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Honda CR-V or HR-V? Which model and trim should you buy?

Honda CR-V or HR-V? Which model and trim should you buy?
Autos
Both the Honda HR-V and CR-V are popular crossovers with more than a few similarities, but which one is the better buy?Handout / Honda

The CR-V and HR-V are two of Honda’s most popular crossovers, and for a good reason — they tick many boxes for may Canadians, but there’s a bit of a price overlap between the two. So, if you’re cross-shopping the CR-V and HR-V but can’t decide which one to go for, we’re going to try and help you out.

The 2019 Honda HR-V starts at $23,300 and tops out at $32,000. Its big brother, the 2019 Honda CR-V, starts at $27,690 and runs to $39,090, all before freight, taxes, and any other applicable fees. The HR-V gets a small price bump for 2020, ranging between $24,290 and $32,790 fully loaded. The CR-V also gets a minor refresh (and price bump) for 2020, now starting at $28,690 and topping out at $42,590. For both, the manual transmission is no longer available, which explains why their base prices are higher than some other competitors. So, the only gearbox proposed is the CVT. Deal with it.

The 2019 Honda HR-V is available in three trims — LX, Sport and Touring. All-wheel-drive is optional on the base LX, while it’s standard on the Sport and Touring. Meanwhile, the CR-V is available in LX, EX, EX-L and Touring trims, and like the HR-V, all-wheel-drive is standard for all but the base LX. Note: For 2020, the CR-V will have a fifth and even more luxurious version, the Black Edition , for $42,590.

SUV Comparison: 2019 Honda CR-V vs 2019 Toyota RAV4

Not only is the HR-V’s suite of active safety features comprehensive, but also standard. Yes, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, and adaptive cruise control — all parts of the Honda Sensing suite — are offered even on the base version.

Thanks to a well-appointed cabin, the headroom and legroom for both front and rear passengers is similar to the CR-V. And although the HR-V’s trunk doesn’t boast the incredible cargo space of its big brother, even being one-third less spacious, it remains one of the most generous in the subcompact segment.

Finally, the HR’V’s Magic Seats in the rear — with their seat bottoms that fold up as easily as in movie theaters — frees a practico-pratique area in the rear passenger compartment.

The Honda HR-V’s biggest flaw is its torsion-beam rear suspension: It doesn’t have the comfort or compliance of the CR-V’s independent setup. For this reason alone, it may be worth investing the few extra grand for the CR-V.

Who says a smaller engine — in this case, a 1.8-litre four-cylinder 141 horsepower and 127 lb.-ft. of torque — is more frugal? In this case, despite being down some 50 horsepower compared to the CR-V’s 1.5L turbo-four, the HR-V’s “small” engine is single-overhead cam (SOHC) and lacks direct-injection, and registered fuel economy almost on par with the CR-V — 8.4 L/100 kilometres, versus 8.5 for the CR-V.

Compared to what else is currently out there, the infotainment in the HR-V is not the most user-friendly. Even after a week at its steering wheel, we still rummaged with the controls and lost ourselves in a labyrinth of menus. Not that the Honda CR-V makes it any easier. [. — Ed.]

The base LX, equipped with all-wheel-drive, for $25,600. Not that this AWD system is the cream of the crop — for that, you’ll have to visit a Subaru dealership — but it gives a better resale value down the road on the used market. Even as a base LX, the HR-V is well-equipped with air conditioning, heated front seats and mirrors, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, in addition to Honda Sensing mentioned above.

As for the next two versions — the $28,800 Sport and the $32,000 Touring — that’s a lot (actually, way too much, in our opinion) for a subcompact crossover that doesn’t offer a power liftgate, power-adjustable front seats, or even heated rear seats.

Easy — for the cargo space. With 2,146 liters when the rear seats are folded, the loading area even beats some bigger, intermediate SUVs. The Honda CR-V trunk is huge, so much so that instead of mounting outdoor toys on the roof rack — and jeopardizing the aerodynamics and fuel economy — all of it can find its place inside. Ou presque.

Thanks to the independent suspension setup — not too stiff, not too soft — the Honda CR-V gain a smoother handling, all in discipline, over its smaller sibling.

The Honda CR-V’s powertrain is definitely more modern, sophisticated, and thanks to its turbo, more powerful than for the Honda HR-V — 190 horsepower and 179 lb.-ft. of torque, versus the HR’V’s 141 and 127, respectively. As a result, the CVT becomes imperceptible — and believe us, this isn’t the case for a great number of CVTs currently on the market. And although the CR-V towing capacity is minimal, at 680 kilograms, at least it exists. Honda doesn’t recommend you tow anything with the HR-V.

The Honda CR-V offers better sound control, as expected. It has also bigger and more convenient storage compartments; you’ll find, among other things, real cup holders.

 

The $36,290 EX-L is the first trim to offer the powered tailgate, driver’s seat position memory, a heated steering wheel, and heated rear seats. That said, for 2020, the Sport trim — essentially replacing the EX — gives you all of that, minus the driver’s seat memory settings, for $34,990.

The Touring version could’ve been interesting, because it boasts a panoramic roof and rear cross-traffic alert. But for a tag a hair below $40,000, this luxury variant lacks, well, luxury threats: No ventilated front seats, no lockable all-wheel drive for the ever-changing road conditions, and no emergency braking in reverse mode. However, Toyota offers all of these features on the RAV4 Limited — and, for a few grand more, as a hybrid, too.

This HR-V versus CR-V comparison is a classic case: Once you pass a certain level in the HR-V lineup, spending more money for options isn’t cost-effective. So, we recommend if you’re looking at the base HR-V LX, particularly with AWD, go for it. But if you’re considering the Sport or Touring, we strongly recommend you move over to the CR-V, even if it does cost a bit more, depending on the trim level.
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