Crossover SUVs are really popular these days, and some people like either their style or their SUV features. Others like models that are practical, and the Honda HR-V is perfect for those buyers. And, what’s more practical than sticking with what already works? The HR-V hasn’t had big updates since the 2019 model year. Unfortunately, there’s one area that could have used a slight improvement on the 2021 Honda HR-V.
Almost no changes for the 2021 Honda HR-V
The subcompact Honda HR-V arrives for 2021 with almost no changes. Based on the Honda Fit, the HR-V has been around for six model years and is in its first generation. Once the Honda Fit hatchback is discontinued after 2020, the HR-V will be Honda’s smallest North American vehicle.
It has five trim levels, and the highest four will have two little changes for 2021: tinted privacy glass in the rear will be standard, and there will be a new wheel design. The base LX trim will have no updates.
Its underwhelming engine could have used a change
MotorTrend calls the Honda HR-V “a serviceable little crossover.” It has just one engine though, which doesn’t provide much power. MotorTrend feels the engine holds the HR-V back literally plus figuratively from making an impact in its class. It called the engine “slow, noisy, and unrefined.” The 1.8-liter engine produces 141 hp and 127 lb-ft of torque. It’s paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), which doesn’t improve matters.
Edmunds agrees about the engine issues. Its review of the 2020 model year is negative about the engine, saying it’s “thrashy and underpowered and [it] can be genuinely unpleasant when merging on the freeway or climbing a long grade.” While it doesn’t get much acceleration, on the plus side, it does have good fuel efficiency, getting about 30 MPG.
The 2021 Honda HR-V
Reviewers agreed on the Honda HR-V’s underpowered engine, but they didn’t agree on everything. According to Car and Driver, the ride is a bit bumpy, as the suspension doesn’t provide a smooth ride. However, Edmunds disagrees, finding the ride to be “quite pleasant.” The HR-V comes with front-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive is available.
MotorTrend suggests that the Honda HR-V’s best feature is its Magic Seat reconfigurable second-row seats, which help create great cargo space for a small vehicle. The rear seats are able to fold flat and low down, providing lots of available space. Or, the seat bottoms of the rear seats flip up, providing a tall space for cargo between the two rows. There are 23.2 cubic feet of room for cargo, which increases to 55.9 cubic feet when the rear seats are folded down, making it one of the best in its class, according to Edmunds.
The interior is nicely built, although not flashy, and there’s plenty of room for passengers. Interior upgrades begin in the middle EX trim, which offers a power moonroof, heated front seats, and an upgrade to the audio system. The EX-L adds leather seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The Touring also provides an eight-way power driver’s seat, plus it has standard all-wheel drive, satellite navigation, and LED headlights.
Except for the base trim, the top four trim levels all have a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. The base LX trim has a basic five-inch radio screen. The top three trims come with the Honda Sensing suite of safety features, including adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation, lane keeping assist, and lane departure mitigation. Its available driver-assist safety features also include automated emergency braking.
While the 2021 Honda HR-V continues to be excellent at providing versatility plus passenger and cargo space in a small, fuel-efficient crossover, it would have been helped out by a few improvements to its underpowered engine.