a bad car, not by a long shot. But by virtue of being a nearly guaranteed success, there’s nothing bold or terribly compelling about the vehicle. The 2023 model has given the vehicle a new face and it’s an improvement, but that’s not enough to light a fire under me. Not even close.

Power & Performance

As is the way of things these days, you get only one engine choice across the range of the 2023 HR-V. You get a 2.0L, naturally aspirated 4-cylinder. It delivers 158hp and 138 lb/ft of torque. This is pretty much what you get from many of its competitors. The power delivery in the HR-V is a disappointment. You can put it into sport mode and mash the pedal to the firewall but it doesn’t do much. It makes more noise and burns more fuel but that is all you get. It doesn’t leap off the line and barely gives you a sense of increased acceleration. This is a very safe power band, and it bored the pants off me. 

Exterior

The exterior of the 2023 Honda HR-V is what’s new for this model year. The previous vehicle was a little more love or hate while the new one has broader appeal. This works for me as I didn’t love the previous design. The front grille is a part of this car they greatly improved. It smiles at you every time you cross in front of the vehicle. The rear end gets less sharp and a bit more wallowy. The added weight isn’t a bad thing as our culture has come to admire a voluptuous figure. Whatever you do however, if you buy a HR-V please pick any color but white. I’m not knocking the car for the color they painted it but the “platinum white pearl” on this test model left me flat. It’s just boring and there are better options. I saw one in blue while driving around this week and it was lovely. 

Interior

The interior of the 2023 HR-V is where this design starts to show its faults. They’re not blatant but when you really squint and focus, you can see where Honda cut corners to maximize profit on a vehicle they knew they would sell millions of. 

Let’s start with the rear seats. There are no power outlets in the rear. Nothing. No 12V, no USB – nothing. Come on Honda. Work with us. Most of the customers who buy this car will have children and, as much as we should engage with our children as often as possible, most of the time they’re on their devices in the back seat and will scream bloody murder when their phones die in the middle of their favorite TikTok video about nothing.

In a vehicle surpassing 40k all-in, I would have expected heated rear seats. I know, first world problems. It is an issue however when you look at the HR-V’s competitors, many of which have heated rear seats (and sometimes cooled rear seats). This is, at this point, nearly standard equipment on vehicles in this class and at the trim level of this tester.

The infotainment system on modern vehicles has become a battleground where manufacturers fight for the attention of consumers. Honda waved the white flag with the unit in the HR-V before battle began. It’s a 9” screen which, while a bit small, does work. The problem is the display, menus and other functionality are poor and a little confusing. Couple that to the Nissan-like cameras they put on this vehicle, and you get a real letdown. The screen seems to be of a decent resolution but the video from the backup camera looks like it came off my 2008 Motorola RAZR. 

Something I, as well as several passengers, took note of was how flimsy the interior of the HR-V felt. The center console would wiggle in an uncomfortable way under very little pressure. The door panels have some strange gapping and flex far too much than they should.

One area the HR-V shines is interior space. I could transport 4 adult-sized humans in comfort. The roofline remains relatively high at the rear of the vehicle which means you don’t lose valuable headroom as you might in other more “sporty” designs. This is crucial to the comfort of your rear passengers.

Another thing I really like about the HR-V is the thick door panels. They might fall off at any minute, but they are big enough for me to rest my arm on comfortably. It’s criminal how thin some door panels are, even on high end vehicles, and I enjoyed the comfort afforded by the design of the HR-V.

Quality

Shaky interior trim aside, the 2023 Honda HR-V is a well-made car. You can feel that while you drive and an inspection of panel and trim gaps would leave you feeling confident in your purchase.

CQI – 8. You get real carpet in the HR-V. I believe this is something they have changed as I test drove a Gen 1 HR-V four years ago and I think at that time they were putting the crappy Velcro carpet in the car. Nice to see that trend heading in the right direction.

Value

How do we determine value of a vehicle? Resale? The HR-V will hold its value in that regard as most Hondas do. Low Maintenance costs are another perk of buying a car from the big “H”. For me however, how a vehicles purchase price lines up to its competitors forms a big part of its true value proposition. The small SUV/CUV segment is jammed full of vehicles. The HR-V competes with the likes of the Toyota Corolla Cross, Mazda CX-30, Nissan Qashqai, Chevrolet Trialblazer, Hyundai Kona, Kia Seltos… like I said, it’s a long list. For the most part the HR-V stacks up well when you factor all things in. There is one vehicle however that I would recommend you consider if the HR-V is on your list. The Hyundai Kona N Series totals just over $3,000 more than the HR-V. What you get for those dollars however is night and day. You get over a hundred more horsepower, more than double the torque, performance equipment for days and, in my opinion, an even better-looking car with a much nicer interior.

Final Thoughts

The 2023 Honda HR-V is an improvement over the previous model. If it was only competing against itself, then we could call this a victory. Unfortunately, the HR-V must wade into battle with a plethora of other vehicles and in key areas, it’s left wanting. If I were in the market for a small SUV in the $40,000 range, I can’t say this would be my choice. This new generation is a step in the right direction, but it has a long way to go.

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