At November’s Los Angeles Auto Show, Christmas came early for fleet managers who have dreamed of a smaller, more efficient alternative to the midsize Honda Accord and doubted they could cram their executives into the subcompact Fit.
Their dreams came true in the form of the new Honda HR-V, a compact crossover SUV with room for five and class-leading cargo capacity.
The HR-V was designed to compete in a segment already stacked with entries from Jeep, Kia, Mitsubishi and Nissan — and further crowded by the upcoming Chevrolet Trax, Fiat 500X and Mazda CX-3 (Page 23). It will be built upon the Fit platform with a longer wheelbase, wider and significantly longer body and taller roofline; Honda enthusiasts will recognize the HR-V as a fraternal twin to the Vezel, which has been available in Japan since late 2013.
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the new car is its interior: With the split rear bench folded flat, the HR-V boasts nearly 59 cubic feet of cargo space behind a spacious cockpit. Like the CX-3, the cabin is an exercise in sparse but sophisticated design. A 7-inch touchscreen is planted firmly in the center of the dash on higher trim levels, and a carved-out area below the center console offers a 12-volt power outlet, two USB outlets and an HDMI port.
Standard equipment on the base LX includes power windows, mirrors and locks, rearview camera, cruise control, an electronic parking brake, Bluetooth compatibility and more. EX and EX-L trims add the touchscreen display and built-in navigation — plus power sunroof, leather trim, heated front seats, paddle shifters and push-button start.
A shoulder line that begins at the rear of the front fender and swoops up toward the C-pillar creates the appearance of a small SUV emerging from a hatchback; the effect is completed by concealed rear-door handles. The odd, bulky, trout-like front end and angular headlights appear ripe for a redesign when the second generation hits the drawing board.
Rumors that the 1.5-liter engine that powers the Fit and Vezel would serve as the new crossover’s base powerplant were exaggerated. The HR-V gets a 1.8-liter four-banger, which will deliver 138 horsepower at 127 pound-feet (lb.-ft.) of torque. Buyers will choose between a continuously various automatic and five-speed stick and two- or all-wheel drive; fuel economy numbers were not available at press time.
The 2016 Honda HR-V is expected to roll into showrooms early 2015.
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