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What Do You Do When a (Former) Friend Says, “I Want a Honda HR-V”?

2017 Honda HR-V blue - Image: Honda

It’s time for a new car, I told Mae last night.

She was explaining to a group of friends how she tore the passenger side mirror off and drove across the MacKay Bridge, on a particularly windy evening, with the mirror swinging about like an unchoreographed contemporary dancer.

The dangling power mirror, which another friend disconnected at Mae’s request, was only the latest issue. First, it’s a Saturn Ion Quad Coupe. Issue number two: the air-conditioning died long ago, and Mae’s reluctant to spend a single penny redeeming this car. It’s bitterly cold in eastern Canada now, but A/C is needful for one-third of the year and helpful for the other nine months. Finally, it’s a Saturn Ion Quad Coupe with a manual transmission.

“Ooh, aah, save the manuals,” you say. And I’m with you. Mae’s with you, too. But I’ve spent enough time — way too much time — in manual shift Ions to know that in an extremely hilly city, the Ion’s shifter/clutch combo is worthy of dread. Not all manuals are worthy of saving.

Now the mirror’s off, and the conversations Mae and I have had over a period of many months culminated in her succinct statement last night: “I want a Honda HR-V.”

Insert awkward pause.

2004 Saturn Ion Quad coupe - Image: GM Archives

These are the moments an auto journalist fears. Mae’s a good friend. (Or at least she was, until I discovered she was pro-HR-V.) Last winter, brutally ill myself, I was filling in at a craft show for my sick and pregnant wife. Mae drove 40 minutes outside the city in a Saturn Ion Quad Coupe to fill in for me.

So I couldn’t lie. I couldn’t hide the fact that I once wrote a widely-read piece for TTAC entitled, “The 2016 Honda HR-V Is Honda’s Worst Current Product.”

I told GCBC readers the HR-V’s cabin is, “far from a soothing environment.”

“The loud drone of the engine and dreadful tire noise would make me avoid long highway journeys,” I wrote earlier this year.

I asked, as we do in all GCBC reviews, whether you should buy something else instead. The answer? “Yes, you should.”

The HR-V is uncomfortable, loud, slow, and overpriced. The LATCH system’s lower anchors are among the worst-placed I’ve encountered.

So no, I couldn’t lie. But having finally succeeded in getting Mae to this juncture, after months of attempting to convince her that air-conditioning and heated seats are really nice features, how could I push back against her vehicular tastes, especially with three other friends measuring the length of the awkward pause?

Fortunately, the case against the HR-V is particularly easy to make these days. With the fifth-generation Honda CR-V set to appear at dealers in the next few days, remaining fourth-gen 2016 CR-Vs are handsomely discounted. Besides the fact that the CR-V, North America’s top-selling utility vehicle, is the superior vehicle to live with, the CR-V is also the better long-term proposition because of better resale value and because Honda dealers have better CR-V margins with which to work in order to make a deal.

2016 Honda CR-V - Image: Honda

According to Honda.ca, Mae could lease an HR-V LX with all-wheel drive for $185 bi-weekly over four years, with 24,000 kilometers per year (15,000 miles) and no money down. Or she could get into an all-wheel-drive CR-V SE with the same terms for $191 bi-weekly.

A $6 payment difference.

Add in the CR-V’s fuel economy penalty and the difference maybe expands to $10.

For Mae, if she decides she’s ready to accept a payment instead of driving the Ion until it needs to be abandoned on the side of the Trans-Canada Highway in Shubenacadie, the answer is obvious.

Quiet, far more spacious, with superior ride quality, the CR-V is a no-brainer in this case. The CR-V SE is better-equipped than the HR-V LX, too, adding fog lights, variable intermittent wipers, two extra speakers, and proximity access to the HR-V LX’s equipment list.

Yet this story is not a story unique to Canada, nor is it unique to Mae. In the U.S., a 2017 $27,440 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD can be purchased for $216 bi-weekly, MazdaUSA.com says, but a $31,070 2016.5 Mazda CX-5 Grand AWD is only $23 more bi-weekly. Fuel economy penalty: $6 bi-weekly, according to the EPA. Advantages: superior power-to-weight ratio, more than triple the cargo volume behind the rear seats, nearly 20 percent more passenger volume. The results: Americans buy and lease six times more CX-5s than CX-3s. Of course you would.

America’s top-selling subcompact crossover, the Jeep Renegade, is a $26,120 vehicle in Latitude 4×4 trim with the 2.4-liter/9-speed combo. Over 60 months with no money down, Jeep currently says the bi-weekly payment is $201. Only $11 more bi-weekly would get you a Cherokee 4×4 in Latitude trim.

Mae shouldn’t replace her Ion Quad Coupe with a Honda HR-V. This I know.

Yet it’s quite likely that a subcompact crossover, regardless of brand, is never the better deal than its compact equivalent.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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