Top 10 Best MPG AWD SUVs/Crossovers

Top 10 Best MPG AWD SUVs/Crossovers

subaru,crosstrek,mpg, awd

Subaru’s latest AWD model ups its MPG

The Wheels You Need with the Fuel Economy You Crave

So the scientists announced this last week (ed note: we originally wrote this three years ago–and updated it since–but the climate change news has not gotten any brighter in the intervening years) that the world has hit another milestone. The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has hit a concentration not seen for millions of years. While many in the environmental community might see this as the point at which personal transportation should be curtailed–starting with SUVs or Crossovers–it is clear the automotive market is not going to make such a quick shift.

Sport utility vehicles and crossovers (crossovers being sport utility vehicles based on a car rather than truck chassis) are more popular than ever in 2017, even as the general trend toward higher MPG vehicles moves forward.  The reason is simple: they are functional. One trip to Costco is enough to convince many families that a Prius won’t cut it. Regular trips up to the mountains in the winter to ski could similarly motivate a car buyer to look for an all-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive vehicle rather than the front-wheel drive found on most high-mileage hybrids. Cars don’t always cut it.

Tesla,Model X,falcon doors,mpg,electic car

Winging it…on electricity

All of which leaves the environmentally conscious consumer with some tough choices. If your lifestyle points you toward an SUV or crossover, you still want to do what you can to minimize your contribution to further CO2 in the atmosphere.  The first electric SUV has appeared (after one short-lived version, the RAV4 EV was on the market for a brief time), but the Tesla Model X is out of most buyers’ price range. Plug-in hybrids are just hitting the market this year and more are promised, but again most are luxury first and SUV second. A few hybrid and clean diesel models are out there, so the key is to check out the most fuel efficient models that fit your needs.  Since one of those needs with this class of vehicles usually entails a good amount of distance travel, we’re use the highway fuel economy as the benchmark for our Top 10 list.

While cars, especially smaller ones, appear to be able to top the 40 mpg mark without much difficulty and are pushing even higher with plug-in models, AWD and 4WD models, with extra hardware and usually a larger size, have historically found 30 mpg on the highway a tough mark. No more. We’ve got an EV and several plug-ins that boast sophisticated technology that offers welcome progress on the MPG front. The downside is all this new hardware comes at a serious premium. But not far down the list are gasoline-powered models delivering mid-30s fuel economy.

The numbers are based on the federal fuel economy tests, so of course your mileage will vary. We’ve updated this list and pruned out some of the two-wheel-drive interlopers. We expect this list to keep growing, offering mpg-conscious car buyers even more options.

The Top 10 SUVs/Crossovers

1. 95 MPGe – Tesla Model X EV – So how does almost 100 mpg sound for an SUV? Is that worth $70 or $80,000? Tesla’s foray into the SUV space is an all-wheel-drive, all-electric crossover with seating for seven adults and their luggage. It is based off of Tesla’s Model S sedan (which it now outsells) and features two electric motors (of varying sizes depending on the model) and a variety battery pack sizes and performance levels. Oh, and it also has gull-wing (falcon in Tesla parlance) doors. And loads of tech features, including fairly sophisticated self-driving capability. The car will deliver about 250 miles of range in the high-end model; 220 in the “entry-level” model. When we did a brief test drive, we were impressed. The Toyota RAV4 EV was the first SUV with a plug, but in two iterations it only had a brief run and totaled about 3,000 vehicles. Tesla passed that mark in its first year on the market and continues crank them out of its Fremont plant.

Tesla Model X

Tesla Model X

2. 56 MPGe BMW X5 xDrive40e PHEV – BMW took its most popular SUV and added a plug. It seems simple, but the process entailed added technology. Thankfully, BMW has not subtracted any of the positive attributes of its all-wheel-drive SUV. Forget to plug in and you’re back to mid-20s fuel economy. It has 14 miles of all-electric range augmented by more than 300 horsepower of gasoline-fueled power, which is helpful if you’ve carrying a full three rows of passengers. We have a review of this model.

3. 53 MPGe – Volvo XC90 AWD PHEV – The first plug-in Volvo has arrived. We saw it some time ago and are pleased that it has been delivered intact with great fuel economy along with all of the usual Volvo safety equipment and great wagon space. Without plugging in the fuel economy drops to the mid-20s. It’s all-electric range is about 14 miles. A week in the wagon reinforced out initial impression.

4. 50 MPGe – Mercedes-Benz GLE 550e – The latest addition to the plug-in SUV crowd comes from Mercedes-Benz. This five-passenger SUV can shut down its 400+ horsepower V-6 biturbo engine and move on electric power to maximize fuel economy. Its default mode is a hybrid drive that will shift from gas to electric power.

5. 47 MPGe – Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid PHEV – To offset some performance models with less-than-stellar fuel economy, Porsche is leading the way by offering plug-in versions that promise enhanced MPG. The company’s SUV adds an electric motor than can give 16 miles of EV range. On gas alone the car is in the low 20s MPG. 

2017 Nissan Rogue Hybrid

2017 Nissan Rogue Hybrid

6. Tie 34 MPG – Nissan Rogue Hybrid/Toyota RAV4 Hybrid In case there was any question about the competitive nature of the automotive market, these two models should settle the debate. Locked into a battle for the hearts, minds and wallets of the hot compact class of crossover, both companies have added hybrid systems to their hot-selling small SUVs. Its working as both effortlessly deliver stellar fuel economy a the no-fuss hybrid system that makes most of the decisions for the driver. The market loves them, too, (in hybrid and non-hybrid mode) as in early 2017 both models are among the top-selling models in the U.S. We tested both here, here and here.

8. Tie 33 MPG – Lexus NX 300h – A new entry takes a top spot as Toyota fields a hybrid version of the RAV4 with a Lexus badge. The fuel economy numbers are for city driving. As is typical of hybrids, it gives you more MPG around town than out on the highway (31 highway and 33 combined). These numbers are for the two-wheel-drive version; moving all four wheels knocks off one or two MPG. We tested it when it first came out and found it a competent machine.

2105 Lexus,NX 300h,fuel economy,mpg

Lexus NX 300h

8. Tie 33 MPG – Honda CR-V Honda’s best-selling crossover tops 30 MPG with all-wheel-drive on board. We’ve driven this compact utility several times and find it a real winner in its class, coming in only a shade below hybridized versions of its competition. Since it isn’t a hybrid or plug-in hybrid, it also has an edge in affortability.

8. Tie 33 MPG – Jaguar F-Pace – It’s highly unusual for a Jaguar to show up on the best-MPG list, but the F-Pace is something a little different. Jaguar added an efficient clean diesel engine to bump its fuel economy into the range of usually more efficient but smaller crossovers. We’ve experienced the engine in a sedan and believe it should deliver some solid performance for this new entry.

8. Tie 33 MPG – Subaru XV CrosstrekSubaru continues to test the market with vehicles that depart from its typical cars. The Crosstrek has a 2-liter version of the traditional (for Subaru) horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine producing 148 horsepower when paired with the CVT automatic. It bumps up the MPG of the popular Crosstrek.

Just missing the Top 10 mpg mark are a half-dozen models

Not that long ago 30 mpg for an all-wheel-drive vehicles was unheard of. As you can see above, it is quickly becoming the ticket of entry in this class of vehicles. The variety of models is astounding and the range of features runs the gamut from affordable small crossovers to SUVs capable of carrying more than a family of four and taking the group well off the highway.

We used the federal fuel economy numbers from the EPA at  to rank these models. Lurking just below the Top 10 (which of course is actually 11  models) are a variety of vary capable cars, all of which come in 4WD with a variety of engine options. Ones to check out are the Mazda CX-3, Lexus RX 450h Hybrid, Honda HR-V, Nissan Murano Hybrid, Buick Encore, Subaru Forester, Mercedes-Benz GLA250, Infiniti QX30, Subaru Outback, Audi Q5 Hybrid, Chevrolet Trax, BMW X1 xDrive, Jeep Renegade and Toyota Highlander Hybrid for some other 30+ MPG cars. The variety has never been greater.

And coming soon:

The onslaught of new models focused on fuel efficiency will continue as automakers strive to reach fuel economy and greenhouse gas targets set by governments around the world. Models announced, but not yet introduced include plug-in versions of several more BMW and Mercedes SUVs. We’ve also been waiting for the U.S. introduction of the Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid, which is already on the market in Japan and Europe. It’s expected to have 20-25 miles of all-electric range and could turn in mpge (mileage factoring in the electric range) well above 50.

Other similar stories you might enjoy:

First Drive: 2017 Tesla Model X

Road Test: 2016 BMW X5 xDrive40e

Road Test: 2016 Volvo XC90 PHEV

Road Test: 2017 Nissan Rogue Hybrid

Road Test: 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Road Test: 2015 Lexus NX 300h

Road Test: 2016 Honda CR-V

Road Test: 2013 Subaru Crosstrek

 

 

Road Test: 2016 Honda HR-V AWD EX-L NAVI

Road Test: 2016 Honda HR-V AWD EX-L NAVI

Honda Quality in an All-new Subcompact SUV

The 2016 Honda HR-V, slotted between Honda’s CR-V and Fit, takes a bit from each with the result being a serious player in the fastest growing automotive segment—subcompact SUVs or crossovers.

Driving Experience: On the Road

2016 Honda HR-V AWD

A little low on power, but a Honda in the details

The all-wheel drive 2016 Honda HR-V offers one engine, a 1.8-liter, 16-valve DOHC in-line four-cylinder producing 141 hp and 127 lb-ft of torque. There are two transmission options—a six-speed

manual (2WD only) and a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). Clean Fleet Report’s HR-V had the CVT with paddle shifters and Honda’s Real Time All-Wheel-Drive (AWD) that has an EPA fuel economy rating of 27 city/32 highway/29 combined. Over 548 miles of 75-percent highway/25-percent city driving, we averaged 30.7 miles per gallon. If you opt for the 2WD and the CVT the numbers are 28/35/31, which are best in class.

The HR-V provides the usual Honda smooth performance, even though it could use a bit more pep when accelerating hard, such as a highway on-ramp. Keeping the revs high by using the paddle shifters helps squeeze maximum performance from the engine and CVT. Engaging the engine with push button start resulted in near silence at idle. The CVT and drive-by-wire throttle resulted in seamless and smooth driving.

The HR-V AWD is nimble with a refined suspension that begins with electric power-assisted rack and pinion steering, 17-inch alloy wheels shod with P215/55/17 all-season tires, MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension with stabilizer bars front and back. Braking is by 12.3-inch front power-assisted ventilated discs and solid rear discs with electronic brake distribution, brake assist and four-wheel anti-lock braking system (ABS).

Driving Experience: Exterior

2016,Honda,HR-V,styling,design

A new Honda style

The all-new HR-V’s tall profile and soft sculpted lines are what Honda says “blends the styling of a coupe and the space and utility of an SUV.” From the side, the deep contours and the front-to-rear upswept character lines lead to the concealed rear door handles that visually give the HR-V a very sleek look. The sloping roofline, with roof rails, leads to an even deeper sloping rear hatch glass with an integrated spoiler and LED tail lights.

Driving Experience: Interior

Clean Fleet Report’s HR-V EX package had an open airy feeling with the power moonroof and comfort coming from the leather-trimmed heated front seats and a tilt-and-telescope leather-wrapped steering wheel. The steering wheel has lighted controls for cruise control, audio settings and the Bluetooth hands-free link. Learning the steering wheel mounted audio controls will come in handy as the otherwise excellent six-speaker, 180-watt infotainment system does not have volume or channel knobs for the AM/FM/CD/MP3/HD/Pandora/XM satellite radio with USB audio interface and SMS text messaging. You can make all changes to the audio, telephone and navigation on the seven-inch electrostatic color touch screen, that also houses the navigation and rear-view camera (that has three settings: normal, wide and top down), but, oh, those knobs would be nice to have too. The Bluetooth worked flawlessly for hands-free telephone, as did the HondaLink system that connects the car with a wide array of support and information services.

2016 Honda,HR-V AWD,interior,

No knobs, but a lot to like

The rear, leather-trimmed bench seat splits 60/40 and easily accommodates three adults with excellent head, leg, knee and shoulder room. For longer trips or commutes, two adults would be a

better arrangement to guarantee a comfortable ride, aided by the folding center armrest, heating and cooling vents, cup holders, USB jack and 12-volt power outlets. Lifting the rear hatch reveals ample storage space, especially the 55.9-cubic inches with the rear seats folded flat.

Safety

The 2016 HR-V EX AWD comes with safety features that include six airbags, cruise control and vehicle stability assist with traction control. The Honda LaneWatch system has a nice feature; when the right turn signal is activated, a camera turns-on, and the seven-inch monitor shows the right quarter panel view. In crash testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the 2016 HR-V received five stars (the highest rating) for overall crash protection, while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded the HR-V its Good rating.

Convenience

2016, Honda HR-V,storage,trunk,hatch

Roomy in the rear

For convenience the HR-V has a tire pressure monitoring system, immobilizer theft-deterrent and security systems, dual-zone automatic climate control with air filtration, front center sliding armrest, multiple cup holders, map lights, power windows and door locks with automatic up and down, electric parking brake, hill start assist, fog lights, heated power side door mirrors with turn indicators, variable front windshield wipers and a rear wiper.

Pricing and Warranties

The 2016 Honda HR-V comes in several trim levels starting at $19,215 for the four-cylinder six-speed manual LX, all the way to the HR-V EX AWD with Navigation at $25,840. All prices are do not include the $880 destination and handling charge.

The 2016 HR-V comes with these warranties:

  • New Vehicle – Three-year/36,000-mile
  • Powertrain – Five-year/60,000-mile
  • Rust Perforation – Five-year/unlimited mileage
  • Roadside Assistance – Three-year/36,000-mile

Observations: 2016 Honda HR-V EX-L AWD with Navigation

2016,Honda HR-V,AWD,mpg,fuel economy

A new member to a well-known family

If you are looking for a new small car to haul your stuff and friends and want to ride higher than you would in a sedan, then the 2016 Honda HR-V should be on your shopping list. At under $20,000 base price and nicely equipped, including AWD for under $25,000, this not-so-small-and-not-so-big SUV should catch your attention.

With the engine and transmission coming from Japan and final assembly in Mexico, the Honda HR-V is truly an international vehicle that competes very well against other world cars such as the Fiat 500X, Nissan Juke, Mazda CX-3, Toyota RAV4 and many others in this very competitive category.

Honda is well-known for its customer loyalty and high-quality vehicles. If you have never been a Honda owner, take the opportunity to visit your local dealer and take the 2016 Honda HR-V for a lengthy test drive. You just never know if the HR-V might soon be living happily in your garage.

Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

 Two other views of the HR-V—Road Test & First Drive

Top 10 Best MPG AWD SUVs/Crossovers

Road Test: 2015 Fiat 500X

Road Test: Nissan Juke NISMO

Road Test: Chevrolet Trax

First Drive: Jeep Renegade

Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle, which does not address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology, during which we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements. Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class or are among the top mpg vehicles on the market. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

Road Test: 2016 Honda HR-V AWD

Road Test: 2016 Honda HR-V AWD

Magic Seats and Borrowed Technology Build a Smaller Honda CUV

Add the 2016 Honda HR-V to the growing list of subcompact crossover sport utility vehicles, a category that came from nowhere but will tally close to 270,000 units sold by the end of 2015. The versatile little HR-V is also added to Clean Fleet Report’s All-Wheel Drive 30 MPG Club.

Resurrecting an Old Name

2016,Honda,HR-V,AWD,crossover,mpg,fuel economy

Small is the new big

The HR-V badge for the diminutive sized crossover may be new to American car buyers, but not to those in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines or its home market of Japan. Launched in 1999, long before consumers cottoned to the idea of a very small version of a large SUV built on an automobile chassis, the first generation HR-V was dropped from the Honda lineup in 2006.

Like its predecessor, the new version is marketed to a young demographic (read Generation Y, also know as Millennials). It caters to this group’s desire for vehicles with the benefits of SUVs, such as elevated seating position, large cargo space, along with the maneuverability and fuel economy of a reasonably priced small car.

And, just in case you’re wondering, according to Honda’s HR-V history website, the abbreviation HR-V stands for Hi-rider Revolutionary Vehicle.

Fit + Civic + CR-V = HR-V

Vehicle platform sharing—variations of a vehicle that shares most of its under-the-sheetmetal mechanical components to create different vehicles—is widespread in the auto industry. With the

2016 Honda,HR-V engine,power,fuel economy

A little motivation borrowed from a cousin

HR-V Honda called on the popular Fit hatchback to supply the platform, but it is a foot longer than the Fit, which pays dividends in interior room.

Suspension duties are handled by a fully independent MacPherson strut design up front, with a torsion beam in the rear. Steering is electric rack and pinion, while stopping power is provided by ventilated discs in front, solid discs in the rear.

For motivation the automaker grabbed the 1.8-liter i-VTEC four-cylinder engine from the Civic. Here it makes 141 horsepower and 127 pounds-feet of torque. Output is directed to the front wheels via a CVT (like the original) with a sport mode and paddle shifters on uplevel models.

All-wheel drive traction is courtesy of the HR-V’s bigger brother, the CR-V compact crossover. The Real Time AWD with Intelligent Control System automatically directs power rearward whenever the front wheels begin slipping, which can include rain-slicked roads as well as snow-covered highways.

Most small crossovers are bought with fuel economy as a priority. The HR-V’s resume includes an EPA rating of 32-mpg highway/ 27-mpg city/ 29-mpg combined for all-wheel drive; 35-highway/ 28-city/ 31-combined for two-wheel drive.

The 2016 HR-V’s borrowed elements from its successful siblings are combined into an appealing and credible package.

On The Road

2016 Honda,HR-V AWD,styling,design

Not designed to be noticed

Unlike when I drove Nissan’s outré styled Juke, passerbys gave little notice to the HR-V; it was a visual wallflower compared to the Nissan. That doesn’t mean the Honda is ugly, it just doesn’t try too hard to get noticed.

A short, creased hood drops quickly down to a gloss-black grille with a centered, large Honda badge and air intakes above and below. The grille is flanked by a pair of upsweeping angular headlamps with LED daytime running lights set within them.

The doors feature bold creases that break up the slab-side look, while an upswept character line blends into the rear sloped roof to give a coupe-like appearance, aided by rear door handles hidden in the C-pillar.

Back side, a rear spoiler, small back window, rounded tailgate and large tailamps exhibit little identifying personality.

The 2016 HR-V’s styling is unmistakably Honda: neat, restrained but tasteful, compact in appearance and unassuming almost to a fault.

Inside, the same conservative motif from the exterior carries over to the cabin. It‘s simple with soft-touch surfaces and hard plastic materials appropriate to the price point. The asymmetrical dashboard is clean with Honda’s latest touchscreen infotainment system positioned dead center.

The driver faces an instrument cluster with a large, centered analog speedometer and a tachometer to the left and an information display to the right. When engaged, ECO Assist changes the speedometer illumination from white to green depending on fuel consumption.

A tilt/telescoping steering column along with a manual seat height adjustment made easy work of finding a comfortable driving position. The driver’s seat is terrifically supportive and its comfort

2016,Honda HR-V,AWD,dash,infortainment,funtionality

Simple, but missing something

was welcomed on a 300-mile round trip from Olympia, Washington to Bellingham to visit our oldest son.

HR-V’s exceptional outward visibility and sight lines made it an easy car to drive on the freeway, in urban environments and crowded shopping mall parking lots.

Several competitors offer higher horsepower and torque numbers, but I found the engine to be more than adequate for the task of motivating the 3,100 pound cute-ute, although at 9.5 seconds, the 0 to 60 mph sprint wasn’t much of an adrenaline rush.

Overall, I was, and think most folks will be, pleased with the 1.8-liter four. Honda’s celebrated VTEC variable lift-and-timing valve technology is tuned here for a broad and powerful midrange. Peak torque is widely available, enhancing responsiveness in a wide variety of situations. However, when hard, quick acceleration was needed, the engine felt a little sluggish and the raucous drone created by the CVT is loud and annoying.

Although the HR-V doesn’t offer a sport-tuned suspension, it does have steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. The driver can activate manual shifting by touching one of the paddles (right for up-shifts, left for down-shifts). After 15 seconds of inactivity, the transmission returns to fully automatic mode.

2016 Honda,HR-V AWD,shifter,CVT

You can shift for yourself

Want to keep it in manual mode? No problem; move the shift lever to the “S” (for Sport) position and shift to your heart’s content—it will hold a gear and adds a little fun on back country curvy roads.

The HR-V’s suspension goes the middle road between firmness and comfort. It provided a controlled ride on the highway and smoothed out problems on the road, keeping its composure quite well on rough pavement while dealing with potholes in typical small car fashion—jarring at times.

Honda’s electric-assisted power steering is better than most. It’s light, yet accurate and responsive overall, and the car feels nimble when changing direction.

This is not a carve-the-corners, athletic small crossover, and it doesn’t try to be one. Overall, the HR-V has better road manners than most of its contemporaries.

When Honda delivered the HR-V, the fuel mileage readout was an even 30 mpg. Our week of driving was fairly reflective of an average owner—a long freeway trip, in-town stop-and-go traffic and a leisurely Sunday afternoon drive in the country. After adding our 427 miles to the odometer, the pint-size crossover yielded 31.3 mpg, a couple of mpgs more that the EPA’s 29 mpg combined.

HR-V’s Trump Card

2016,Honda, HR-V AWD,magic seats

Magic at work here

The HR-V is cleverly packaged with legitimate four-person seating—enough room to take friends to dinner. Even tall people said they felt at home in the front seats, where there’s ample head, leg and shoulder room for the six-foot-plus set.

But the HR-V’s trump card is its Magic Seats; pinched from the Fit. The interior can be configured numerous ways, accommodating everything from tall plants to bicycles and surfboards. By moving the gas tank forward to a location under the front seats, Honda designers created an extraordinarily deep—and useful—well between the front and rear seats.

The front seatbacks can be fully reclined to form a contiguous, nearly flat surface clear to the rear seatbacks, creating a chaise lounge-like setup. It’s not long enough for a good night’s sleep, but would do for a nice nap.

With the rear seats up on an AWD HR-V, there are 23.2 cubic feet of luggage space available. Folding the seats flat opens 57.6 cubic feet, which is excellent for this class. Two-wheel drive models offer a couple more cubes.

Magic Seats are a home run for the HR-V; however, there are some foul balls.

Maybe I’m old fashioned—perhaps just old—but the (usually) easy tasks of changing the audio’s volume or adjusting the temperature were complicated on our EX-L with Navi test driver. The on-

screen menus are small and confusing; the steering wheel controls were a better, but not liked, choice.

And really, Honda, who decided to place the HDMI, USB and 12-volt connections in the lower section of the two-tier center console? They are awkward to deal with when stopped, forget about it when driving.

Model Lineup

In typical Honda fashion, the 2016 HR-V is offered in three trim levels: LX, EX and EX-L Navi and each is available in front- and all-wheel drive. Except for the CVT option on the LX and EX front drive models, the HR-V is a Prix Fixe menu—each model in the lineup has a set suite of features; factory options are unavailable.

2016 Honda, HR-V AWD, crossover,

2016 Honda HR-V

Priced starting at $21,165, plus $880 destination charges, the LX AWD has full power accessories, air conditioning, cruise control, tilt/telescoping steering column, height-adjustable driver seat, Magic Seat, five-inch display screen, rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity and an audio system with a USB port.

Stepping up to EX AWD at $23,215 snags heated front seats, automatic climate control, a sunroof, Honda’s LaneWatch passenger-side blind spot camera, a seven-inch touchscreen display and HondaLink.

Our EX-L with Navi at $25,840 added leather upholstery, a navigation system along with HD and satellite radio.

The Subcompact Crossover For You?

Subcompact crossover vehicle offerings jumped from three—Nissan Juke, Mini Countryman and Mitsubishi Outlander Sport—in 2014 to nine in 2015. The new choices, in alphabetical order, are:

  • BMW X-1; a taste of small-size luxury.

    2016 Honda,HR-V AWD,subcompact crossover

    Moving into a crowded class

  • Chevrolet Trax; this year’s sales leader.
  • Fiat 500X; the Italian job.
  • Honda HR-V; it has Magic Seat.
  • Jeep Renegade; most capable off-roader.
  • Mazda CX-3; think Zoom-Zoom performance.

You’ll want to test drive at least two or three of these before you decide, but if practical, well-engineered interior versatility and fuel economy are your priorities, the 2016 Honda HR-V could be the one.

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

Road Test: 2015 Chevrolet Trax

Road Test: 2015 Fiat 500X

First Drive: 2015 Jeep Renegade

Road Test: 2015 Nissan Juke

Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle, which does not address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology, during which we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements. Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class or are among the top mpg vehicles on the market. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

First Drive: 2016 Honda HR-V

First Drive: 2016 Honda HR-V

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,

2016 Honda, HR-V,subcompact crossover

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.

Right Sizing

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.

2016 Honda, HR-V crossover

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

2106 Honda, HR-V, back seat

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.

Space Truck

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

2016, Honda HR-V,crossover, cargo space

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.

Power Specs

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.

Marketing

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

2016,Honda, HR-V, interior

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.

First Impressions

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.

2016, Honda HR-V,

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