Usually, the floor of an auto show is filled with clean sheet metal that is ready to entice buyers into showrooms. Honda took an alternative path at the 2019 New York Auto Show, bringing a seriously busted-ass piece of metal that isn't usually destined for any member of the public. Yet, it's here, and I think it's one of the more important cars on display at the show.
For starters, it represents a huge step forward in safety for Honda's smallest SUV. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety announced in March that the refreshed 2019 Honda HR-V picked up its second-best award, . It achieved the agency's top rating of Good in every crash test, including the tricky new small-overlap passenger side crash test. The only thing holding it back from Top Safety Pick+ was its headlights, which were rated Acceptable.
This is a huge improvement from previous years. Between 2016 and 2018, the HR-V couldn't muster a score above Acceptable on the driver-side small overlap front crash test. In 2016, it even received an Acceptable rating in the usual side crash test. All previous headlights were rated Poor, too. Clearly, this is an important improvement for Honda, as peace of mind can bring more than a few heads through the dealership doors.
To that end, the crashed HR-V's presence at the New York Auto Show helps to dispel the myth that smaller cars are somehow death traps. Yes, the industry continues to find itself expanding vehicle footprints ad infinitum, subject to the whimsy of consumers who believe (however misguided that belief) that a higher vehicle with a higher center of gravity is somehow safer. Yes, smaller vehicles might be at a disadvantage when striking something with the silhouette of a freight train car. But, being able to get up close and personal with this HR-V, in which people can clearly see how crash forces are directed around an otherwise undisturbed cabin, might help put some minds at ease.
And then, of course, there's the best reason for this car being at the show -- it's awesome. Honda told me that the IIHS doesn't return these cars regularly, as most are often finished being crushed into a tiny cube after the crash tests are done. What's on display in New York is something the public -- or even us, the media -- isn't usually privy to. You can always see fresh sheet metal at auto shows, but when else would you get to see this?
Honda gave the HR-V subcompact crossover a number of updates for the 2019 model year. In addition to obviously strengthening the body to better perform in IIHS crash tests, Honda threw in some new headlights, new Sport and Touring trims, but the most important new addition was Honda Sensing, the automaker's suite of active and passive safety systems. I drove one for a week, and I walked away impressed as ever.