Pert and perky, the 2021 Honda HR-V is no lumbering SUV; it’s hardly a crossover, though its front-wheel-drive hatchback essentials can be fortified with all-wheel drive.
The 2021 HR-V carries over from the year before unchanged, but it’s alone at the bottom of the Honda lineup now that the Fit has been canceled.
With the HR-V, Honda has a vehicle that’s more user-friendly in cities, even if it’s less fuel-efficient than the bigger CR-V. Its ace in the hole: a “Magic Seat” that flips and folds to expand cargo space along a couple of different vectors.
Review continues below
We give the 2021 HR-V a 5.2 out of 10, lower than it needs to be thanks to automatic emergency braking that’s absent on two inexpensive models. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The HR-V fits a lot of personality into a small footprint on a 102.8-inch wheelbase. The body riffs on crossovers and hatchbacks with a sweeping strake that connects the dots from the low nose to the high-tailed rear roof pillars, where the door handles sit. The HR-V wants you to see it, but maybe a cutline fewer or two would do it well. The cockpit fares better with less clutter, a durable grade of interior trim, and a price-appropriate look and feel.
The HR-V makes 141 horsepower from a 1.8-liter inline-4 and shuttles it to the front or to all four wheels via a continuously variable automatic transmission. It strains to hit a 60-mph stride when the road rises or more than one passenger sits inside. It’s better at point-and-squirt city driving, where even too-large 18-inch wheels don’t dull its cozy ride and its quick steering. At up to 30 mpg combined, it’s fairly miserly, even if it’s a few mpg behind the 2021 CR-V in gas mileage, even before the new CR-V Hybrid elbows its way into the discussion.
The HR-V does space well, with ample room for front passengers who flank a wide center console. The second-row seat can flip up its bottom cushions and fold down its seatbacks to flex its cargo-carrying muscles. The HR-V can tote up to 58.8 cubic feet of stuff if you origami it correctly.
Honda blocks automatic emergency braking from base LX and Sport versions, so we recommend the HR-V EX and above, which get that safety system as well as a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Crash-test scores are good, but to get the IIHS-recommended LED headlights, you’ll have to spend about $30,000 on the Touring trim. At that price, we’d steer you into a bigger, more frugal, still well-equipped Honda CR-V.