2023 Honda HR-V Review

Christian Wardlaw, Independent Expert | Aug 04, 2022

Introduction - Find the best Honda deals!

Americans are flocking to small SUVs like seagulls to sub sandwiches left on a beach blanket, and car companies are scrambling to keep up with the demand. Honda is not a newcomer to the segment, the automaker's HR-V model serving as its smallest and most affordable SUV since 2016. A redesigned 2023 Honda HR-V rolls onto a far more competitive battlefield than existed seven years ago. It may have its work cut out for it.

The new 2023 HR-V comes in LX, Sport, and EX-L trim levels, each equipped with a 4-cylinder engine, a continuously variable transmission (CVT), and front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD). It offers seating for five people, but four of Honda's so-called "GenZennial" target market will be happier campers. At the start of the model year, 2023 Honda HR-V prices range from $23,650 to $27,450, not including the $1,245 destination charge. If you want AWD, it costs $1,500 extra.

Previously, Honda based the HR-V on the Honda Fit subcompact car. Tidy in size, perky in personality, and equipped with a trick rear Magic Seat that offered a wide variety of configurations, it earned accolades for its inventiveness. Comparatively speaking, the redesigned 2023 HR-V adopts a conventional approach to small SUV design and execution. It is Civic-based, looks and feels more grown up, and boasts considerable technological advancements over its predecessor. But it also loses some of its sparkle.

What Owners Say About the Honda HR-V - Find the best Honda deals!

2023 Honda HR-V EX-L Nordic Green Pearl Front Quarter View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

The Honda HR-V competes in the Small SUV market segment. According to data collected from verified new-vehicle buyers for the J.D. Power 2022 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, 64 percent of new Honda HR-V buyers are female (vs. 42 percent for the segment), and the median age of a new HR-V buyer is 54 years, matching the segment.

As part of the APEAL Study, owners rated the HR-V in 10 primary categories. Listed below in descending order, you'll find their preferences, from their most favorite thing about the vehicle to their least favorite:

  • Exterior styling
  • Driving feel
  • Getting in and out
  • Keeping you safe
  • Setting up and starting
  • Fuel economy
  • Driving comfort
  • Infotainment system
  • Interior design
  • Powertrain

In the 2022 APEAL Study, the previous-generation HR-V ranks last against its competitors, number 19 out of 19 Small SUVs.

What Our Independent Expert Says About the Honda HR-V - Find the best Honda deals!

In the sections that follow, our independent expert analyzes an HR-V EX-L equipped with AWD and extra-cost Nordic Forest Pearl paint. The test vehicle's price came to $30,590, including the $1,245 destination charge.

Getting In and Getting Comfortable

2023 Honda HR-V EX-L Black Interior Front Seats

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Slide into a new Honda HR-V and you'll introduce yourself to the company's latest "simplicity and something" interior design ethos. The 2022 Honda Civic was the first model to get the treatment, which combines a simple control layout with standard digital instrumentation and elegant detailing such as metal mesh dashboard trim and knurled knobs with a high-quality feel when used. The HR-V deviates from the Civic's clean, architectural look, though, adding rounded interior forms that resemble rising dough and remind me of late 1990s Ford vehicles.

In the 2023 HR-V, Honda employs liberal use of soft-touch materials. The EX-L test vehicle had it on the upper front door panels and the dashboard extending to the base of the windshield, and Honda pads other parts of the cabin that your elbows and knees might contact. This imparts a sense of quality, but like all small SUVs, hard plastic remains a dominant choice for paneling interior surfaces. The standard floor mats are also somewhat light and flimsy.

Front-seat comfort is excellent. The seat designs are new, and Honda claims they firmly hold you in place, enhance comfort on longer trips, and reduce fatigue. All 2023 HR-Vs feature a height-adjustable driver's seat, and heated front seats are standard with Sport and EX-L trim. The EX-L has leather upholstery with contrast stitching and an 8-way power-adjustable driver's seat. The front passenger's seat does not adjust for height but is mounted high enough off the floor and supplies enough leg support to be comfortable.

The driving position is low-slung, more like a car than an SUV, and due to the seat's shape, you sit in it rather than on it. Since I'm familiar with the latest Civic, and because the new HR-V's interior resembles the car, each time I stopped, opened the door, and stepped out, I surprised myself with how easy it was to exit the SUV due to its added ride height.

With the new HR-V EX-L, you can choose between a black interior or a light gray over black two-tone treatment that adds rich contrast to the cabin. Storage space is plentiful in front, including inside the bin under the center armrest, which is larger than usual for the segment.

Because the HR-V is significantly bigger on the outside, the interior also grows in size, and the benefit is most evident in the back seat. Legroom is now sufficient for adults, and the bottom seat cushion is just as supportive as those in front. The seatback angle is too reclined for me, though, and the HR-V lacks rear air conditioning vents. Furthermore, for a vehicle marketed to "GenZennials," the omission of rear USB charging ports is hard to understand.

Despite the HR-V's growth spurt, cargo space is about the same as the previous model, the maximum volumes measuring 24.4 cubic feet behind the back seat and 58.8 with it folded down (AWD slightly reduces cargo space). A casualty of the redesign is the loss of the HR-V's Magic Seat, which owners could flip and fold in a variety of ways to accommodate different types and sizes of cargo. Honda told me its internal research suggested people didn't use the feature.

2023 Honda HR-V HondaLink Infotainment System Review

2023 Honda HR-V EX-L Interior Dashboard

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

In addition to a standard 7-inch digital instrumentation display, the new HR-V features a choice between a 7-inch (LX, Sport) and a 9-inch (EX-L) color touchscreen infotainment system.

Regardless of screen size, the HondaLink infotainment systems include:

  • Bluetooth
  • Apple CarPlay
  • Android Auto
  • Text-messaging support
  • Three quick-charge USB ports, all located in the front part of the cabin
  • Four (LX) or six (Sport) stereo speakers

The EX-L's larger screen adds:

  • Wireless Apple CarPlay
  • Wireless Android Auto
  • HD Radio
  • SiriusXM satellite radio
  • Eight decent stereo speakers
  • Wireless smartphone charging pad

During testing of the EX-L's infotainment system, pairing to the Bluetooth was easy, and running the wireless Apple CarPlay was effortless. Honda doesn't offer an embedded navigation system, and that's not a problem. I had no trouble requesting directions from Siri, using Apple Maps to get to where I wanted to go, or streaming music from Pandora and Apple Music.

With the larger 9-inch screen, the HR-V loses its tuning knob. Fret not, as Honda provides tuning buttons below the volume knob, so quickly switching between adjacent stations is still easy.

Through the HondaLink smartphone app, the Basic plan provides access to the HR-V's owner's manual and roadside assistance, notifies you of any recalls, and lets you schedule service appointments with your dealership. The EX-L adds a handful of extra features that allow you to check your HR-V's mileage, remaining fuel range, and oil life from the app, and also check to see when it is due for its next maintenance visit.

If you're looking for a true connected services plan for the HR-V, it's not available. That means you can't remote-start the engine, find it if you've forgotten where you parked it, access emergency SOS assistance, benefit from automatic collision notification, or program certain features to encourage safer driving by teenagers. It also means Wi-Fi is unavailable in the new Honda HR-V.

What It's Like to Drive the 2023 Honda HR-V

2023 Honda HR-V EX-L Nordic Green Pearl Side View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Review the above list of things that, according to J.D. Power data, owners like about the previous-generation HR-V, and the SUV's powertrain is dead last on the list. That's unlikely to change with the redesigned model.

The new 2023 HR-V is more powerful than before but also heavier. The added weight negates the potential benefit of the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, which supplies 158 horsepower and 138 pound-feet of torque. This is the same engine Honda uses in the base versions of the Civic, and it uses a CVT to power the HR-V's front wheels unless you opt for the AWD system.

Honda claims the CVT uses programming and calibration tricks to make it sound and feel more like a traditional automatic. However, it still drones incessantly when you're accelerating to merge onto a freeway, powering up a mountain grade, or making a seemingly futile attempt to pass slower traffic. Otherwise, the drivetrain is relatively quiet at lower rpm, drawing no undue notice.

Acceleration is similar to the previous HR-V, which is to say you're not going to get anywhere fast. This is a common problem in the small SUV segment, leading to owner dissatisfaction with powertrains across various makes and models. Honda could solve this with turbocharging and has a terrific 1.5-liter turbo-4 in its arsenal. But then the HR-V would encroach on the CR-V, which uses that same engine.

Another potential solution would be hybridization with electric-motor assist, which one of Honda's primary rivals—the Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid—is debuting for 2023. That would give the HR-V the necessary torque while improving fuel economy. On our testing loop, the 2023 HR-V EX-L AWD averaged 25.2 mpg, less than the official Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fuel-economy rating of 27 mpg.

It's worth noting that the larger, heavier, more powerful 2023 HR-V is less fuel-efficient than the model it replaces, according to the EPA. Not only that, but the EPA rates a turbocharged Honda Civic Hatchback to get 33-35 mpg in combined driving while providing a more satisfying driving experience and just as much trunk space. When I reviewed the Civic Sport Touring hatch, it averaged 32.1 mpg during evaluation on the same loop used for the HR-V.

If the drivetrain leaves something to be desired, the new HR-V's ride and handling traits are significantly better than before. The city and highway ride is soft, smooth, and compliant, yet the HR-V turns in a stable, consistent handling character when you tackle a twisty road. In particular, the steering and brakes are satisfying, and when you travel over bumps, cracks, and holes in the pavement, the underlying vehicle structure feels stiff and robust.

Honda says the HR-V has hill-descent control as standard equipment and that it has re-tuned the AWD system to add more power to the rear wheels when the SUV is driving on slippery surfaces. Ground clearance measures 7 inches (7.3 for the Sport trim), and the approach and departure angles are relatively shallow, so I don't recommend traveling too far off-road in a Honda HR-V.

Driving a Honda HR-V isn't entirely joyless, but the company hasn't fixed the thing owners of the previous-generation model disliked the most about the SUV. Unless you absolutely need the AWD system and the higher ride height, I think you'd be much happier in a turbocharged Civic hatchback.

Much happier.

Honda Sensing Review

2023 Honda HR-V EX-L Safety Features

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Honda Sensing is the collection of advanced driving assistance systems that comes standard on the new HR-V. It includes:

If you upgrade to the HR-V Sport, Honda Sensing adds a blind-spot warning system with rear cross-traffic alert. The EX-L has front and rear parking sensors plus an exclusive low-speed braking function to help a driver avoid minor bumper scuffs.

This latest version of Honda Sensing uses eight front and rear ultrasonic sensors and a new wide-view front camera to power its technology. The goal is to improve accuracy and smoothness, and it achieves that objective. It also supports new features such as traffic-jam assist, which pairs adaptive cruise control and lane-centering assistance to provide semi-autonomous driving support in heavy to moderate traffic.

While Honda Sensing is improved, it can still behave in unexpected ways. For example, on a local freeway that recently underwent construction, the HR-V perceived scars on the concrete as lane markers and attempted to make unnecessary course corrections. When using the adaptive cruise control, the HR-V would sometimes brake harder than necessary when other motorists cut into the gap ahead of the Honda. On a curve on Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu, the tech warned of a lane departure with a subtle steering wheel wobble when the left wheels crossed onto the double yellow dividing line. It seemed to want to "hug" the line rather than respond to my corrective input.

As I write this review, crash-test results are unavailable for the new HR-V. However, Honda built the SUV using the latest Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) vehicle architecture. It also comes with new front airbags designed to reduce head injuries in collisions, plus standard knee and rear side-impact airbags. These changes should make the 2023 HR-V safer than the vehicle it replaces.

2023 Honda HR-V FAQ - Find the best Honda deals!

2023 Honda HR-V EX-L Cargo Space

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

How much cargo space does the 2023 Honda HR-V have?

Honda says the new HR-V offers slightly more cargo space than the old model. Behind the back seat, you'll find 24.4 cubic feet of luggage room (23.2 for AWD versions). If you fold the 60/40 split-rear-seat down, the space expands to 58.8 cubic feet (55.9 with AWD).

Does the 2023 Honda HR-V get good gas mileage?

Official EPA fuel-economy ratings for the new 2023 HR-V are 27 to 28 mpg in combined driving, with the AWD model earning the slightly lower estimate. During my evaluation, the HR-V EX-L AWD returned 25.2 mpg. Based on that result and the HR-V's 14-gallon fuel tank, you can expect to visit the gas station every 325 miles or so.

Is the 2023 Honda HR-V safe?

As we published this review, neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) had performed crash tests on the redesigned HR-V. However, the SUV employs Honda's latest ACE structural design combined with new front airbags that attempt to limit head rotation in a collision, reducing potential injury. Also, the 2023 HR-V adds new front knee airbags and rear side-impact airbags.

How much is the 2023 Honda HR-V?

Honda HR-V prices range from $23,650 for the LX trim to $27,450 for the EX-L trim. In addition, Honda charges $1,245 to ship the HR-V from the Mexico factory that builds it to your local dealership, and the optional AWD system adds $1,500 to the price. Note that every 2023 Honda now includes Honda Service Pass, a complimentary scheduled maintenance plan good for the first two years or 24,000 miles of ownership.

What are the 2023 Honda HR-V competitors?

In the J.D. Power 2022 Initial Quality Study (IQS), the Buick Encore GX ranks highest in the Small SUV segment. The Buick Encore and the Ford Bronco Sport are the next highest-ranked models.

In the 2022 APEAL Study, the Ford Bronco Sport ranks highest in the Small SUV segment. The Mini Cooper Countryman and the Nissan Kicks are the next highest-ranked models.

Other competitors to the 2023 HR-V include the Chevrolet TrailblazerHyundai KonaJeep CompassKia SeltosMazda CX-30Subaru Crosstrek, Toyota Corolla Cross, and Volkswagen Taos.

Independent Expert Opinion - Find the best Honda deals!

2023 Honda HR-V EX-L Nordic Green Pearl Rear Quarter View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

The redesigned 2023 Honda HR-V competes against more than 20 small SUV models, and most of them did not exist when the automaker first launched the HR-V in the United States market back in 2016.

Thanks to its latest redesign, the 2023 HR-V is one of the segment's larger, more refined, and more technologically sophisticated models. In addition, it also comes with complimentary maintenance. But it lacks personality and performance, cannot match the off-roading capability that several of its rivals possess, and is missing a worthwhile connected services platform that could increase its appeal with the younger customers.

Furthermore, without any specific distinguishing characteristics like before, the new HR-V could find itself lost in what is now a large crowd.

Christian Wardlaw is a veteran digital automotive journalist with nearly 30 years of experience in test-driving vehicles. He has held editorial leadership roles with Edmunds, J.D. Power, the New York Daily News, and others. In addition to JDPower.com, his work has appeared in numerous new- and used-car buying guides, newspapers, and automotive industry trade journals including Autotrader, Capital One Auto Navigator, CarGurus, Kelley Blue Book, WardsAuto, and more.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2022 J.D. Power

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