Pretty random, barely organized thoughts after a month with a 2016 Honda HR-V EX AWD and without a 2003 Pontiac Vibe Base Moon & Tunes.
I LIKE the HR-V a lot. It's not a Vibe, but as I said a month ago, it's a worthy successor for my needs.
The long version:
Yes, it's an HR-V, not a CR-V.
The CR-V is one of Honda's most popular and best vehicles. My wife's niece owns one.
I looked at them, but Honda CPO 2015-ish used ones were about $5000 more than I wanted to spend.
I was looking to spend $15-18k, not $20-25k
I looked at Toyota.
RAV4 and RAV4 Hybrids. Way too pricey for recent used models. The safety features advertised on the newest models, such as collision avoidance, are only on the well-equipped models.
I looked at Toyota iM wagons (formerly known as Scion iM Wagons). Price was decent even for a brand new one, but a limited selection of options (No sunroof, for example), a bit smaller inside, and lower to the ground (I'm old & creaky). The Toyota C-HR styling was way too quirky for my tastes.
I also considered the Toyota Prius V Five wagon again, as I did before purchasing our C-MAX Hybrid in 2014, but used ones are expensive, still have the 'dashboard' in the center instead of in front of the driver, and still lack performance.
I spent weeks scouring the internet, and eventually started reading about the Honda HR-V.
I watched prices for a while and eventually found an absolutely 'screaming’ deal on a certfied-pre-owned one-owner, no-accidents, well-maintained HR-V EX AWD with 28k miles, from Ike Honda, a dealership 270 miles away in southern Illinois. Central Indiana dealers wanted (and are still asking) $1500 to $3000 more for the same used CPO HR-V EX AWD models with comparable mileage. My out-the-door cost for the HR-V was about $18,500, and that included Illinois sales tax at 6.25% and all dealer fees. I purchased the car in one of the more economical counties in Illinois with just 6.25% sales tax. I'll owe Indiana the difference between 6.25% and 7% as a 'user fee' when I register the car.
So why not a CR-V? We already own one recent C-size vehicle - our 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, so I was looking for a “B” or “B-plus".
My son has a 2013 Honda Fit Sport. It’s a great, economical, fun-to-drive B that handles like a slot-car, but I was still looking for something “Vibe size”, between the B-size Honda Fit, and the C-size CR-V. VW Golf/GTI and variants are lower, and have less cargo capacity. The Golf Sportwagens and Jetta Sportwagens are larger and far pricier. Used Subarus are significantly more expensive.
I seriously considered a plug-in Ford C-MAX Energi, because used prices are quite low, due to depreciation. Energi plug-ins Hybrids have a larger battery (20 miles max electric range - almost ideal for most of my in-town driving) and thus less cargo capacity than the Hybrid model. But, there’s the matter of plugging it in. We have a two-car garage, but it’s half-filled with ‘stuff’, so plugging in would require installing a dedicated outlet outside the garage. Possible, but not inexpensive. And that cost offsets a lot of gasoline purchases. The choice of used Energis with all the specific options I wanted (2015 or newer, panoramic roof, stone color interior, power rear lift gate) is quite limited right now. Very few 2017 Energi SE models were built with a cloth interior, and were only available in the 2017 model year. There may be more off-lease 2017 C-MAX Energi models in late 2018, but I didn’t want to wait that long. And all C-MAX production in Michigan ends next month, April 2018. The successor, whatever it will be called, is still planned for production in Mexico.
I considered one used BMW X-3. The price seemed right, but once the 'free' maintenance expired with the original owner's lease, I'd be paying outrageous amounts for dealer service.
I considered a 2014 or newer Ford Escape, but again it’s a C-size vehicle, and I was hoping for a B+.
Some initial impressions after four weeks:
I thought I'd miss the Vibe much more than I actually do.
These are some differences and some things I thought I’d miss most about the Vibe:
1. The Vibe featured incredible efficient use of every nook and cranny for compartmented storage. Yeah, it was probably an excuse to carry around a bunch of extra crap I don’t really need with a new car.
It is a bit surprising thing is how inefficiently Honda configures the inside storage space in comparison. Other Honda owners have commented that the HR-V is a new low.
No little slide-open drawers the left of the dash, or under the shifter. No long door slot to fit an ice-scraper. No coin-slots in the console or the dash. No extra compartment within the arm rest.
The HR-V has a 'flying buttress' with space below the console with a useful tray and 2 USB plugs, an HDMI plug, and a 12-volt 'cigarette lighter' power port. There’s a sliding flip-up arm-rest, but in the most forward position, it partially covers one of the cupholders. The compartment concealed by the flip-up arm-rest is about 1/3rd the size of the one in the Vibe, and no power-port inside. With the HDMI port, I can plug in anything with a standard HDMI-out plug and display it on the 7" center touch-screen when the car is parked. I've tried my mid-2014 MacBook Pro using a standard HDMI cable, and it works perfectly. There's a $50 Apple Lightning-to-HDMI cable that would let me display content from my iPhone. I suppose Android devices can use a similar cable
So there's less space to put 'stuff'. That’s OK, because most of the stuff I’d accumulated in the Vibe console storage is not needed now: Microfiber cloths for wiping the condensation off the inside of the windows (because the AC compressor needed replacement), old cell-phone cords and battery chargers. And a OBDII reader/reset tool for the occasional P0420 (still the original O2 sensor) CEL.
Each of the HR-V doors has a recess that holds a 16-oz water bottle, and little else.
There are two bottle/cupholders in the center console for front passengers with a nifty folding feature to accommodate those very tall very skinny stainless-steel or aluminum mugs and reusable water bottles,
Or hiding small articles underneath and out of sight - but what do you put there?
Keys? - with keyless remote and push-button start, the car won’t lock if the fob is inside the car.
A few coins? - too hard to retrieve them quickly, like in the drive-through.
Chapstick? - maybe.
Or hold a couple of high capacity USB drives loaded with your entire mp3 collection?
The Vibe had pop-out dual cupholders for the rear passengers and was a bit of clever engineering, but didn't actually hold two full travel mugs very securely. With a family of 3, we never really needed all 4 cupholders simultaneously, so the 3 in the HR-V are sufficient. Small children secured in child-protective safety seats wouldn’t be able to reach the center cupholder anyway.
2. No 120v inverter - but...
Honestly, I can count on one hand the number of times I actually USED it in 15 years of ownership: In the early years of ownership, I used it several times on vacation to run the DeLorme GPS nav app under Windows on my 2007 MacBook. This was before ubiquitous smartphones with GPS and user-friendly maps and apps were a thing. The HR-V supplies up to 180 watts through the dual 12-volt plug-ins (front passengers get one, rear passengers get one). Virtually all my devices can charge from USB, including iPad, iPhone, and several Android phones. My MacBook Air has a 12-hour battery, and my MacBook Pro has an 8 hour battery. Conclusion: I'll wait to buy an inverter until a need actually arises, if ever. (The EX-L also has a 3rd 12-volt plug-in in the rear hatch area.)
3. I MIGHT miss the flexibility of the Vibe cargo area tie-down points when I try to move my electric mower between houses later this spring. The HR-V has four, fixed in position, two on the rear seat-backs, two on the cargo cover. Actually 4 tie-down points was all I ever used in the Vibe, and once I adjusted them for the lawn mower, I never moved them again.
4. All that plastic in the rear cargo area. The rear cargo area is fully covered with the equivalent of indoor-outdoor carpeting, not hard plastic. The advantage is a reduction in noise. I still have a 5’ x 8’ ‘medium duty’ tarp from the Vibe, to quickly cover the entire area when I transport the wet, the muddy, the messy, or the lawn mower. I ordered the available all-weather cargo-tray and all-season floor mats from Honda. The floor mats are more rubber-y, The cargo mat is more plastic-y. We'll see how they hold up. The car came with front WeatherTech mats from the original owner. They seem a bit worn, and I’m going to leave them in place for the remainder of the winter season, because they’ll hold a bit more slush/snow/mud than the OEM all-weather mats do.
5. An upper-level rear cargo cover is not a standard feature on any trim. From looking at hundreds of used HR-V’s online before purchasing this one, I have not seen even ONE HR-V that has optional the cargo cover installed.
What Honda sells is a metal frame with cloth stretched over it that slides into a slot. It will not support anything laid on top of it, and it Does. Not. Move. when you open the hatch. Of course, the roll-it-up/stretch-it-out Vibe cargo cover with plastic attachment hooks didn't move either, but at least it had a place to store it when rolled-up, built in behind the rear seats. (Our 2013 C-MAX has a window-shade-type retracting cover in a sturdy steel enclosure that can be removed completely.)
So about a week ago, I figured out a major reason (other than cost) that no one purchases the Honda cargo cover. The EX (cloth) and EX-L (with leather) have 28% tinted rear passenger and rear hatch windows, standard. It’s virtually impossible to actually see anything stored in the rear cargo area in the daytime, and it’s difficult to see in, even at night with a flashlight.
If you want to find out about the HR-V, seek out actual reviews posted by OWNERS, not car reviewers.
Car & Driver and the other 'professional' car reviewers trash the HR-V as noisy, underpowered with a normally-aspirated 1.8L engine, a rubber-band-ish CVT, a lack of serious acceleration, and the lack of serious handling capabilities.
Yet, the vast majority of HR-V owners LOVE their HR-V's, because they had reasonable expectations going in.
It's a versatile compact family hatchback, not a muscle car, a trail-rated 4x4, a pickup-truck, nor a luxury car.
The professional reviews haven't been driving a 2003 Vibe base 1.8 with 4-speed automatic for the last 15 years!
The AWD HR-V is far quieter, accelerates at least as well, even in ECO mode, rides much smoother, and the electric steering and non-emergency handling feels like a definite upgrade. I haven’t confirmed it, but it’s possible that the HR-V AWD model has independent rear suspension, versus the rear beam axle of the FWD Vibe.
I loved the size of the Vibe. As I posted the measurements above, HR-V is virtually the same size outside and inside. Thus, I love the size of the HR-V. The HR-V roof is a bit lower at the hatch, so the opening is a bit smaller, but ACTUAL cargo capacity and the configuration flexibility of the HR-V definitely exceeds that in the Vibe. The front seat-back folds backwards, not forwards as it did in the Vibe, but it is still possible to put an 8-foot ladder or surfboard inside an HR-V with the hatch closed.
Because it's based on the Honda Fit, the HR-V also features the gas tank located under the front passenger seats. The extra space allows the rear seats bottom cushions to fold UP and lock in place when the seatbacks are up, and voila! 4-feet of usable vertical space behind the front seats, for items such as bicycles, and tall plants. I just moved a 40” HDTV in the original shipping carton, standing up behind the front seats. Total cargo capacity is measured at 58 cubic feet.
The 2016 EX audio system is the same Honda 7" touchscreen, single CD player, Bluetooth, iPod, and USB Flash drive compatible system used in many 2016 Hondas including Fit and Civic, I believe. left-side steering wheel controls for the audio system that are faster, and somewhat more convenient than the touchscreen when you’re the one driving.
Speech recognition is standard for bluetooth-attached phones to lets you dial by name, dial by number or Speeddial. The Speeddial list is independent of anything on your phone. The system will (allegedly) read incoming text messages. I haven’t received any texts while in the car, so I cannot vouch for that feature yet.
The EX and EX-L have an HVAC panel that is also touch sensitive.
The LX model still has traditional knobs, and a few more buttons and knobs with a smaller 5” touch-screen audio panel.
Knobs & buttons can be faster and they always work, even with winter gloves on!
But once you’ve used it for a month, the learning curve on audio and climate control goes away, and you can you easily do all the things you did with buttons & knobs.
The audio features work fine with my iPhone SE, treating it as either iPod when linked via a USB cable, or both audio and phone when linked via Bluetooth. The CD drive and Flash drive USB inputs displays mp3 artist and song track information on screen.
NAV is only available as an option in the EX-L (Leather interior) model, and from what I've read in the HR-V forum, the 2016 Honda NAV is slow and cranky. The annual updates available from Honda cost over $150. Honda also offers a NAV smartphone app for $59.99, but it’s not great either, according to reviewers.
My real-world MPG’s? Rated at 27 city 31 highway, 29 overall.
Maximum observed so far is 29.9 in 40-degree temps, using cruise control on the 280 mile drive back home from the dealership. I’m getting a 26 mpg average of mixed in-town and highway driving, about what I was getting in the Vibe for the same kind of mixed driving. The average might improve during summer.
I didn’t purchase this with the idea of saving big money on fuel.
Here’s why: When I did a ‘years to pay back’ calculation, driving 5000 miles per year in an all-electric 2015 Nissan Leaf, selling for $15,000 and rated at 128 E-mpg, the payback for recapturing the purchase price through fuel savings was 31 YEARS!
Definite upgrades from the 2003 Vibe base to the 2016 HR-V EX AWD:
13-year newer vehicle.
Everything still works.
Newer tech toys to play with.
Pushbutton start and remote keyless entry.
More air-bags and safety features, such as anti-lock brakes, tire pressure monitoring, traction control, and stability control.
Seat warmers - (front seats only)
Electric parking brake switch. (Reminds me of the sound the crew quarters doors make when closing on Star Trek The Original Series.)
Right-hand-mirror ‘Lane Watch’ - camera located under the passenger-side mirror is activated when the right turn signal is engaged, and shows the ‘3 car length’ markings. It can be handy when passing large trucks on the interstate, and probably in city traffic.
4-wheel disc brakes.
17-inch alloy wheels with all-season ’touring’-class Michelin tires. Smooth, quiet ride. Acceptable handling, and wet pavement traction. (Haven’t made them squeal or lose traction in a fast turn yet.)
More random thoughts:
The sunroof is only available in the EX and EX-L, is a comparable size to the Vibe, and also features tilt to let summer heat escape. The glass panel has a sliding sunshade like the Vibe, but the HR-V slides closed with a single push of the button, not pausing mid-way like the Vibe, and requiring a second push to close. Important child-safety feature lost?
EX and EX-L with CVT have standard paddle shifters, and can turn the CVT into a 7-speed video game, if you desire to play.
My Vibe was FWD, this is AWD. And since we picked it up, we haven't had enough snow on the road to see how it 'knows' when to activate AWD.
We’re retired. If the weather is truly terrible, we'll probably just stay home. But there's always that one time when a trip to the doctor, or to pick up groceries, or prescriptions is necessary. So the AWD adds weight and complexity and about $2000 to the same HR-V without AWD. The extra weight will always take a couple mpg off the average for the life of the vehicle. But if AWD saves me from an accident once, it will have been worth it. If not, it’s only money.
This is a 1.8L normally-aspirated V-TEC with 141 advertised horsepower and 127 ft-lbs of torque. 2003 FWD Vibe base was 130HP and 124 ft-lbs, I think. The Honda engine seems much quieter than the 1.8L Toyota when starting cold on a winter morning, but it’s got 100,000 fewer miles, and much more sound isolation than the Vibe.
Performance is more than adequate for on-ramps and passing, but it’s not thrilling.
If you want Thrilling, see your friendly Honda dealer about a Civic Type R.
As I learned with our C-MAX Hybrid, seeing an 'instant' mpg display constantly in front of me probably makes me a little less of a lead-foot. When I only calculated MPG’s with every fill-up with the Vibe, there wasn’t a lot of concern about driving faster to reach a destination.
Still, we’re talking relatively small economy cars here, so the difference between 25 mpg and 30 mpg will be neither a huge additional cost, nor a huge savings.
And finally, the HR-V still features a ‘donut’ spare tire, not a can of flat-fix and an air compressor. The space under the HR-V rear cargo area has a form-fitted expanded foam inset to hold the jack and tools silently, but the rest of the area around the tire is bare metal. I understand that there’s a bit more space around the spare tire in the FWD model.
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