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The popular crossover SUV is bigger and more refined in the hot small SUV market niche.

COURTESY PHOTO: HONDA - The 2023 Honda HR-V is all-new with a more mature look and improvements across-the-board, including a more powerful engine.A lot of vehicles get redesigned between model years with very few changes. Maybe the grill, headlights and taillights get changed. Maybe the infotainment system gets an upgrade. Maybe more safety features are standard on lower trim levels. But they're usually the same basic vehicles and buyers are frequently better off buying last year's models at lower prices.

Not so the 2023 Honda HR-V crossover. It is completely new and improved in every way. The first generation introduced in 2015 was a practical and affordable subcompact crossover distinguished by the availability of all-wheel-drive. The new model is still practical and affordable, but it is a much more refined compact crossover that is still available with AWD and even adds Descent Control for more stability on steep, slippery slopes.

COURTESY PHOTO: HONDA - The 2023 Honda HR-V is available with front- or all-wheel-drive with Descent Control for weekend off-rad getaways.

The transformation is easy to understand. The first HR-V was based on the Honda Fit, which was perhaps the best subcompact hatchback available at the time, but still an entry-level vehicle. The 2023 model draws from the completely redesigned versions of Civic and CR-V, which are not only compacts but significantly upgraded versions of Honda's most popular vehicles. As all reviewers have noted, the new Civic and CR-V are the best yet.

The 2023 HR-V now fills the relatively new niche between traditional subcompacts and compacts. Although bigger than before, it is not as big as the CR-V. That makes it an ideal urban SUV with some limited off-road capabilities for weekend get-aways.

COURTESY PHOTO: HONDA - The interior of the 2023 Honda HR-V is spacious, refined and well equipped.

Among the many improves is the standard 2.0-liter four cylinder engine that replaces the 1.8-liter from the Fit. The new engine increases horsepower from 141 to 158, making it much more drivable around town — especially in the manually-shifted Sport mode that tightens up the continuously variable transmission.

The new HR-V is also nearly 10 inches longer, giving it a lot more presence, interior room and cargo space. The exterior styling is more formal, with a blocky front end and low air dam creating a serious look. The interior also reflect's the new Civic's more upscale look, with the display screen mounted high on the dash above a honeycomb metal strip that conceals the climate control vents.

COURTESY PHOTO: HONDA - The optional leather seats in the 2023 Honda HR-V help give the interior a premium feel.

The 2023 HR-V comes in three trim levels: base LX, mid-range Sport and EX-L. All are affordable, with the LX starting at $24,895 and the EX-L at $28,695. All have Honda's Safety Sensing System and an infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Audio. Fuel economy is highest for front-wheel-drive version, with an EPA estimated 26 mpg city and 32 mpg highway. But the AWD versions are still excellent at 25/30.

In a week of test driving, the 2023 Honda HR-V was always comfortable and pleasant to drive, with a suspension that easily absorbed the imperfection of the streets in my neighborhood. The leather seats in my EX-L version gave it a premium feel, aided by high quality soft plastics and the aforementioned honeycomb climate control strip. The infotainment system was easy to figure out and use, with the sound system including an increasing rare and welcome volume control knob.

COURTESY PHOTO: HONDA - The honeycomb metal strip that conceals the climate control vents in the 2023 Honda HR-V is the same as the completely redesigned Civic.

Honda calls the new HR-V "aspirational" and its redesign is part of the company's efforts to maintain its popularity among important demographic groups. It is striving for the fifth straight year as the number one brand for first-time Millennial and Gen Z buyers. Like with the redesigned Civic, Honda is betting these buyers value quality over the obviously youth-oriented, attention-getting designs of some competitors.

That's a big gamble, but Honda may well be right. Although the HR-V was just launched in June, it topped the model's best first-half sale of all time, after coming off a record-setting year in 2021. Those in the market for a not-too-small affordable crossover with an upscale feel that gets good fuel economy need to check out the all-new 2023 Honda HR-V.

COURTESY PHOTO: HONDA - Cargo space has been increased in the 2023 Honda HR-V.

2023 Honda HR-V AWD EX-L

Base price: $24,895 (LX FWD)

Price as tested: $30,509

Type: Compact crossover

Engine: 2.0-liter inline 4 (158 hp, 138 ft-lbs)

Transmission: Continuous Variable Transmission

EPA Mileage: 27/30

Overall length: 179.8 inches

Curb weight: 3,293 pounds

Final assembly: Celaya, Mexico

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