2023 Honda HR-V EX-L AWD: Review

Like humans, vehicles also tend to “grow up” over their lifespan, getting larger and heavier, but usually also more rich with features. The Honda HR-V is a great example, when it arrived on our shores in 2016 it was based on the diminutive subcompact Honda Fit. Now, after eight Fit-based model years, it’s back. However, for 2023 it has grown into a larger compact-sized crossover, this time based on the latest Honda Civic. Is bigger better, let’s find out.

2023 Honda HR-V Overview

Interestingly, the roots of the HR-V go back much further than 2016. The first generation HR-V dates back to 1999, sharing a platform with the Honda Logo. Produced in Japan largely for the Japanese and European market, it soldiered all the way through 2006. The second generation version (aka the “Fit era”) was actually launched in 2013, which pre-dates the North American market version by a few model years. By the end of the second generation, it was typically not at the top of a lot of highly-recommended lists, with sales dropping almost 16% from 2021 to 2022.

While the new 2023 HR-V is a global version, there are actually two models in reality. Basically there is the regular model for, most of the world, and a, ahem…a plus-sized version to “meet the distinct needs of U.S. customers”. For 2023 you can choose from three versions, with trim levels commensurate with a lot of other Hondas. The base LX starts at $23,800, while the sporty Sport kicks off at $25,900 with the EX-L rounding things out at $27,900. Of note, the trim levels stay the same, but you should add a few hundred bucks to those for the 2024 model year.

As per normal standard operating procedures, we got the top spec version to drive for a week. It’s pretty loaded for a sub(ish)-$30,000 compact crossover with some great stuff like:

  • Dual-zone automatic climate control
  • Power-adjustable driver’s seat
  • Leather upholstery
  • Heated front seats
  • Sunroof
  • Auto-dimming rearview mirror
  • Ambient lighting
  • Nine-inch center touchscreen
  • Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto plus a wireless charging pad

All HR-V models come with the same 158 horsepower 2.0L four-banger, but for $1,500 Honda will throw AWD into the mix, which our car had. Our tester also had the Nordic Forest Pearl paint ($455) for a grand total of around $31,150 out the door. Let’s get into some more detail inside and out to find out if it’s worth of its emm-ess-arr-pee.

2023 Honda HR-V Inside & Out

I’ll say this bit up front, I think the HR-V has a great exterior design. Some people on social media have been critical of the front end, noting that it’s a little catfish’y. While that is a little true, I think the mix of headlight and grille design and integration is pretty handsome. Same goes for around back, the rear end reminds me a bit of a Mazda CX-5, which isn’t a bad likeness to share. I’m also a fan of the hue, the greenish grey tone is worth the $455 upgrade compared to some of the other (gray, silver, white, black, and red).

The split-spoke wheels are a solid add as well, with just the right amount of brightwork to have them pop. However, I was today-old when I learned that you can spec your HR-V with the 17-inch bronze HPD wheels for just $1,400. Look at that little guy!

Overall, a very solid design for the latest HR-V and the news is pretty positive on the inside as well.

The HR-V starts in a great spot, with design elements from the latest Civic throughout. The honeycomb grille is still one of my favorite design elements in a modern vehicle, and it looks just as good in the HR-V. I also really liked the layout of the center stack, especially the extra space underneath to store your phone. They made good use of the extra vertical space (compared to the Civic) and it’s just a smart design and looks good! There is even a USB charger on each side. 

Like most HR-V reviews, I have to point out the rock hard seats. I wasn’t put off about them quite as much as some of my colleagues, maybe I have a less sensitive posterior. It was noticeable though, and likely might have been a bigger issue on longer trips. I didn’t log as many miles as I typically would thanks for a bonehead parking maneuver that resulted in a flat tire. Sorry Honda! However, I did take it to the local dealership and back for repairs to try and make up for things.

The rear provides reasonably adequate room for passengers, depending on how far forward the driver and front passenger are sitting. For comparison, the HR-V’s 37.7-inches of legroom is bit less than the 37.8-inches found in the 2023 Toyota RAV-4, and significantly less than the 39.1-inches you get in the 2023 CX-5

Cargo space is down compared to some of the competition as well, with 24.4 cubic feet in the HR-V vs. 30.8 in the CX-5 and 37.5 cubes in the RAV-4, all despite the three vehicles being roughly the same length. It likely comes down to height, the HR-V sits low at 63.8-inches tall, while the 3.4-inches taller. Still, utility is as utility does, and if it meets your needs it meets your needs.


Out on the road, the HR-V isn’t exactly quick, but never felt “OMG go” slow. It doesn’t have a lot of power, and only has Eco, Normal, and Snow modes. With the relatively small 158 hp output, a Sport button would likely have been a waste. The tall shift knob falls easily to hand, but looks a little cheap and utilitarian, not a dealbreaker though.

Overall, I actually really enjoyed the HR-V, even if I did shorten my drive through poor driving. It’s nice to look at and has a lot of stuff to offer for $30,000. It’ll just come down to whether or not you need something larger or not, and whether your butt feels OK in the seats. Don’t forget to test drive folks, and happy buying.

Oh, and consider those bronze wheels!

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6 responses to “2023 Honda HR-V EX-L AWD: Review”

  1. Wayne Dean Avatar
    Wayne Dean

    I worked for Honda in Canada for over 43 years. During that time I literally have driven hundreds of Hondas for my demos. I recently retired and upgraded my 2017 HRV for the 2023 model. Of all of the Hondas I’ve driven, this HRV is my absolute favorite, and I would highly recommend it to everyone.

  2. Sjalonda Avatar

    Seeing the two reviews on the front page right now, this or the Chevy Trax, priced similarly, I wouldn’t even hesitate a split second before picking the Honda. Car choice by spinal reflex in favour of the Japanese.

  3. crank_case Avatar

    I didn’t realize these were still “a thing”

    The 1st gen Honda HR-V (which from the sounds of the article, the US didn’t get) was kinda funky in a 1st gen RAV4 sort of way. After that it got a bit meh and I think should be pronounced HuuuuRRRRVVVV, which is the sound of a middle aged man taking a dump.

    1. Sjubiduvabdab Avatar

      A friend of mine had one of these in this exact colour and she loved it. These have morphed into a much more serious or self-conscious vehicle, unfortunately.

  4. I_Borgward Avatar

    I saw a new HR-V out in the wild yesterday. Perhaps a harbinger of cleaner design, which I generally approve of.

    Speaking of trends, emblazoning the ass end of your SUV/CUV with branding like it was the stern of an aircraft carrier has got to go. Just my current pet design peeve.

    1. Sjalabais Avatar

      Agreed, it seems like more modest designs brings out bigger badges, so as to distinguish between more similar cars.