2019 Honda HR-V vs Ford EcoSport

Can Ford's new tiny crossover top a segment leader?

When it comes to buying a new car, it’s all about value, which is why subcompact crossovers have become so popular these days.

While not flashy, the Honda HR-V and Ford EcoSport offer quite a lot in a small and affordable package.

Meet the Contenders

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The Honda HR-V learned this lesson quickly, as one of the earliest subcompact crossovers out there, taking the popular Honda Fit, raising its ride height and offering all-wheel-drive. It’s been around so long that it just received a refresh that includes a high-end Touring model, which is what we’re testing.

Honda HR-V: Everything You Need to Know

The Ford EcoBoost is late to the game, at least here in North America. The small Ford has been available in other markets around the world for a long time but has just arrived for the US roads. It’s Fiesta-like styling and the tech-heavy cabin will help it draw some fans but we had to compare the two cars to truly see if the EcoSport can best the HR-V.

Honda HR-V: the Specs

The Honda HR-V is powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that’s paired to a CVT. It makes 141 horsepower and 127 lb-ft of torque. This Touring model features all-wheel-drive and it earns a combined 28 MPG, an impressive figure. However, the powertrain is the furthest from sporty that you can imagine, but a sport mode and some paddle-shifters try to make the drive a bit more engaging. It doesn’t do much: any time you try to get going in a hurry, the HR-V responds by ramping up the RPMs and making a racket. Speed doesn’t come until much later, and not in proportion to all the noise. It’s advised to drive patiently where the HR-V responds with excellent fuel mileage and a sedate cabin.

The Honda gets that quieter cabin thanks to all the additional sound deadening material and active noise cancellation that Honda has added this year. The interior is also nicely appointed for a car in this class. It features double-stitched leather seating and plenty of cubbies and storage spots. The HR-V is a packrats dream. It’s spacious and practical thanks to the layout of the rear seats, which can fold downwards and upwards.

The infotainment system is a bit dated feeling, with slow response and an ugly layout. Fortunately, the HR-V features Android Auto and Apple Car Play support so you’re not stuck with the basic layout. The smartphone support also throws in some nice functionality to the gauge cluster, like showing navigation directions on the dashboard. However, it was difficult to see the cruise control settings.

On the road, the HR-V feels refined with its limited noise and smooth on-road feel. The Honda crossover tackles the road with ease, and while it isn’t as eager as some of Honda’s cars like the Fit or Civic, the HR-V never feels as lumbering and stagnant as the CR-V. This car also takes bumps and rough roads pretty well, the only exception being potholes, so it’s ideal to keep an eye open for those.

The AWD system has been updated for better performance on snow, something we’ll have to revisit in the winter, but it’s definitely a step up over some rivals in this segment, since cars like the Toyota C-HR and Nissan Kicks are only offered with front-wheel-drive.

Where the HR-V really shows off is with its available driver’s assistance features. You’ll find adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and lane-keeping systems in this car, but they can definitely feel like pared-down, budget versions of those systems. The ACC doesn’t work well at low speeds, even show you the set speed or gap settings. The vehicle also has the sometimes useful Honda LaneWatch system, which isn’t as good as a dedicated blind spot monitor, but better than nothing.

All of this comes in at a price of just under $30,000 which is a good bargain, but about a grand more expensive than the Ford.

Ford EcoSport: the Specs

The Ford has a bigger engine lurking under the hood, a 2.0-liter that makes 166 hp and 149 lb-ft of torque. It’s more powerful for sure, but it’s also less fuel-conscious, earning a 25 MPG rating by the EPA. The EcoSport uses a traditional feeling six-speed automatic, and although that feels more familiar on the road, it clearly impacts the fuel economy.

This is a car that really feels like it only has 166 hp. It really doesn’t need to be very fast, but it also isn’t, which begs the question: So why is the fuel economy suffering so much?

Ford EcoSport: Everything You Need to Know

The cabin is more on the utilitarian side of things, although that might suggest the EcoSport is more practical. With a side-hinged cargo opening and less storage space, it’s not nearly as functional as the Honda. And the rear seats are almost impossible to live with, leaving passengers with no legroom.

The seats are comfy, even if they’re cloth, and front-seat riders will find a healthy amount of space. The Ford Sync infotainment system is much better than the Honda system and has the same features.

Driving the EcoSport won’t leave you with any satisfying emotions. It’s the opposite of fun or enjoyable, but it has its high points. The steering is heavy, feeling just right in your hands. Yes, it lacks feedback, of course it does, but there’s a bit of fun in getting the EcoSport to lean during on-ramps. Unfortunately, the ride can get choppy on rough roads.

Our experience of the EcoSport has us looking elsewhere. It’s not as practical, not as smooth to drive and looks a little silly. It’s a bit peppier on the road than the HR-V but it drops the ball in terms of fuel economy.

The Verdict: 2019 Honda HR-V vs Ford EcoSport

As we said before, value is the biggest factor when it comes to buying these small crossovers. The Ford just doesn’t cut it yet and has a long way to go before it’s in the same league as the Honda HR-V.

With more features, more MPGs and more refinement, the Honda HR-V is clearly the better car of these two.

Honda HR-V

Ford EcoSport