While our 2016 Honda HR-V AWD EX-L Navi is a vehicle with many endearing qualities, its most obvious upside lies in overall utility. Developed using the same platform design philosophy also found in the remarkably versatile Fit, this subcompact crossover SUV expands on that vehicle’s impressive potential in ways that benefit both the HR-V’s passengers and their various belongings.

Despite its relatively modest scale -- at 169.1 inches, the 5-seat HR-V is 9.1 inches longer than a Fit but 10.3 shorter than a CR-V -- the newest addition to Honda’s crossover clan is amazingly roomy inside. It offers 100.1 cu. ft. of passenger space in LX guise, a mere 4.0 cu. ft. less than its larger sibling, as well as 24.3 cu. ft. of space in all trims with its 60/40 split-folding rear bench in the upright position. Thanks to Honda’s second-row Magic Seat, the HR-V’s aft quarters are impressively accommodating for full-size adults as well as kids. While slightly narrower and offering marginally less headroom than the CR-V, the new HR-V actually boasts an inch more rear legroom, a welcome commodity in any vehicle but particularly one in this segment.

Cargo-hauling champ

Like the Fit, the HR-V shines even more brightly when the main mission involves hauling stuff instead of people. A quick flip up of the lower cushion on the Magic Seat creates a nearly two-foot wide, transverse central corridor that can securely swallow up bags or boxes and allow taller things like plants or smaller bikes to be carried upright. And for toting larger, bulkier items, the HR-V’s rear bay is substantially larger than any of its main rivals. That includes vehicles like the Buick Encore, Chevrolet Trax, Fiat 500X, Jeep Renegade and Mazda CX-3.

Also: Class of 2016 -- New Cars Ready to Roll

Dropping the flat folding rear seatbacks further magnifies the HR-V’s comparative advantage. While opting for all-wheel drive does trim the total cargo capacity figure from 58.8 cu. ft. to either 57.5 cu. ft. in an LX model or 55.9 cu. ft. in an EX/EX-L, the HR-V still offers over 10 percent more usable space than its closest competitors the Encore and Trax. Those hard numbers establish this versatile Honda as the clear choice for anyone who does place a priority on utility. Like the Fit, the HR-V also is designed to make loading/unloading chores as user-friendly as possible. Side doors that swing out nearly 90 degrees provide the same easy access for cargo as for passengers while the HR-V’s large, single-piece rear hatch offers similarly enhanced accessibility thanks to its scale, shape and low liftover height. And forward-folding the back of the front passenger seat allows everything from lumber to ladders to be carried inside.

Also: Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Awards of 2016

Clearly the new Honda HR-V is more than a one-trick pony and in the months ahead, we’ll be exploring other aspects of its personality. For the moment, we will note that our early impressions are largely positive and that our loaded AWD EX-L model averages about 26.5 mpg in mixed mode driving, about 2.5 mpg below its EPA combined number.

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