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Nimble and Nice

Honda is known for building vehicles that aren’t overly power­ful but run like little, finely tuned sewing machines. All the while, they reward owners with efficiency, utility and longevity. That’s pretty much the formula employed by cars like the Civic, Accord and…the 2016 HR-V.
Looking face-on, there’s a connection to other Hondas through its big grille and high-set headlamps. Body styling is pure crossover, with an arching roofline, kicked-up rear window line and deep, swooping side sculpting. Rear door handles are cleverly hidden in the C-pillar. It looks expensive and tough, and it’s undeniably Honda.

Stylists had their way with the interior, too. The sleek centre console has large cup holders, and storage underneath with a USB port. Almost everything feels expensive and is upholstered with stitched faux leather.  Audio, navigation and climate are controlled with a swipe-sensitive touch screen above and glassy touch pad below. The heated seats and sunroof are a delight.

It’s packed with enough storage tricks to excite a tiny house maven. Even with four aboard, there’s enough luggage space. Flip the rear seats and front seat to fit in a bicycle or surfboard. Creative placement of the gas tank allows the rear seat bottom to flip up to haul large items across the floor.

Under the hood, it needs a turbo. It’s not the 105kW/141 horsepower 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine that betrays it, but the continuously variable transmission and all-wheel-drive that sap the fun out of anything that might have been fun. Step into it and you’ll think Zeus is in an epic battle with your power drill. Press the green “Eco” button to maximize fuel economy, which is rated 8.3/6.7 litres/100 km city/hwy.

The HR-V comes with plenty of standard equipment. You will check no boxes for power windows with driver’s auto up/down, CD player, USB input,Bluetooth calling/audio, 17-inch alloys or rearview camera. You will pay about $800 more for an automatic transmission.

Honda built its reputation with precisely engineered bikes and compact cars. None attracted fans through a monsoon of power, but offered a sense that people who love cars engineered them. That’s the spirit in which the HR-V was created.  It starts at $20,690 but came to $31,815 as tested.

2016 Honda HR-V

Five-passenger, AWD crossover
105Kw/141 hp 1.8-litre I4, CVT
Ind/torsion beam
 17”/17” alloy
 Style, utility
8.3/6.7 litres/100km city/hwy
Celaya, Mexico

Casey Williams is a contributing writer for Gaywheels.com, and a frequent business traveller to Montreal. He contributes to the  New York-based LGBT magazine Metrosource and the Chicago Tribune. He and his husband live in Indianapolis, where Williams contributes videos and reviews to wfyi.org, the area’s PBS/NPR station.