Smallest Honda crossover is affordable but not quite desirable
The nation’s best-selling SUV or crossover is the Honda CR-V, which boasts a high seating position and a roomy interior at an affordable price. But Honda has joined the ranks of carmakers that are undercutting their compact crossovers with new subcompact models, which can offer many of the same benefits for even less money.
Honda’s subcompact is the HR-V, which is essentially a taller version of the company’s Fit hatchback but with a bigger engine and optional all-wheel-drive. Like the Fit, a spacious interior belies the HR-V’s petite dimensions, and fuel economy is respectable. Given that both the CR-V and Fit are excellent packages, it would seem hard for Honda to mess up the idea of a vehicle that splits the difference between the two.
Unfortunately, a number of errors do mar the HR-V’s appeal. The 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine feels peppy right off the line but drones like a mail truck when you accelerate more. The vehicle’s curved shape fails to maximize cargo space or rear visibility. Ride quality is on the stiff side. Crash-test results are mediocre, and a number of increasingly common features such as power-adjustable seats and forward-collision avoidance aren’t offered. The touchscreen dashboard controls, found on most models, can be frustrating to use. The seating position and ground clearance aren’t especially high.
Despite the weak points, the HR-V’s inherent appeal is able to shine through. Most competing subcompact crossovers have much less room for passengers or cargo. The base price of just over $20,000 is respectable, especially given a long list of standard features. And during a weeklong test, an all-wheel-drive model with the automatic transmission averaged 33.1 miles per gallon – beating EPA ratings of 27 city / 32 highway.
Overall, the HR-V is a decently pleasant, decently affordable, decently useful little crossover. And its most direct competitors all have flaws of their own: cramped interiors, poor gas mileage, high prices or budget-grade ambiance.
But Honda had an opportunity to make a small crossover that was desirable in its own right, like how Mazda made its CX-3 more sporty and how Jeep gave its Renegade a distinctive appearance. Instead, the HR-V is the same flavor as a CR-V – just less appealing, meaning you’d have to be won over by the HR-V’s $4,000 price advantage unless you’re truly dedicated to getting the smaller car. If you’re willing to spend that extra money, shop the CR-V against the Subaru Forester, Nissan Rogue and Mazda CX-5.
Meanwhile, the Honda Fit hatchback offers most of the same pros and cons as the HR-V, including similar interior room and better gas mileage, but for $3,000 less. That’s even more appealing if you prioritize value over refinement, unless you’re devoted to the HR-V’s AWD option or slightly higher seating position.
Competitors start to surpass once-impressive Kia minivan
When Kia redesigned its Sedona minivan for the 2015 model year, it was the first model in its class to see substantial changes since 2011. It represented a leap forward in style and luxury from comparatively utilitarian competitors from Chrysler, Honda and Toyota.
The dashboard was styled like a premium sedan or crossover rather than a minivan, there was a host of modern-tech features, and a substantial feel to its driving dynamics. The exterior styling – which echoed an SUV more than a van, especially up front – also won praise.
But Kia’s success may be fleeting. Chrysler recently introduced the new 2017 Pacifica to replace the old Town & Country, and it matches or exceeds most of Sedona’s strengths while also trouncing its versatility. And a redesigned Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna are also due in a matter of months.
Against these newer competitors, the Sedona’s weak points will be cast under a harsh spotlight that its style probably can’t overcome. It doesn’t have as much space as the competition, and the rear seat is more annoying to fold. Its gas mileage – 19 miles per gallon overall, as tested – trails even today’s competitors, and the new Sienna and Odyssey will likely improve further.
Any minivan is a master of functionality, with interior space and functionality that blows away even the biggest SUVs and crossovers. And the Sedona does look less like a minivan than today’s competition, so if you’d rule out the others’ styling, it could still serve you well. Kia also features longer warranty coverage than most automakers.
Otherwise, it will either need a host of upgrades or a price cut to stay competitive in the coming months.