The Most Popular Compact Crossover Gets a Baby Brother
Gas may be relatively cheap in mid-2015, but many of the polls show car buyers still remember the recent days when gasoline looked like it would top $5/gallon and keep on climbing. Meanwhile,
Charging into a new segment
the automakers have vehicles coming into the market that were planned during those days of streaking gas prices. The result is a pleasant convergence of smart-size, 30+ mpg fuel-efficient vehicles like the 2016 Honda HR-V, which Clean Fleet Report recently had the opportunity to drive for a short test.
The HR-V is one of a cluster of new vehicles that have entered the market blazed by the Nissan Juke. Joining the HR-V this year are the Chevy Trax, Jeep Renegade, Fiat 500X and Mazda CX-3. We’ve got First Drives or Road Tests on the first two coming up soon. Combined with the bigger brothers—the compact crossovers—this category of vehicle has been ramping up sales and are set to become the most popular market segment, passing up midsize sedans.
In the business world that word—right-sizing—had all kinds of negative connections. It was a code word for pruning older employees and marginal assets from a corporation. I’d like to reclaim the word and apply it to the 2016 Honda HR-V. It’s got all the attributes of a vehicle that’s designed around people rather than just for people. That starts with a small footprint, based on the Honda Fit subcompact, but also includes an interior with cargo capacity on par with its compact big brothers.
Honda gets small
In addition, though this looks like an entry-level vehicle based on its size, the list of standard features and optional equipment is substantial. The list includes
A multi-functional back seat
safety equipment like Vehicle Stability Assist with Traction Control, an anti-lock braking system, electronic brake distribution, Brake Assist, a tire pressure monitoring system, daytime running lights and a multi-angle rearview camera. It goes on with a half-dozen airbags, halogen headlights, LED brake lights and steering wheel-mounted multimedia controls on all models. What is controlled varies depending on the model with the base model featuring a 160-watt AM/FM/CD with four speakers and a five-inch color display while the upscale models have a 180-watt system with six speakers and a seven-inch display with high-resolution WVGA.
The 2016 Honda HR-V has a big hook for this part of the market—it’s small on the outside but big on the inside. It’s interior cargo space is almost as big as its “big brother” CR-V at almost 60 cubic feet with the back seat down. That’s only a bit more than 10 cubic feet less than the CR-V, still enough for a good Costco run.
Honda’s hope is that this becomes the new gateway vehicle for the brand, augmenting or replacing the Fit and Civic sedans by offering more functionality at a price in the same ballpark. The
Big space in a small vehicle
Honda representative at a recent Western Automotive Journalists event said the company hopes to sell 70,000 units the first year with half of those purchases representing new customers to the brand.
Honda has always been a believer in “less is more,” a philosophy they’ve embodied in using their strong engineering foundation to crank out four-cylinder engines that not only were more fuel efficient than their six-cylinder options, but rivaled them in power. Honda have executives have long-argued that engines like Detroit’s old favorite V-8s were dinosaurs from another era and the HR-V reinforces that stance. It’s 1.8-liter four-cylinder SOHC iVTEC engine delivers 141 horsepower near its 6700 rpm redline while promising 35 mpg highway in the two-wheel-drive version with the CVT (continuously variable transmission) transmission. The least fuel economy the HR-V will give you is 32 mpg highway in the all-wheel-drive model with the CVT. Finally, kudos to Honda for continuing to offer a six-speed manual option in the two-wheel-drive models.
The 2016 Honda HR-V is going to be marketed aggressively by Honda, starting under $20,000 ($19,115 to be exact) and topping out in the mid-$20,000s with all of the bells and whistles Honda
More than you would expect in an entry-level SUV
has to offer, including a navigation system and all of the technology Honda can load into this subcompact crossover.
Based on the initial market response we’ve seen (6,000 sales in the first month), Honda appears to have hit on a winning formula.
We only had a brief time to check out the HR-V on some local roads in Monterey, CA, but that gave us a chance to push the car up some substantial hills and around some challenging corners. We did notice that the Eco-mode did change the throttle response noticeably. That might not bother you in around-town driving, but on a critical passing situation or attempting a hill climb, it can hamper your safety or sense of control in the situation.
Expected to charge to the front of the pack
Our most significant impression for the 2016 Honda HR-V is that of space an functionality. While it’s got a functional back seat, when you need hauling capacity that seat disappears and a spacious cargo hauling capacity is revealed.
We liked the steering wheel controls, which are standard, since they are well-placed and simple to use. They’re a great bonus for a vehicle in this class.
No one is going to mistake the HR-V as the replacement for the long-lamented loss of the S2000, even with its paddle shifters. It’s a crossover designed to deliver enough power to tackle the challenges of suburban living while delivering superior fuel economy. Like most Hondas we’ve driven in recent years, the road feel was superior to some of its competitors in this class. There was no sloppiness in the steering and every maneuver in our short drive found the HR-V delivering as-expected precise inputs to the driver. The electric power-assisting rack-and-pinion steering and MacPherson strut front and torsion-bar rear suspension, mated to 17-inch wheels, never gave a hint of instability or lack of control.
Even with the proliferation of models in the new sub-compact crossover class, the completion has to be concerned when Honda jumps into the fray. With the best-seller in the slightly larger segment (CR-V) already solidly ensconced in the showroom, the HR-V should give Honda a potent weapon in what is shaping up as the hot portion of the new car market.
Related Stories You Might Enjoy:
Road Test: 2015 Nissan Juke
Road Test: 2015 Honda CR-V
Road Test: 2015 Honda Fit EX
A Balanced Small Crossover
With more than 20 small or compact crossovers on the market, consumers can’t be blamed looking for minute differences before purchasing one model over another. The 2015 Toyota RAV4 plays the comparison game very well with a balanced offering of interior size, fuel economy and price. In the market for a 30-MPG Club compact crossover? Maybe the RAV4 is right for you.
The front-drive and all-wheel drive 2015 Toyota RAV4 comes with a 2.5L Direct Injection, 16-valve I-4 engine that runs on unleaded regular. Mated to a smooth operating six-speed automatic
A 30 MPG Club member
transmission, it puts out 176 hp and 172 lb-ft of torque. Clean Fleet Report’s two-wheel drive RAV4 was EPA rated at 24 City / 31 Highway / 26 Combined. In 488 miles of 75-percent/25-percent highway/city driving we averaged 28.8 mpg, which, if the 15.9 gallon fuel tank was run dry, would have taken us 561 miles down the road. Here in Southern California our 75-percent/25-percent highway/city driving pattern is far more real world and is why we report it to you.
Driving Experience: On the Road
Our RAV4 LE weighed in at a solid 3,435 lbs.; the 2.5L engine ran smooth, quiet and was not buzzy, but when really needed, it just doesn’t deliver enough power. With transmission settings of ECO and Sport, using Sport will get you 0 – 60 in just over nine seconds. That’s respectful enough, but certainly not a speed burner and, when negotiating freeway onramps, a little bit more oomph would be welcome. Before the 2013 redesign, the RAV4 had a V-6 engine option, but now only the four-cylinder is offered. For everyday around-town driving and once up-to-speed on the highway, performance was fine. Load it with five passengers plus their gear, and the need for more power will become apparent.
Spoiler alert–Toyota integrates it into the roof
The ride was firm, but not stiff or harsh, even over bumps and road irregularities. I found the ride to be smooth on the highway and around town, but the electric-assist power steering was a little vague with understeer present, but easily manageable, during hard or high-speed freeway cornering. Understeer is when entering into a corner the front end of the car wants to continue straight. In racing terms this is called pushing. Of course, this can be remedied by taking turns and corners slower, but, in the real world of driving, we don’t always take a corner slow enough to avoid the front end of the car wanting to go straight while the road is turning. Body roll was acceptable for a small crossover but I did notice a bit of floating at freeway speeds when the road would undulate. It took a few seconds for the suspension to compensate before the RAV4 leveled off again. Wind noise was nearly non-existent.
The RAV4’s planted feeling on the road came from the 17-inch wheels (18-inch come with the Limited trim level) and 225/65R All-season tires, MacPherson struts up front, a double wishbone rear suspension and stabilizer bars all the way around.
Stopping was straight, but a bit lengthy, from the four-wheel, power-assisted solid disc brakes with Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), Brake Assist (BA), Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD), Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Smart Stop Technology (SST) – all part of Toyota’s Star Safety System.
Driving Experience: Interior
With three trim levels to choose from—LE, XLE and Limited—Clean Fleet Report drove the LE version and came to like the asymmetrical dash layout and the simple, straight-forward gauges and
A dash focused on function
controls within easy reach of the driver. We are big fans of knobs and switches for the radio and climate controls, and Toyota did not disappoint in this area. There is a combination of hard and soft plastic on the dash and door panel surfaces, with seating for five and ample rear head and leg room. We appreciated that Toyota resisted the urge to cram a third row of seats into the RAV4 and that the rear seats both recline and fold flat. Storage is ample with the rear seat up, but expansive when the 60/40 rear seat is folded flat. Access to the storage area is through a manual liftgate (power on the Limited model) and a convenient low lift-over load height leading to a flat floor.
Toyota describes the RAV4 interior as a “cavernous cabin,” a statement with which we cannot disagree. Available in four colors (based on trim level) our RAV4 interior was two-toned black and gray with sturdy fabric seat coverings on a six-way adjustable driver’s seat and four-way adjustable passenger seat. We also liked the center armrest’s correct height and large storage area and the eight cup holders throughout the cabin.
Comfort front and rear
There was no challenge finding a comfortable seating position with the tilt and telescopic steering column. Once there, the steering wheel-mounted audio controls for the Entune Multimedia Bundle made running the system, which includes a 6.1-inch touchscreen color display that handled the backup camera, SiriusXM (three-month trial subscription), AM/FM/HD/CD/MP3 driving six speakers, USB port with iPod connectivity, Aux-in jacks, advanced voice recognition, Bluetooth streaming audio and hands-free telephone, a breeze.
Other nice interior features are A/C, power windows and door locks, power outside mirrors, carpeted floor mats, rear shelf cover, exterior temperature display, remote keyless entry system, day/night rearview mirror and 12-volt accessory outlets.
Driving Experience: Exterior
The RAV4 was completely redesigned for 2013 with the 2014 and 2015 model years continuing the new styling. The new design has a softer front end with minimal chrome accent pieces and projector beam headlights. The hood sweeps up-to the laid-back windshield onto a rail-equipped roof that ends with a built-in spoiler over the rear hatch glass. We weren’t all that excited about the shelf-like rear tail light design as it gave the rear end a stumpy look that betrayed the otherwise aerodynamic flow. Gone in the new design is the rear gate-mounted spare tire and the left hinged gate.
Safety and Convenience
In the middle of the pack, but with its own angle
The 2015 RAV4 has a 5 Star government safety rating and comes with safety and convenience features including six air bags, remote keyless entry, Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) with Traction Control System (TCS) and the previously mentioned four-wheel disc Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) with brake assist. Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic and Lane Departure Alert systems were not on our LE model and only come with the Technology Package, available on the Limited trim level.
Pricing and Warranties
Pricing for the 2015 Toyota RAV4 2WD begins at $23,680 with the AWD version starting at 25,080. Clean Fleet Report’s RAV4 2WD LE had an MSRP of $25,420, excluding the $885 Delivery Processing and Handling Fee.
The 2015 RAV4 comes with these warranties:
- Comprehensive – three-year/36,000-mile
In the end, it is a Toyota, with all that implies
- Powertrain – five-year/60,000-mile
- Roadside Assistance – two-year/25,000-mile
- Factory Scheduled Service – two-year/25,000-mile
- Corrosion Perforation – five-year/unlimited-mile
Observations: 2015 Toyota RAV4 LE 2WD
The 2015 Toyota RAV4 is selling in about the fourth place among its compact SUV competitors. It’s chasing the Honda CR-V, Chevrolet Equinox and Ford Escape, but ahead of the Nissan Rogue, Jeep Cherokee, Subaru Forester and many more. You can see the RAV4 has some pretty impressive competition. To standout from this crowded field, the RAV4 holds its own by offering more interior room than the others and just enough driving pleasure, technology and fuel economy at a good price and value. Toyota also has used the RAV4 underpinnings as the basis for its upscale NX crossover line.
Since there are so many very good vehicles in this segment, your consideration list will be and should be quite long. The beauty of the RAV4 is the interior space, so if you have a third of a baseball team to haul around all the time and don’t want to step-up to a larger SUV, the RAV4 just might be the right family hauler for you.
Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!
Related Stories You Might Enjoy:
Road Test: 2015 Lexus NX 300h Hybrid
Road Test: 2015 Honda CR-V
Road Test: 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
Road Test: 2015 Mazda CX-5