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Test Drive: 2017 Honda HR-V

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I'm not saying the HR-V is a substitute for a serious off-road vehicle in deep snow or heavily rutted logging roads. Among other things, it lacks a locking center differential. But for the kind of late fall and winter driving that most of do around here, I think Honda's subcompact crossover will get the job done.


AMERICAN HONDA MOTOR COMPANY - The 2017 Honda HR-V is a stylish and practical entry in the growing subcompact crossover SUV market.The newest variation in the popular crossover market are subcompact SUVs — very small crossovers that can nevertheless carry five people, offer higher ride heights than cars, are available with all-wheel-drive, and, in most cases, can be ordered with such premium touches as leather interiors, upgraded stereos, and advanced infotainment and safety systems.

But for those of us in the rainy and occasionally snowy Pacific Northwest, one big question is, how good are they when the weather is bad? If the 2017 Honda HR-V is any indication, the answer is pretty good — maybe as capable as most larger crossovers, in fact.

And it gets better mileage, with an EPA average rating of 28 miles per gallon for AWD versions.

AMERICAN HONDA MOTOR COMPANY - The 2017 Honda HR-V has a surprising amount of interior room for such a small vehicle.By chance, I was test driving the newest version of Honda's compact crossover when the first snow and ice storm of the year hit the region. Although I did not go out at the height of the storm — and would not in any vehicle because of other drivers — I had an early meeting the next morning and some of the roads were pretty icy when I headed out.

My AWD equipped HR-V handled them well, in part because of its small size. For starters, I was able to squeeze through streets that had been narrowed by poorly parked (possibly abandoned) vehicles on both sides. But I also think it nimbly danced across icy patches that might've caused problems for a large vehicle.

AMERCAN HONDA MOTOR COMPANY - The roomy rear seats in the 2017 Honda HR-V lift up to reveal hidden storage spaces.I noticed the same thing when testing a 2016 model at last year's Mudfest, the annual completion among outdoor activity vehicles organized by the Northwest Automotive Press Association. The HR-V easily navigated narrow off-road trails that required more concentration to transverse with larger vehicles. That was true, even though the clearance of the subcompact Honda was not as high as them. Maybe it didn't sink into the mud as deep because it was so much lighter.

I'm not saying the HR-V is a substitute for a serious off-road vehicle in deep snow or heavily rutted logging roads. Among other things, it lacks a locking center differential. But for the kind of late fall and winter driving that most of do around here, I think Honda's subcompact crossover will get the job done.

The 2017 version is unchanged from last year. It's still based on the subcompact Fit hatchback and the styling is more cute than hunky, although Honda's new focus on sharp lines and creases helps. The interior is very clean, largely because practically every climate control and infotainment function is on the touch screen, something that has provoked complaints from those who prefer knobs and buttons. I thought everything was pretty easy to use, however, especially since some of the controls are duplicated on the steering wheel.

AMERICAN HONDA MOTOR COMPANY - Cargo space in the 2017 Honda HR-V is impressive with one or both of the rear seats folded down.The entry level LX model is a front-wheel-drive version with a six-speed manual transmission that begins at $19,365. It comes well equipped with a lot of standard features. Our fully-loaded EX-L NAVI test model was priced at $27,140 and included such premium touches as heated from leather bucket seats and a sunroof.

Despite its size, the 2017 HR-V was given a 5-Star overall vehicle score by the National Traffic Safety Administration. One must-have safety feature is Honda's LaneWatch system, which shows what is along the right side of the vehicle when the right turn signal is activiated. It is available on mid-level EX models and above.

Although relatively new, the subcompact niche is already getting crowded with entries from Buick, Chevy and Mazda. Some are more refined than the HR-V, but the Honda offers a number of nice features, including a storage area under the rear seat that increases the admittedly cargo capacity.

Anyone considering a new crossover SUV is, of course, going to be concerned about getting the right size. But the 2017 Honda HR-V proves that bigger is not necessarily better — and smaller might offer some real benefits.

And in case you're wondering, HR-V stands for "Hi-rider Revolutionary Vehicle" — a radical name considering that Honda's compact CR-V crossover simply means "Compact Recreational Vehicle."

2017 Honda HR-V

Base price: $19,365

Price as tested: $27,140

Type: Subcompact crossover SUV

Engine: 1.8-liter inline 4 (141 hp, 127 lbs-ft)

Transmission: Continuously Variable

EPA estimated mileage: 27/31 - as tested

Overall length: 169.1 inches

Curb weight: 2,888 to 3,062 pounds

Final assembly: Celaya, Mexico