A white 2023 Ford Bronco is shown parked off-road after winning a 2023 Ford Bronco Sport vs 2023 Honda HR-V comparison.

A Subcompact SUV With Something Extra: 2023 Ford Bronco Sport vs 2023 Honda HR-V

A person might be forgiven for thinking that folks who drive a subcompact SUV are just interested in getting great fuel economy. Sure, these smaller models are known for helping drivers save money at the gas pump, but the truth is that most drivers are looking for more from their subcompact SUV. This is why the leading models in the class offer more standard features than other models. It is also why automakers are constantly working to improve their subcompact SUVs, updating existing ones while introducing new models. This is certainly the case when comparing the 2023 Ford Bronco Sport vs 2023 Honda HR-V.

It is not surprising that Ford and Honda offer two of the most popular subcompact SUV models. After all, Ford and Honda are two of the largest car companies in the world. However, when it comes to this class of vehicle, Ford and Honda have taken different approaches. While Honda has introduced a second generation HR-V for the 2023 model year, Ford continues to improve on the Bronco Sport, which was added to the lineup in 2021.

A black 2023 Honda HR-V Sport is shown driving in a city.

What Are the Basic Approaches?

The 2023 Honda HR-V is a significant improvement over the previous model. It has a sportier look and a more convenient design. Its appearance is like a smaller version of the popular CR-V. Honda has also given this vehicle a more accessible arrangement, making it easier for passengers, especially those in advanced years, to enter and exit the rear row of seats.

However, the goal of the Honda HR-V is to provide a solid on-road subcompact SUV. If you need something to handle rough conditions, or have dreamed about taking your subcompact SUV off-road, then the HR-V might not be the right model for you. For one thing, it comes with standard front-wheel drive, with all-wheel drive as an option. This type of drivetrain just can’t cut it out on the trail.

The 2023 Ford Bronco Sport uses the exact opposite approach. Its looks are rugged, while the HR-V’s are refined. It has standard all-wheel drive, so it is already going to outperform the Honda HR-V in off-road conditions. Finally, it is truly designed for all-terrain conditions. Each model has special all-terrain tires, and depending on your choice of trim, you get accessories like skid plates, factory suspension lift, and a terrain management system. This approach helps the 2023 Bronco Sport stand out among the competition.

What’s New for 2023?

Ford hasn’t really changed much on the 2023 Bronco Sport. This makes sense, since this only the third year for this model. However, Ford has introduced two new special editions built on existing trims of the Bronco Sport. The Heritage Edition is built on the mid-level Big Bend trim, while the top-of-the-line Badlands gets the Heritage Limited Edition. They are meant to add a retro touch to a fairly new model, utilizing Oxford White paint to accent the exterior to give a real throwback look. The Heritage Edition offers seven different exterior paint options including Robin’s Egg Blue. The Heritage Limited Edition comes in three different colors, Robin’s Egg Blue, Yellowstone Metallic, and Peak Blue. The exterior appearance is carried into the interior with specialized stitching in the cloth seats. The inspiration for these two special edition models was the look of the popular Bronco model from the 1980s.

However, not all of the items on the new Heritage special editions are for looks. Each model also gets a set of Continental all-terrain tires to provide greater performance and off-road traction.

While Ford has provided extra options for the 2023 Bronco Sport, Honda has completely redesigned the HR-V for 2023. Its looks are sportier than the first-generation model. It also has a roomier interior. The 2023 HR-V is built on the same platform as the Honda Civic and features the same engine, which delivers more horsepower and torque than was available on the first generation Honda HR-V. This is a great step forward for the HR-V. It even adds an independent rear suspension, a feature that can be credited to being built on a Civic platform. The only thing that might upset purists the decision to eliminate the Magic Seat, which was a feature that allowed owners to flip down the rear seats to improve the cargo capacity of the HR-V. So while the Ford Bronco Sport has built on its existing success, Honda decided to go back to the drawing board for the 2023 HR-V.

A red 2023 Bronco Sport is shown parked near a lake.

How Do You Define Performance?

When it comes to a vehicle’s performance, there is an element of the objective and subjective at play. The objective can be told in numbers, looking at horsepower, torque, acceleration, fuel economy, and other numerical factors. However, there are also important subjective details, such as handling and feel. Each driver may have a different experience with a vehicle that cannot be quantified. However, each driver also has a different goal with respect to the vehicle they are choosing.

From most objective standpoints, the 2023 Ford Bronco Sport outperforms the 2023 Honda HR-V. For one thing, each of the two available engines on the Bronco Sport provides greater output than the standard engine on the HR-V. Ford gives drivers a choice of two turbocharged engines on the 2023 Bronco Sport. The 1.5-liter EcoBoost Turbo I-3 is a surprisingly powerful three-cylinder gas engine. This has a dual overhead camshaft (DOHC) design, providing 12 valves for its three cylinders. It also utilizes a combination of port and direct fuel injection, with the goal of capturing the benefits of each approach. As a result, the Ford Bronco Sport with the I-3 engine can deliver up to 181 horsepower and 190 lb-ft of torque.

For drivers looking for improved acceleration, Ford offers the 2023 Bronco Sport with a larger 2.0-liter EcoBoost Turbo I-4 gas engine. This also has a DOHC design, with 16 valves feeding its four cylinders. Unlike the I-3, the Bronco Sport’s I-4 gas engine utilizes only direct fuel injection. This results in this engine providing up to 250 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque. Both engines come with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

In contrast, the 2023 Honda HR-V comes with a standard engine across all trim levels. This is a 2.0-liter I-4 gas engine paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). This engine also has a DOHC configuration with 16 valves for its four cylinders, but uses port fuel injection only. This can provide up to 158 horsepower and 138 lb-ft of torque. While these numbers are good, they don’t really compare to the output on either engine of the 2023 Ford Bronco Sport.

The one area where the Honda HR-V outperforms the Bronco Sport is on fuel economy. Depending on whether you choose front-wheel or all-wheel drive, you can get up to 28 miles per gallon in combined fuel economy on the 2023 HR-V. This is better than the 26 miles per gallon on the Bronco Sport with the Turbo I-3 engine, and the 23 miles per gallon on the Bronco Sport with the Turbo I-4.

Despite this, the 2023 Ford Bronco Sport provides better overall speed and acceleration than the 2023 Honda HR-V. For example, the Bronco Sport with the Turbo I-3 can go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in a respectable 8.2 seconds, with a top speed of 125 miles per hour. The Bronco Sport with the larger Turbo I-4 has even better acceleration, able to get up to 60 miles per hour in a very impressive 5.9 seconds. This model also has a top speed of 125 miles per hour. This clearly blows away the 2023 Honda HR-V, which needs a full 9.4 seconds to get to 60 miles per hour, and has a top speed of 115 miles per hour.

A red 2023 Honda HR-V is shown parked near a restaurant.

Two Approaches With Different Results

Ford has chosen to make their subcompact SUV entry an off-road warrior. The 2023 Bronco Sport has the ruggedness that other models in its vehicle class lack. Still, it performs well on the road, delivering very impressive acceleration. Meanwhile, Honda has introduced the second generation of the HR-V for the 2023 model year, giving drivers who are focused on fuel economy and road manners a solid option. But drivers who want more than great gas mileage will probably find that the 2023 Ford Bronco Sport has more to offer.