2023 Honda HR-V adds features, power and style, but fuel economy slips

·5 min read
2023 Honda HR-V subcompact SUV
2023 Honda HR-V subcompact SUV

PORTLAND, Oregon – The 2023 Honda CR-V subcompact SUV adds size, power, features and style, but the improvements come at a cost: lower fuel economy in a period of surging gasoline prices.

The HR-V has been a stealth hit for Honda. Launched in the U.S. as 2016 model, it's caught the surge in small SUV sales. The new model just went on sale, but even before it arrived, the modest first-gen HR-V had snuck into third spot in Honda’s 2022 U.S. sales, passing the Civic — one of America’s favorite and best-selling cars for decades.

The ’23 is likely to continue that trajectory, despite EPA projections that driving one will cost more for fuel than the '22 model:  $100-$200 a year extra for an all- or front-wheel-drive model, respectively.

More: 2023 Honda HR-V finally delivers a feature owners begged for

More: GM and Honda team up to build a new series of 'affordable' electric vehicles

The original HR-V was a triumph of substance over style. Value, features, reliability and fuel economy trumped exterior styling only the Witness Protection Program could love. Somebody found the light switch in the design studio, with the result that the 2023 has a shapely grille, appealing accent lights, long hood and low stance.

2023 Honda HR-V subcompact SUV
2023 Honda HR-V subcompact SUV

How much?

Prices for the 2023 HR-V start at $23,650 for a front-wheel-drive LX model. All-wheel drive raises the price to $25,150. The $1,500 increase for AWD is consistent across the model line. The top HR-V is a $28,950 AWD EX-L. All prices exclude a $1,245 destination charge.

The 2023 HR-V has a 2.0L four-cylinder engine that produces 158 horsepower and 138 pound-feet of torque. That’s 17 hp and 11 pound-feet up from the 2022’s 1.8L four cylinder. A continuously variable automatic transmission is standard.

2023 Honda HR-V EX-L subcompact SUV interior with 9-inch touchscreen.
2023 Honda HR-V EX-L subcompact SUV interior with 9-inch touchscreen.

The HR-V competes with small SUVs like the Chevrolet Trailblazer, Hyundai Kona, Kia Seltos, Mazda CX30, Nissan Rogue Sport, Toyota Corolla Sport and VW Taos.

HR-V prices and features compare well with those.

Smaller SUV-ish vehicles that don’t offer AWD but cost less include the Hyundai Venue and Nissan Kicks.

2023 Honda HR-V prices and trim levels

LX FWD: $23,650

LX AWD: $25,150

Sport FWD: $25,650

Sport AWD: $27,150

EX-L FWD: $27,450

EX-L AWD: $28,950

Prices exclude $1,245 destination charge

The 2023 Honda HR-V subcompact SUV's 2.0L four-cylinder engine produces 185 hp and 138 lb-ft of torque.
The 2023 Honda HR-V subcompact SUV's 2.0L four-cylinder engine produces 185 hp and 138 lb-ft of torque.

Driving impressions

I spent a day driving an HR-V on highways, mountain roads and along sweeping riverfronts in Washington and Oregon.

The HR-V is responsive, but not particularly sporty. Most of its competitors use a small turbocharged engine that produces more torque than Honda’s naturally aspirated 2.0L. Honda’s choice saves money — turbos are expensive — and possibly fuel, but at the expense of acceleration. The HR-V’s drive mode selector, in fact, doesn’t even offer a “sport” setting. Normal, eco and snow modes are on the menu, though.

The HR-V’s fun to drive despite that, thanks to firm, well-tuned steering and a suspension that absorbs bumps while keeping the little SUV flat and stable on a switchback-filled logging road above the Columbia River Gorge.

The transmission does have a sport mode. It enables confident passing and provided some engine braking coming back down the same mountain road.

The interior was quiet over pebbled tarmac and in strong crosswinds as I drove past wind surfers reveling in the gorge’s strong, sustained winds.

2023 Honda HR-V subcompact SUV
2023 Honda HR-V subcompact SUV

The seats — covered in soft vinyl in the EX-L I drove; a pleasant fabric features in other models — were supportive throughout the day. Most interior surfaces are covered in soft materials. A metal honeycomb running the width of the dashboard conceals vents, as in the Civic, with which the HR-V shares its architecture and many systems.

Safety and driver assistance features

  • Adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow

  • Front collision alert and automatic braking

  • Lane departure alert and assist

  • Low speed braking control

  • Automatic high beams

  • Traffic sign recognition

  • Blind spot and cross traffic alert

  • Rear seat belt reminder

Bigger, better, thirstier

The interior is accommodating. Passenger volume declined slightly from the 2022 model, but I found the front and rear seats comfortable. The HR-V’s sleeker body probably contributes to the decrease in interior volume, but cargo space behind the rear seat increased slightly.

The center console has a spacious bin and plenty of room for cupholders and a wireless charging pad. Wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard with the base 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system. The EX-L model gets a 9-inch screen and wireless smartphone compatibility. Bluetooth is standard, of course,.

2023 Honda HR-V subcompact SUV
2023 Honda HR-V subcompact SUV

The new HR-V’s wheelbase is 104.5 inches long, up from 102.8. Overall length is 179.8 inches, compared to 170.4. Height is virtually unchanged at 63.4 inches but width grew 1.6 inches to 72.4.

All that extra sheet metal comes at a cost. The HR-V’s base curb weight rose 253 pounds to 3,159.

The EPA rates the FWD 2023 HR-V at 26 mpg in city driving, 32 on the highway and 28 combined. AWD models scored 25/30/27. The FWD combined figure fell 2 mpg from the smaller, less powerful ’22. The AWD’s combined figure slipped 1 mpg. At current fuel prices, the EPA estimates that works out to an extra $200 annually for a FWD model, $100 with AWD. EPA cost estimates assume 15,000 miles driven annually, 45% highway, 55% on surface roads.

2023 Honda HR-V subcompact SUV
2023 Honda HR-V subcompact SUV

2023 Honda HR-V at a glance

Base price: $23,650 (all prices exclude $1,245 destination charge)

Front- or all-wheel drive subcompact SUV

On sale now

Specifications as tested:

Model driven: EX-L AWD

Price as tested: $28,950

Engine: 2.0L four-cylinder

Output: 158 hp @ 6,500 rpm; 138 pound-feet of torque @ 4,200

Transmission: Continuously variable automatic

EPA fuel economy estimate: 25 mpg city/30 highway/27 combined. Regular gasoline.

EPA estimated annual fuel cost: $2,800

Wheelbase: 104.5 inches

Length: 179.8 inches

Width: 72.4 inches 

Height: 63.4 inches

Cargo volume: 24.4 cubic feet behind rear seat; 55.1 behind front

Curb weight: 3,333 pounds

Weight distribution: 58/42

Assembled in Celaya, Guanajuato, Mexico

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: 2023 Honda HR-V adds features, power, but mpg slips