Is Old New Again? 1987 Honda Civic Wagon 4WD vs 2016 Honda HR-V AWD

1987 Honda Civic Wagon vs. 2016 Honda HR-V
2016 Honda HR-V vs. 1987 Honda Civic Wagon 4WD

Back before the word “crossover” was inserted into the automotive lexicon, a few car manufacturers were putting out tall wagons with four wheel drive. Honda was one such manufacturer, and for the 1984 model year, it released the Civic Wagon to the United States.

The third-generation Civic Wagon was the first with an elevated roof and was called the Shuttle in other countries, including its home country of Japan. It was also available with a part-time, push-button four-wheel-drive system and a six-speed manual with a special low-range “granny” gear. This generation was sold in the U.S. from 1984 to 1987.

For the 2016 model year, Honda introduced the HR-V, a subcompact crossover based on the Fit architecture. So how would Honda’s latest entry-level, all-wheel-drive wagon compare to the original?

1987 Honda Civic Wagon 4WD
1987 Honda Civic Wagon 4WD (photo from

While a comparison with a 1986 model year Civic Wagon would have made for a nice round number – 30 years between models – the 1987 model year was the first year for Honda’s Real Time 4WD system, which is a full-time system that uses a viscous coupling to send power to the rear wheels when the front wheels slip. The HR-V’s all-wheel-drive system works the same way.

TFLcar reviewed the EX-L version of the HR-V, but to keep this comparison close, the LX AWD model will be used, as the Civic Wagon was never available with features found in the EX-L like leather interior and navigation.

The Civic Wagon may be the grandfather of the CR-V, but since that car and the Civic upon which it is based have graduated to the compact class, the subcompact 1987 model would compete directly with the HR-V if it were to be released in 2016.

How does the old Wagon stack up to the HR-V? Well, the two cars are amazingly similar in price when the 1987 dollars are adjusted for inflation. Only $121 separates the two, with the HR-V being the more expensive car.

2016 Honda HR-V
2016 Honda HR-V

For nearly the same money, though, the HR-V offers a lot more car. The engine is 311 cc larger and makes nearly double the horsepower of the Civic, while offering substantially better fuel economy. As a sign of the times, the Civic Wagon with all wheel drive was only available with a six-speed manual, while the HR-V with all wheel drive is only available with a CVT.

The two cars are surprisingly similar in interior volume despite the HR-V being a much larger vehicle. Newer safety regulations are largely to blame, as the older car didn’t need to comply with modern front and side impact standards. Headroom front and rear are nearly identical in both cars, but the HR-V’s longer wheelbase gives it more front and rear legroom.

Both cars have 23 cubic feet of space behind the seats, which speaks to the space efficiency of the old Civic, as the HR-V is one of the most spacious small crossovers in the segment.

2016 honda hr-v interior dash
2016 Honda HR-V

30 years of progress has left the old Civic Wagon in the dust. The HR-V is bigger, safer, faster, more efficient, and comes with more convenience features for roughly the same amount of cash. The Toyota RAV4 may have been the car that started the small crossover segment, but Honda had something very similar almost a decade prior.

1987 Honda Civic Wagon 4WD vs. 2016 Honda HR-V LX AWD, by the numbers:

1987 Honda Civic Wagon 4WD 2016 Honda HR-V LX AWD
Price: $10,104 ($21,044 in 2015) $21,165
Engine: Inline-4 Inline-4
Displacement: 1,488 cc 1,799 cc
Horsepower: 76@6,000 rpm 141@6,500 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 84@3,500 rpm 127@4,300 rpm
Fuel economy (city/hwy): 22/26 27/32
Transmission: 6-speed manual CVT
Wheelbase: 96.5 in 102.8 in
Length: 159.1 in 169.1 in
Width: 64.8 in 69.8 in
Height: 59.4 in 63.2 in
Weight: 2,304 lbs. 3,062 lbs.
Tire size: 165/R13 255/R17
Headroom, front: 39.2 in 39.5 in
Headroom, rear: 38 in 38.3 in
Shoulder room, front: 53 in 56.8 in
Shoulder room, rear: 52.4 in 54.5 in
Legroom, front: 38.9 in 41.2 in
Legroom, rear: 35.9 in 39.3 in
Passenger volume: 88.1 cubic feet 100.1 cubic feet
Cargo volume, seats up: 23 cubic feet 23.2 cubic feet



Check out this TFLcar first drive review of the 2016 Honda HR-V: