Should You Take the Honda HR-V Off Road?

The Honda HR-V may be the perfect practical everyday vehicle, but when it comes to off-roading, it misses the mark.
Written by Sophie Boka
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
The Honda HR-V may be the perfect practical everyday vehicle, but when it comes to off-roading, it misses the mark.
Suddenly, you’re scaling a mountain. Next, you’re cascading off desert hills. You crash land in a muddy river, yet your ever-reliable vehicle pulls itself out the other end, covered in murk. 
Are you picturing it? What’s the vehicle that comes to mind? 
Whether in real life or video games, your off-roading experience likely involves a Jeep or another solid all-terrain vehicle. A Honda HR-V crossover? Not so much.
Cars, like people, each bring different strengths to the table. Certain models can handle some situations better than others. And that holds true for off-roading. If you do choose to take the HR-V off road, you'd better have a killer
car insurance
policy.
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Can the Honda HR-V go off road?

Now, don’t get upset—but no. The Honda HR-V just wasn’t made to go off road.
However, the Honda HR-V is a brilliant everyday vehicle. It’s an incredibly cute, reliable, subcompact SUV. And it provides drivers with great value, starting at just $23,115
Don’t let its size fool you. The HR-V is touted for its ample cargo space, making it a versatile choice. 
But no matter how you slice it, its specs just won’t hold up on tough terrain. Let’s talk about why.

Ground clearance

The
HR-V’s ground clearance
depends on your drivetrain: 
  • If you opt for front-wheel drive:7.3 to 7.4 inches
  • If you opt for all-wheel drive (which is inherently better for off-roading): 6.7 to 6.9 inches
Generally speaking, ground clearance is a good indicator of your vehicle’s off-road functionality. When ground clearance is low, the vehicle likely wasn’t designed to go off road.
Okay, fair enough. But what is ground clearance? It’s a simple measurement: the distance between the ground and the lowest point of your vehicle’s chassis.
Why is this measurement relevant? Think about it: when you off-road, you’re driving over rough surfaces. So the higher your ground clearance, the larger the obstacles you can clear without harming your vehicle.
Usually, we like to see a ground clearance between 8.8 and 10.8 inches for off-roading. The Honda HR-V falls short.
In contrast, take the
Ford Bronco
, which has a ground clearance of 11.6 inches. That’s off-road-ready.

Torque

When we think of tough vehicles, we often think about speed. But speed is much less relevant when it comes to off-roading. The real spec that matters is torque.
Torque
is what gives your car the traction and power it needs to propel over those rugged surfaces. When you’re shopping for an off-roading vehicle, you’ll specifically want good low-end torque, falling somewhere between 2,000–4,000 rpm.
The HR-V achieves 127 lb-ft of torque @ 4,300 rpm. Again, this isn’t great. It’s a better fit for everyday driving.

Tires

The HR-V comes equipped with 215/55R17 tires. These tires are all-season, which gives them a bit of extra grip when driving over tricky roads.
But you can still do better with an upgrade to tougher tires post-purchase. If you do opt for bigger, tougher tires, you’ll likely give your vehicle’s ground clearance a bit more height, too.

Drivetrain

As mentioned, across all HR-V trims, you have the option to go with front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD). 
AWD sends power to all wheels, whereas FWD only sends power to the front. So if you want your vehicle to handle a bit better, opting for AWD is a solid investment.
AWD is all but necessary when it comes to off-roading.

Angles

Off-roading gives drivers an opportunity to experience driving from a different angle… literally. And that’s why knowing your angles is imperative when sizing up your vehicle’s off-road potential.
We’re talking about two angles, in particular: your vehicle’s maximum approach angle and maximum departure angle.
The angles are measurements, respectively indicating the maximum angle your vehicle can scale and depart without interference. When you want to roll over hilly areas, this spec is essential.
The HR-V has a max approach and departure angle of 29 degrees. These are pretty low for off-roading. Measurements in the 30s are much better suited for off-roading.

Off-road rating: In a Pinch

Alright, we’ve walked through important specs. Let’s discuss the Honda HR-V’s off-roading rating. And for that, we turn to
Jerry’s
very own handy-dandy DIRT rating system.
Rating
Meaning
Description
D
Don’t Try It
Vehicles better suited to highway conditions
I
In a Pinch
Vehicles that can handle off-road conditions in certain circumstances
R
Rough and Ready
Vehicles designed for casual off-roading
T
Trail Boss
True off-road vehicles capable of tackling a range of terrain
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The verdict: the HR-V falls somewhere between D and I. While we don’t love this vehicle for off-roading, it’s okay at handling grittier streets, like dirt roads, and decently snowy conditions.

The best off-road alternatives to the Honda HR-V

How does the HR-V stack up against its competitors? Here are a few other options in its class:
Alternative
Model
Price
Description
Best winter alternative
2020 Hyundai Venue
Starting MSRP $17,350
With Hyundai’s Snow Driving Mode, the Venue offers smoother handling on icy roads.
Best torque alternative
2020 Mazda CX-3
Starting MSRP $20,640
The CX-3 has much better low-end torque: 146 @ 2,800 rpm.
Best sport alternative
2021 Hyundai Kona
Starting MSRP $20,500
The Kona is a sporty vehicle with surprisingly grippy handling given its comparable specs.
MORE: Cheap off-road trucks
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How to find affordable car insurance for off-road vehicles

Off-roading comes with many rewards, but it also comes with many risks. No matter what vehicle you’re in, make sure you have solid
car insurance
to cover both you and your ride.
Car insurance can be an utter pain—all that confusing jargon and marketing. We’re over that, and we figure you are, too. That’s why we created
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When you switch with us, you can kiss the annoying paperwork and stressful phone calls goodbye and say hello to an average of $800+ each year in savings. Take that, and invest it in your next epic off-road adventure!
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