Sometimes, bigger isn’t always better. Large SUVs can be challenging to fit in garages and come at a higher cost, especially when it comes to fuel consumption. With advancements in technology, even small SUVs now offer affordable features. But if you genuinely need the extra space, is it worth the additional cost? Honda’s SUV lineup covers both ends of the spectrum, but is their smallest SUV as impressive as their largest?
Honda’s Smallest SUV: HR-V
The subcompact HR-V is Honda’s smallest SUV (technically a crossover) and is built on the Fit hatchback’s platform. However, the HR-V is more than just a lifted Fit.
One of its notable features is the “Magic Seats.” These seats allow the second row to fold and move in various configurations. Additionally, the HR-V comes equipped with Honda’s standard safety feature suite, making it an IIHS Top Safety Pick.
While the HR-V shares some similarities with the Fit, it does have a different powertrain. All HR-V models are equipped with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine producing 141 horsepower and 127 lb-ft of torque. Unfortunately, the 6-speed manual transmission option is no longer available in the US, with the CVT being the only transmission choice. However, the Sport trim does come with shifter paddles. Front-wheel drive is standard, but all-wheel drive is available on any trim and comes standard on the top-of-the-line Touring model.
In terms of interior comfort, the HR-V offers a cozy cabin, and its 6.7 inches of ground clearance allows for easy entry and exit. On the downside, Honda replaced physical climate control switchgear with touchscreen controls, but the infotainment system is straightforward and user-friendly. However, Apple CarPlay is only available on the Sport trim and higher.
Reviewers have praised the HR-V for its spacious cargo and passenger capacity, although the roofline does affect headroom. Some critics have noted that the engine can be buzzy, particularly at highway speeds, and the ride can be rough over uneven surfaces. While the HR-V offers good value starting at $20,820, it ranked fourth out of five in Car and Driver’s small SUV comparison.
Honda’s Largest SUV: Pilot
The Pilot is Honda’s largest SUV and their only three-row SUV. It shares similarities with the smaller Passport, including a 3.5-liter V6 engine producing 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. However, the Pilot comes with Honda’s 9-speed transmission as standard.
Both the Pilot and the Passport offer all-wheel drive with multiple terrain-specific driving modes. However, the Passport has slightly more ground clearance. On the safety front, the Pilot’s latest safety features have earned it the title of IIHS Top Safety Pick+.
In the past, Pilots have had reliability issues, particularly with their transmissions. However, Honda seems to have addressed these concerns in their latest models. The 9-speed automatic transmission no longer hesitates on downshifts, offering a more responsive driving experience. Additionally, Honda has improved the Pilot’s stop/start system, making it smoother and quieter. The infotainment system is faster and now includes a physical volume knob.
While the Pilot is a mid-size SUV with three rows of seating, the third-row seats can be quite tight. Although the Pilot scored higher than the Chevrolet Traverse in Motor1’s ranking, the Traverse offers greater cargo capacity. Reviewers have noted that even the Odyssey minivan provides more interior space. Despite the comfortable ride and good handling, larger wheels on upper trims affect the Pilot’s overall ride quality.
High-level trims like the Elite offer practical interior features such as ample storage bins, cupholders, heated front and second-row seats, LED lights, and leather trim. These features are available without the need to opt for the expensive Black Edition. However, the Pilot tends to be louder on the road compared to the Ridgeline pickup.
Which Is the Better Buy?
The HR-V and the Pilot cater to different needs and won’t be directly compared due to their size difference.
Starting at just under $21,000, the HR-V is more fuel-efficient and offers a more budget-friendly option. It boasts a fuel efficiency rating of 28 mpg city/34 mpg highway for front-wheel drive models and 26 mpg city/31 mpg highway for all-wheel drive models. On the other hand, the Pilot starts at $31,650, with the Elite trim and standard AWD starting at $48,220. The Pilot’s fuel efficiency is lower, with a rating of 19 mpg city/27 mpg highway for 2WD models and 18 mpg city/26 mpg highway for AWD models.
So, if you prioritize compactness and fuel efficiency, the HR-V is the better choice. However, if you genuinely require ample space, the Pilot is the way to go.
Alternatives to Honda SUVs
While Honda offers small and large SUV options, they are not necessarily the top choices in their respective segments.
Consumer Reports found the HR-V’s reliability to be above average, but it is not recommended as a CR-recommended subcompact SUV. On the other hand, the Pilot is recommended by CR, but its reliability is rated as average. Both the HR-V and the Pilot scored lower in CR’s testing compared to the CR-V, which falls between the two in size.
Several other mid-size 3-row SUVs outperformed the Pilot in terms of score and reliability. The Kia Telluride, Hyundai Palisade, and Mazda CX-9 scored significantly higher in CR’s testing and are equally reliable or even more reliable than the Pilot. Car and Driver also ranked the CX-9 ahead of the Pilot. If interior space is a priority over genuine off-road capability, the Honda Odyssey minivan might be a better choice.
In Car and Driver’s small SUV comparison, the HR-V trailed behind models like the Mazda CX-3 and Jeep Renegade. Although CR ranked the Renegade below the HR-V, the CX-3 scored higher overall and had better reliability. The Hyundai Kona also scored higher and offered higher reliability than the HR-V. Additionally, the Kona is available as an EV.
So, while Honda offers small and large SUV options, they may not be the most competitive choices in their respective classes.
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