With the small SUV/Crossover segment on fire these days, it was no surprise we chose to add one to our long-term fleet last January in the form of the all-new 2016 Honda HR-V EX-L with Navi. Over the next seven months, we logged just under 7,000 trouble-free miles before swapping it out for a 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid. During that period, we learned a good deal about this versatile hauler’s formidable upsides and also discovered a couple of its less-laudable traits.

More comfort, less sport

It didn’t take long to peg the HR-V’s overall driving demeanor as commendably solid albeit sometimes a bit less than inspired. Neither the fastest nor most powerful player in its segment, the HR-V is nonetheless competitive with key rivals and earned credible marks from the staff for its day-to-day performance. However, with a modest 141 horsepower and 127 lb-ft of torque passing through its CVT automatic and the 162 pounds of additional AWD weight our HR-V’s 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine had to contend with, we can’t deny wishing for a tad more muscle -- a desire that became most apparent when attempting an aggressive passing move or coping with a sustained uphill run. While the transmission’s Sport mode and shifter paddles that create seven “virtual gears” when engaged help keep the engine in its operational sweet spot, those extra revs also raise ambient noise levels in the cabin and notably hammer this diminutive Honda’s fuel economy figures. Where freeway running would normally generate 30+ mileage numbers that stat dropped into the mid-20’s under worst case conditions. In the end, our long-termer ended up returning about 27 mpg overall compared to its official 29-mpg EPA combined number.

Also: Class of 2017 – New Cars Ready to Roll

Aimed at buyers who prize practicality over sportiness, the HR-V strikes a good balance between compliance and control. Although its on-demand AWD seamlessly transitioned to active duty to up the confidence index when needed, this Honda is definitely more at ease when cruising than corner-carving. However, in tight urban confines or crowded parking lots, the HR-V’s blend of scale and maneuverability move it well up towards the head of the class. While we think there’s room to improve both shock tuning and sound attenuation in the interest of raising the HR-V’s refinement, neither of these modest gripes come close to being a deal-breaker.

Big utility in a small package 

Like its well-tailored exterior, the passenger compartment of the Honda HR-V impresses with its tasteful melding of form and function, particularly in this leather-trimmed model. The look and feel of the materials drew positive comments as did the HR-V’s basic control layouts and the comfort levels of both its front and rear seats. In addition to offering genuine adult-size space, the HR-V’s generously scaled aft quarters and large rear hatch earned extra points from several DIY-oriented staffers, with special kudos reserved for Honda’s ultra-flexible “Magic Seat.” This 60/40 split bench can be folded flat to increase the HR-V’s cargo capacity from 23.2 cu ft to 55.9 cu ft in the EX AWD or have its lower cushions flipped up to create a large central aisle that permits taller items to be securely stowed upright in the middle of the vehicle. If there is a singular design flaw to be noted here, it centers on the lack of volume and tuning knobs for the HR-V’s otherwise quite capable infotainment package. Honda may love the clean, flat-panel look, but it makes performing even the most basic functions more of a chore than not.

Also: Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Awards of 2016

As for final thoughts, we look back on our time in the HR-V with fondness. Minor criticisms aside, we found a lot to like in this new Honda – not the least of which is that it managed to roll off with the Kelley Blue Book 2016 5-Year Cost to Own Award in the Compact SUV/Crossover category. Given the Honda HR-V’s solid credentials for today and high-value prospects for tomorrow, there’s no doubt it’s a player that merits serious consideration.

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