Good things inside make this new sub-compact shine

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I’m told the 2016 Honda HRV sub-compact CUV is selling in very respectable numbers right now. Ford has nothing in this market segment but appears to have a sub-compact in Europe that will fill the slot. GMC has indicated it will offer a model soon. As good as the larger Honda CRV is I’d rather have the smaller HRV as this sport coupe pleases in several areas. It is great around town and surprisingly enjoyable to drive on the highway. It’s fun whether you’re young or showing grey on the temples.

The HRV is selling well perhaps because of two important attributes. The first is its fabulous “Magic Seat” that provides best-in-class cargo flexibility. The bottom seat cushions of the 60/40 rear seat flip upward converting rear seating into a large cargo area that’s ideal for stowing large objects like a bicycle once you remove the front wheel of the bike. Tall objects will also fit nicely. If you own a Honda Fit you know exactly what I’m describing. Lay the rear seatback down and that configuration gives you more than 1,631 litres of space. The second plus on the HRV is the interior layout and design of the instrument panel and related infotainment system.

Small as the HRV is, the passenger compartment is well engineered with plenty of legroom in the front and enough space in the rear seat even for a child’s car seat. Seating comfort is good and the heated cushions warm up very quickly. Headroom is abundant too. My LX 2WD tester was nicely finished inside and featured a seven-inch second-generation HondaLink infotainment display. This system is a completely up-to-date looking, full-colour, high-resolution touchscreen that even incorporates a very good touch-sensitive volume controller. As for features, it boasts a multi-angle rearview camera, plus it includes easily implemented smartphone integration with text message capability. Of course there is a USB jack, Bluetooth and steering wheel mounted controls.

Under the hood is a 1.8-litre SOHC 4-cylinder 16-valve engine. At 141 horsepower, it pulls well when linked to the optional CVT transmission. The CVT is seamless in its shifts as you would expect and does an OK job of moving this little sport coupe along. As I prefer manual transmissions in such vehicles, I think that five-speed could make much better use of the power band. Drive respectfully and you’ll easily go 600 kilometres on a tank of fuel. In hard numbers, 8.1L/100 km was my best in combined driving. 8.9L/100 km my worst fuel consumption. In steady highway driving, the EnerGuide says drivers could achieve 7.2L/100 km. All very respectable with the automatic.

I enjoyed the HRV because it’s fun to zip around in traffic. That doesn’t mean it is to be pushed through curves like a sporty car. That’s not part of its mission. It tracks well with minimal steering input and seems stable in crosswinds at highway speed. Road noise is very subdued on the inside with wind noise almost non-existent. This is one of the quietest CUVs I’ve driven yet.

For the money the HR-V gets an impressive load of standard safety gear including four-wheel discs with ABS, electronic brake-force distribution and emergency brake assist, electronic traction and stability control, hill start assist, a multitude of front and side airbags.

Optional active safety features include lane departure warning and forward collision warning. The latter two features are part of the EX-L Navi upgrade. And of course it’s going to be Honda reliable.

Base price for the entry level LX 2WD is just over $20,690 not including freight. The LX 2WD I drove had the optional CVT transmission, which put the price tag up to $24,290. Add freight to that and you’re over $25,000. Now the basic LX doesn’t have a lot of electronic gadgetry but there are features I can live without. And hardly a ‘stripper’ model, the essentials are all there in a nice sub-compact with good styling, plenty of legroom and the potential to go a long distance on a tank of fuel. If you really want a loaded HRV, the EX-L Navi is full to the brim starting at $29,990 with AWD.

Garry Melnyk is a St. Albert resident and lifelong car buff who has written about new cars and trucks for radio and print publications since the ’70s.

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