Roxy’s Final Canine Car Review: The 2016 Honda HR-V vs. 2016 Nissan Juke SL


This article and the rest of Roxy the rescue Boxer’s journalistic works can be found on who understood the value of not only the canine perspective when buying a new car but also that rescue dogs have value. Gaywheels gave Roxy a voice and even though she passed away at just six from heart failure, her name will live on. And hopefully one day dogs like her won’t be considered as disposable as common garbage. 

By James Hamel and Roxy Hamel

Remember back when all everyone wanted was to own a tiny Chihuahua? Tiny dogs were in vogue and now sadly animal shelters are overflowing with this family friendly breed that did nothing to deserve that except becoming popular with irresponsible breeders. This problem reached its zenith after the release of a film called “Beverly Hills Chihuahuas” and a series of Taco Bell commercials in which a cute Chihuahua uttered the slogan of the fast food giant/shame inducer that at the time was “Yo Quiero Taco Bell.” (It means “I want Taco Bell” in case you were dropped on your head by your father/uncle/cousin as a baby.)

IMG_0012Now, we aren’t calling the new mini-cute crossover utility genre that is currently booming with entrants like the Buick Encore, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, Fiat 500X, Jeep Renegade, Nissan Juke and what appears to be the soon to be future king called the 2016 Honda HR-V, the Chihuahuas of the automotive world. But they are small, cute and surprisingly mighty.

Roxy, our canine back seat and interior automotive tester has learned that the hard way on more than one occasion by cold nosing the rear end of a passing furry friend just to see if it actually was the “original” Taco Bell Chihuahua. She still thinks one day she will meet that dog. Like that will happen. She does, however, know a guy named Carlos whose voice they used in those once so very famous ads. But he’s not a dog so that isn’t impressive to Roxy. So let’s see if she will say “Yo Quiero el Honda HR-V” or if she will decide “Yo Quiero el Nissan Juke.” Or maybe she will get Carlos to say it for her.

(As follows are the impressions of 5 year old rescue Roxy Hamel who James Hamel adopted from Boxer Rescue Los Angeles. All opinions are her own.)2016 Honda HR-V

2016 Honda HR-V EX

The 2016 Honda HR-V is a perfect example of why humans are such total pains in the ass most of the time and the main reason they are never relaxed enough to sleep 19 hours a day. Dogs are and with how many terrific new models Honda has introduced lately and have coming in the pipeline Its easy to see Honda’s dominance in keeping true to its independent corporate identity and refusal to abide by what is considered the correct trend.

Sometimes this backfires with wacky cars and the howling of some loser in a chat room who likes to ruminate on the good old days of Honda which he wasn’t even alive to see since he is only as old as the invention of the VCR.So as a mom to six litters of puppies I was forced to have for my previous owner, let me tell you I know a lot of maternal wisdom. Young pups, the good old days are just are just another way of talking about a time there was an unfair balance of power that worked in the favor of a certain group and made them feel superior to others and more secure. Those days are just old.

But with the 2016 Honda HR-V this Japanese company behind such blockbusters as the Civic, CR-V, Accord and Fit has done it yet again with the perfectly proportioned, roomy, nicely built and ridiculously affordable leader of the compact SUV pack. Yes, I already just gave away the winner but our EX tester had what my owner called a “sweet” 6-speed manual transmission and wasn’t a stripped out torture chamber either (also known as a bathtub to a dog).

You can add leather seating, in-dash navigation (Honda offers a navigation app on your smartphone for $50 that plays on your center touchscreen that is cheaper) or all-wheel drive but for that you have to opt for the CVT automatic which admittedly is the best of its type. Standard features included an impressive sounding 6-speaker AM/FM/CD/multi-USB/HDMI/Bluetooth streaming audio system, steering wheel mounted audio, cruise and on board computer controls, 17-inch alloys, automatic headlamps, a power moonroof, automatic climate control, the Honda Link Infotainment system and a decently potent 1.8 liter 141 horsepower 4-cylinder motor donated by the Civic.

Only once on a very, very steep incline did the engine struggle a bit but with one slick double downshift we rocketed the revs skyward and soon the hill was 2016 Honda HR-Vbehind us. And the HR-V motor sounded like it was having fun, encouraging us with an enthusiastic engine note that is so hard to find in any 4-cylinder SUV nowadays as they all seem tuned to sound like cows giving birth if put under any strain. Truly, the engine is excellent here as nothing is lost in VTEC translation into this crossover unlike perhaps a person like Shakira who is amazing when she performs in Spanish but becomes as annoying as Joe Jonas, the older brother of Nick Jonas with half the talent and 3 times the ego, when she performs in English. Seriously, get over yourself Mr. Bushy monobrow ex-Disney boy. What? Oh wait, sorry Shakira that last insult was meant for Joe Jonas.

To sum up, the 2016 Honda HR-V simply is the dominant entry in this exploding crossover/SUV segment and the fact that it is so affordable (starting just over $19,000) makes it all a sweeter deal. The final nail in the Juke’s still worthy coffin is the HR-V’s utility with a well-shaped 24.3 cubic foot cargo hold behind the second row with that growing nicely to 58.8 cubic feet with the second row folded flat.

With that much extra cargo carrying ability you cancram an extra Jonas Brother in the back of the HR-V—maybe that third one who is married living in New Jersey while his brothers are out dating pop stars and Miss Universe.

And as for Nick he is willing to take of his shirt for any gay man who will then buy his record. That’s how my owner James got his copy. Later he claimed to be victim of Jonas Brother abdominal hypnotism. Sure, that’s why he knows the words to each song.


2015 Nissan Juke SL

When I was walking out to the 2015 Nissan Juke compact SUV (I walk myself, my owner does not walk me) and finally got a look at the styling I suddenly had a sneaking suspicion that my owner had strapped me into my harness a bit too tightly. So tightly, in fact, that I was convinced I was hallucinating. I became convinced that I was not sitting in the back seat of a regular SUV but rather I was trapped inside the stomach of a giant radioactive Amazonian River Toad. I prayed we wouldn’t drive by any bodies of water for fear that the 2015 Nissan Juke might just decide it was time to jump in for a swim.

But after a few days I realized that this wasn’t really some sort of science project gone awry but that the 2015 Nissan Juke actually is one of the most daring yet 2016 Honda HR-Vsomehow successful SUV designs to ever be attempted. And once all the dust settled I had little doubt that even though at first glance the 2015 Nissan Juke looks scarier than the thought of Mariah Carey one day having to teach her children to drive, it makes for a tempting buy for the single dog owner or a couple with one medium to large size hound. I myself am a petite medium. On a good day. .

But while the Juke is a whole lot of fun to look at, it really isn’t all that practical as an SUV. First off, the cargo area is a paltry 10.5 cubic feet making it useful pretty much only for tying down cat carriers. And I don’t like that idea one bit. However, when you fold the rear seats down cargo volume grows to 35.9 cubic feet but then where would I sit? I did so enjoy the nicely bolstered leather seats in back of our test Juke but for humans legroom where I belong may also be found to be a bit lacking. I think this is what humans refer to as style over substance.

As I take care of all of the finances at home, I was very impressed with how much value was packed into our $25,240 SL test model which as standard gives you leather, a back-up camera, in-dash navigation, power everything, a moonroof, Bluetooth, an impressive Rockford Fosgate sound system with USB/iPod connectivity (my human can’t drive without music), 17 inch alloys and rear tinted windows so I could look out at people but no one could see me. I am rather famous you know.

Our tester was a front wheel drive model (all-wheel drive is optional) with the standard CVT automatic which is improved but nowhere near as fun as the 6-2015 Nissan Jukespeed manual (according to my driver) in the Nismo model which shares the same engine as lesser Jukes. This is the same manual transmission that my human said had long throws that occasionally made him go into the wrong gear. Sure, that’s why. And I am a parakeet. But I would never tell him that.

Besides the polarizing exterior appearance the other jewel in the 2015 Nissan Juke’s crown is the very unique but surprisingly potent 1.6 liter 188 horsepower/177 lb. feet of torque turbocharged 4-cylinder that really is one of Nissan’s finest engines in their entire lineup. Not only does it growl as menacingly as I do at the pizza guy but it also returned 28 miles per gallon over the course of a week on regular unleaded.

If you knew how my owner drives then you would realize what a miracle that is and why I always insist on wearing my safety harness. Plugging it into the car seat D-rings was a snap and the Juke’s ride height made it so no one needed to give me a boost when jumping up inside. Also, have you seen the price of premium unleaded lately? I may just be a dog but even I know when someone is ripping me off. Thankfully, if you buy a 2015 Nissan Juke you will never feel short changed.

(Warning: Nissan introduced a dangerous color customization scheme for the 2015 Nissan Juke where owners can choose contrasting colors for things like the mirror caps, door handles, interior air vents, the rear hatch spoiler, various spots on the bumpers, around the foglights, in the alloy wheels with our favorite change possibility being the black and dark burgundy leather seats. Nissan makes no requirements that your trim colors all be the same. Some Juke’s will no doubt be horribly mutilated as a result. Available colors include purple, yellow, orange, ocean blue…our advice? Pick one accent color please.)


2013 Chevy Equinox LTZ AWD 3.6 V6

DriveApart Overview
So what’s the big news about the Chevy Equinox’s recent engine swap from an optional 3.0 liter V6 to this newer and Cadillac derived 3.6 liter 292 horsepower/258 lb. feet of torque V6 which means this little baby crossover can now tow a healthy 3,500 pounds. That’s plenty for most people’s motorcycle towing needs and also manages to give this SUV somewhat of a hot rod status with a 0-60 time of just 6.7 seconds. Not bad for a family utility.

What We Like
The 2013 Chevy Equinox is on the larger end of the mini-SUV spectrum affording it a unique space in the market and plenty of legroom and cargo space thanks to a sliding rear seat system. This allows owners to choose how much cargo space or rear seat legroom they want. Oh yeah, did we mention the awesome new 3.6 liter V6 which makes this SUV more flight of foot than any of its similarly sized competition. Imagine a 100 horsepower added to a CR-V and you might see how cool this extra oomph is to possess.
What’s not to Like
The center stack on the dashboard has too many similarly sized, poorly marked

buttons set in a manner that makes little to no logical sense. You can master it after time and practice but if you just hop in the car it can be a little hard to figure out easily. Otherwise, the rear cargo area’s width is compromised somewhat by two cargo cubbies which can be handy for small objects but not when trying to slide in something like that elliptical machine you bought but never use.

Tow and Haul
Again, the big news here is the addition of the 292 horsepower/258 lb. feet of torque 3.6 liter V6 which lifts manufacturer tow ratings to 3,500 pounds as opposed to 1,500 pounds with the previous 3.0 liter V6. You can also get this engine with the slightly more expensive GMC Terrain Denali which is based on the same platform. Adding the 3.6 liter V6 to our Equinox LTZ cost very little to our pocketbooks as it is just a $1,500 stand-alone option.
As far as cargo hauling inside the Equinox goes, its capacities are pretty much average for an SUV of its size and pricing. With the second row of seats in place there is 31.5 cubic feet of cargo space with that figure growing to a maximum 63.7 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. One thing Chevy has over the competition is a rear seat that slides back and forth so you can adjust how much legroom to give rear passengers as opposed to cargo volume. It’s just another way to make it easier to haul your cargo—both human and otherwise.

The Drive
Refined, serene, quiet and peaceful. That is one way to describe the driving

experience behind the wheel of this 2013 Chevy Equinox with the 3.6 liter V6 thanks to a very quiet ride and very low levels of wind, tire or engine noise at cruising speeds. Push the pace a little bit and the Equinox will take the bait, up to a point, as the steering is playful and offers more feel than most of its foes in this class. It may not corner like it’s riding on rails but no SUV does. This is an excellent vehicle for hauling your bike, your family and your stuff wherever you want to go. What more do you want?

Engine and Drivetrain
How many times can we say that we adore GM’s 3.6 liter 292 horsepower/258 lb. feet of torque V6 in this application as it offers up boundless acceleration around town or even at highly illegal freeway speeds. It also makes inspiring growls and barks as you rev it out to redline, something most SUV engines aren’t prone to do. 
The six-speed automatic was seamless in operation most of the time even if occasionally it was too eager to drop too many gears when it sensed we wanted more power than we actually did. But once we got used to the touchy throttle we quite enjoyed having all this power under our feet. Literally.

Interesting Vehicle Features
According to the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) the 2013 Chevy Equinox is a “Top Safety Pick” which is impressive but not their top score which now stands at “Top Safety Pick Plus.” Currently no other midsize SUVs (the Equinox is just bigger enough than the Sportages and RAV4 to stay out of small SUV status) on the market have a “Top Safety Pick Plus” rating and no doubt getting the Equinox that rating will be high on the priority list for any impending updates.

Gas Mileage
The EPA estimates that the 2013 Chevy Equinox LTZ AWD with the 3.6 liter V6 will return 16 miles per gallon in the city and 23 miles per gallon on the highway. This SUV runs on regular unleaded and were pleasantly surprised to find it returning 21 miles per gallon over the course of a one week stay with us.

Interior and Exterior
Our tester was bathed in a gorgeous hue of deep red called Crystal Red Metallic which really accentuated the lines of this compact to midsize SUV very well. It kept the vehicle looking sporty and worthy of its mid-$30,000 MSRP. It just looks sharp from all angles and will no doubt appeal to more people than a GMC Terrain which looks like a tank. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
As for the interior, this is still one of the best feeling and looking interiors in the segment even with our earlier complaint about too many difficult to decipher buttons on the center stack. Everything from the fit and finish to the materials choices speaks to this SUV lasting and looking good at least through the life of your loan. But we would wager you could get a good decade out of this SUV’s interior before it started looking raggedy.

The top of the line 2013 Chevy Equinox LTZ AWD stickers starting at $32,265

and comes standard with leather seating, power adjustable and heated front seats, automatic climate control, power windows, locks and mirrors, a back-up camera, USB/i-Pod integration, Bluetooth, an adjustable power rear tailgate that allows you to set how high it will raise in the air (therefore avoiding crashes into your garage door), an 8-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system with Pandora, Stitcher and Bluetooth audio streaming via the easy to use ChevyMyLink system 7-inch center touch screen.

To this we added the aforementioned 3.6 liter V6 for $1,500, 18-inch chrome clad aluminum alloy wheels for $1,000, navigation for $795 and the special red paint set us back $325. These are all options well worth buying and they bring the MSRP to a reasonable $35,885.

Click here to go the website and read our final thoughts and conclusion for this compact Chevy SUV. 

My Picks for 15 Compact Family SUVs from Best to Worst!

2012 Kia Sportage

As a rule I get to test a whole lot of compact family SUVs which to many auto journalists is looked upon as a negative experience. However, I seek out afforadble family SUVs whenever I can so that I can let you know which ones are dogs (sorry Daisy Mae) and which ones are great. No, there may be no Ferraris in my future but as long as families need affordable crossovers I will be there to road test them. 

 This may not be as glamorous as testing an expensive luxury sport coupe but in this economy not many people need help with that kind of new car purchase. Sensible, affordable, efficient and relatively compact SUVs are the vehicles that American families actually need.

Forester XT! Yummy!
The following  family SUVs may not share the exact specification, engine design, vehicle layout or MSRP but they are all undeniably mainstream.  Hence, no Lexus, Audi or Mercedes entrants on this list.

Since I spent so much time with these family favorites over my many weeklong car reviews, I learned a lot more than you can glean from one short test drive. Don’t get me wrong, test drives are important when you are buying a new car. But when I get an SUV for a week I am reviewing it in depth for families who are going to rely on it with near religious devotion for years to come.

I quickly realized that during a test drive there is no way for a person to uncover all of the annoying, inconvenient and terrifying weaknesses that can become glaringly obvious after 7 days and nights with an SUV.  Quite tellingly, I rarely feel the same way about a test SUV on both the first and final day I have it.
Ah, take the family or haul junk?

So where do I find problems? To start with, SUV interiors are afforded more  abuse and damage than Alanis Morissette heaped onto the word “ironic” in the lyrics to her 1990’s hit song of the same name. Ah yes, many SUV engineers underestimate the sweet tyranny of children. They also forget about the destructive power of a canine who doesn’t like strangers walking by the family SUV in the parking lot of a grocery store.

Also, if your SUV is going to be a chariot for your family pet then you absolutely must consider how to safely transport them in a buckled harness, crate or other similar option. Different SUVs have differing levels of pet friendliness. For more information about SUVs and pet safety check out the website.

But there is more to an SUV than its interior. There’s also cargo space, passenger comfort, fuel efficiency, cost of ownership and the all-important value for dollar quotient. I can’t think of many American families who aren’t scrimping and saving nowadays, so who wants to spend too much on their next family SUV?
Now, here in an updated form is my current list of the best (and worst) compact crossover SUV Suburban crawlers for sale in 2012. And to be quite honest, the last three vehicles at the bottom of the list are the only ones that I absolutely would NEVER allow a friend to purchase. Sure, the Liberty rules off-road as I found at a Jeep event on dirt trails but as for on-road comfort it is really lacking.

My  Current Picks for Best Compact Family SUV  from Best to Worst
2012 Honda CR-V
2012 GMC Terrain
2012 Kia Sportage
2012 VW Tiguan
2012 Subaru Forester
2012 Kia Sorento
 2012 Nissan Juke
2012 Hyundai Tucson
2012 Toyota RAV4
 2012 Toyota Highlander
2012 Ford Edge
2012 Jeep Patriot
 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander
2012 Nissan Rogue
2012 Jeep Liberty
And deservedly dead last…
2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara (yes, it’s still for sale…only now with an odd quad-color leather seating design that makes the insides of this SUV look like a pimp exploded.)

Aren’t you dead yet?