2024 Honda HR-V

The HR-V's likeability comes down to well-executed and thoughtful design, committing none of the sins that makes other cars grating
The HR-V's likeability comes down to well-executed and thoughtful design, committing none of the sins that makes other cars grating

by Nathan Leipsig | May 23, 2024


Early on in this line of work, I had an XC90 as my first Volvo press car, and I was smitten. My colleagues said they used to be smitten with it — and to be clear, we still quite like it — but then they got “Volvo’d out.” They said that while Volvo continues to make lovely cars, they are all almost exactly the same, with the same look, feel, and design elements they’ve updated very gradually; you drive one, you’ve driven them all. While shooting the 2024 Honda HR-V, it dawned on me: Hondas are almost exactly the same.

Volvo and Honda make slightly different vehicles for slightly different markets and slightly different targets, but they do share a cogent sense of company-wide congruence. The HR-V, CR-V, Pilot, Civic, and Accord all feel like varying shapes of what’s more or less the same vehicle, all using similar dash layouts and materials, all thoughtfully using interior space, and all with mostly similar driving dynamics. Almost all car brands have some sense of shared corporate identity, but that cohesion is by far the strongest on Hondas and Volvos — and come to think of it, Mazda, too.

To be abundantly clear, I’m not Honda’d out. They all exhibit an earnestness and likeability that’s very difficult to quantify; it’s hard to measure adept body control, organic driver feedback, cleverness of storage, and cohesive design. They’re also all, well, pretty plain. This isn’t a bad thing by any means, as it’s a refreshing departure from an industry-wide over-reliance on gimmicks that’ll impress on the test drive only to annoy in the long run, but it’s hard to sell sensibility.

The HR-V might not be as initially impressive as say, a Hyundai Kona or a Chevy Trax, but it’s sensibility reveals itself over time. You’ll grow to like it more as you spend more time with it, seeing Honda’s thoughtful touches and feeling their deft sense of how to calibrate a car. There’s a deep-seated sense of rightness about the HR-V that makes them curiously satisfying, and I say curious because I’m honestly not usually super keen on these assignments. An economical commuter vehicle isn’t the sort of thing I typically get excited about, and it’s during these weeks that I’ll make secondary plans to keep myself entertained. [You will eat your veggies and you will enjoy them. —Ed.]

For example, upon wrapping up my shots of this HR-V, I was planning to drive a vintage Porsche home … and I didn’t. I was having a nice time; the HR-V just felt right and I didn’t want to stop driving it. I even took it lightly off-roading, intended as a cynical exercise to justify its crossover height and its very existence over the beloved and brilliant Fit that the HR-V replaced. It handled it so admirably that I found myself smirking like a goof. All Hondas do this to me. I’m not super keen on them at first, I always plan to park them for the weekend in favour of driving something older and more “interesting,” and I never do.

I really expected not to be wowed by the HR-V, specifically because it’s a subcompact crossover SUV thingy and I’m not a fan on the principle alone that they (often) compromise drivability and efficiency in the name of hopping on the bandwagon of everyone-and-their-mothers needing an SUV despite having zero practical advantage over a comparable sedan or hatchback. This is especially true in Honda’s own case, as this newest HR-V is essentially a tall Civic, using the same platform and powertrain. The Civic is already the best mainstream car you can buy, and the hatchback offers more usable space than most other small SUVs.

But in typical Honda fashion, they made it work and make sense. The extra height means Honda was able to generate much more head room, along with a much larger central storage cubby and a second pocket just ahead with charge ports, neatly tucked under the shift console. In subcompact vehicle design, there’s a give-and-take between rear seat room and cargo space, but Honda managed to house both the most generous rear seating and cargo space, while still being among the more diminutive offerings.

Power from the base Civic powertrain is pretty diminutive too, having only 158 ponies available from its normally aspirated 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine. In typical Honda fashion, it’s fairly quiet and refined, really only making itself heard when wound out by the continuously variable transmission in order to make any power. I’m normally pretty opposed to CVTs, but this one is reasonably responsive, inoffensive, and in practice, not really any different than some of the older traditional automatics in this class.

The HR-V makes use of its added height and ground clearance by hooking that efficient engine and transmission up to an on-demand all-wheel-drive system. Since their early inception, Honda’s AWD systems have been among the most clever, seamlessly divvying up mechanical grip so effectively that it seemingly makes traction appear out of nowhere, all as if it was never a problem in the first place. As I alluded to earlier, I got this thing through some deep, muddy ruts soaked with standing water, and the HR-V handled it at least as well as some of the purpose-built off-road rigs I’ve tested lately.

That clever AWD system isn’t always on, helping the HR-V achieve fantastic fuel efficiency. I averaged 7.6 L/ 100 km in my week of mixed driving, putting it ahead of literally every single one of its AWD competitors and even gets pretty close to some hybrids. Beyond being cheap to run, the HR-V is easy to live with: visibility is great, ingress and egress are a cinch, and the seats are comfy enough, though I’d appreciate more thigh and lumbar support. Moreover, the infotainment is attractive, easy to use, and snappy, and there’s a healthy amount of fixed shortcuts and physical controls to make things extra intuitive. The HR-V drives well and effortlessly without being lifeless, it rides fairly well, and is reasonably well-insulated.

The HR-V is so likable because it’s so well-executed and thoughtful, committing none of the minor and major sins that makes other cars grating. It’s so charming because it’s so well-executed in every regard, presenting with all the same excellence I’d expect from a top-tier product with none of the pretension, at a mostly budget-friendly price point. The only slight blemish is its price tag, as our loaded tester with (excellent!) built-in navigation rings in at $38,210 as-tested. It’s a bit of a tall ask, especially if you’re just looking at line items and comparative figures on a spreadsheet.

That spreadsheet doesn’t convey the HR-V’s subtle genius, though. You are absolutely getting your money’s worth, in form of brilliant ergonomic design, quality materials, and a satisfying drive. I can’t see any reasonable circumstance you might encounter being able to upset this thing, except maybe trying to pass a truck on a two-lane highway. I wasn’t looking forward to this whatever-spec commuter crossover assignment at first, but the 2024 Honda HR-V endeared itself by not feeling like a whatever-mobile. There’s enough competence and care baked in, making the HR-V feel as much of a pleasure as anything else I’ve enjoyed driving regardless of the price tag. Count me as once-again won over by a Honda; finding an inside-out, upside-down quality product is wonderfully gratifying, regardless of what form it takes.


Vehicle Specs
Subcompact crossover
Engine Size
2.0L normally aspirated four-cylinder
Horsepower (at RPM)
158 hp at 6,500 rpm
Torque (lb-ft.)
138 lb-ft at 4,200 rpm
Fuel Efficiency (L/100km, City/Highway/Combined)
Observed Fuel Efficiency (L/100km)
Cargo Capacity (in L)
691/1,559 (seats up/down)
Base Price (CAD)
As-Tested Price (CAD)
The DoubleClutch.ca Podcast

About Nathan Leipsig

Deputy Editor Nathan is a passionate enthusiast with a penchant for finding 80s and 90s European vehicles. He can typically be found messing about on his E28 5-series or on Kijiji looking for the next project. Current Toys: '23 Miata Club 6MT, '86 535i, '99 Beetle TDI 5MT