Skip to main content

The Honda HR-V is a subcompact crossover that made its debut in the U.S. back in 2016. However, what you might not know is that there was an HR-V that came before it, but it never showed up stateside and it was nothing like the one that we ended up getting.

The first Honda HR-V had three doors

While we all know the current Honda HR-V as a plucky five-door small crossover, the original HR-V, which debuted in 1999, was a three-door wagon. It looked weird and oddly futuristic considering the time period that it came out in and definitely had a European flair. There was a five-door variant offered as well starting in the 2001 model year and the vehicle was then discontinued in 2006.

1999 Honda HR-V
A gold colored 1999 Honda HR-V | Wikimedia Commons

Aside from its interesting looks, what makes the first-generation HR-V so unique is that it was powered by a 1.6-liter SOHC engine that was mated to a CVT transmission, at a time when four-speed automatics were more prevalent. On top of that, the HR-V also came with an all-wheel-drive which, mixed with its high ride height, provided a lot more capability than one might expect from a small crossover, especially at the time. It’s no wonder that Honda named it the HR-V, which stands for “Hi-Rider Revolutionary Vehicle.”

The Honda HR-V underwent a complete redesign

After the original HR-V was discontinued, it went on a decade-long hiatus until it was reintroduced into the Japanese and U.S. markets. This time, the HR-V was based on the Honda Fit chassis and even provided a lot of the same features. For example, the HR-V had the same second-row “Magic Seat,” in which the seat bottom flips and folds to provide a couple of different storage solutions. Additionally, the second-generation HR-V was powered by a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine that could be mated to either a CVT or a six-speed manual transmission.

The Honda HR-V also comes in either a front- or all-wheel-drive configuration and is very fuel-efficient as it’s able to achieve an EPA-estimated 28 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway. The Honda Sensing suite of driver-assist features like adaptive cruise control, lane assist, and lane-departure warning are also available, as is Android Auto and Apple Carplay compatibility. While the Honda HR-V definitely came a long way between its two generations, Honda still ensured that its tech-savvy features, unique styling, and light off-road capability would make it a little bit different than the rest in its class.

The Honda HR-V parked on a street
2021 Honda HR-V | Honda

Is there a new Honda HR-V coming?

There is a 2022 Honda HR-V coming, but we don’t have any details on it yet. There have been recent rumors and even photos passed around the Internet of the 2022 Honda Vezel, which will be coming to the Japanese market, however, the automaker hasn’t released any info on the one that we’re getting in the future.

However, the 2022 Honda Vezel does look really interesting as it sports a much bolder and futuristic look than the current HR-V iteration and will come with a hybrid powertrain. Is that the powertrain that we’re getting? Maybe. But we would rather have something with a turbocharger on it.


The HR-V Can’t Fill the Void the Honda Fit Left