Honda understands that push mowers can be heavy, slow, and hard to maneuver which is why they designed the HRN216VKA. Like many walk-behind mowers, it has a self-propel system but combined with a Smart Drive handle, it can reach speeds up to 4 mph. Mowing on inclines and turning tight corners is irrevocably easier. If that wasn’t great enough, the HRN216VKA has mulching, bagging, and discharge functions and seven different cutting heights.
Can be stored flat
Mulch, bag, and discharge capabilities
Self-propel speeds up to 4 mph
No engine choke required
Includes 1.9-bushel rear bag
Seven different cutting heights
Smart Drive is tricky to learn
By Alex Temblador published
Mowing any yard can be tiresome – especially with a heavy or cumbersome lawn mower. That’s why the Honda HRN216VKA lawn mower caught my eye.
I’ve used self-propel lawn mowers in the past, but most self-propel systems required a little bit of a push. When I discovered that the Honda HRN216VKA boasted a self-propeller that could reach speeds up to 4 mph, I was ecstatic to try it out. Would it make mowing my lawn easier? Faster? With a half-an-acre yard and some slopes to contend with, I discovered those answers soon enough.
Keep on reading below to learn all about my experience testing the Honda HRN216VKA and whether it makes the cut as one of the best lawn mowers.
Honda HRN216VKA lawn mower: key specifications
- Deck cutting width: 21 inches
- Power source: Gas
- Cutting height range: 7 adjustments ranging between 1–4 inches
- Self-propel speed: 0–4 mph
- Bag capacity: 1.9 bushels
- Weight: 82 lbs
- Wheel size: 8 inches
- Warranty: 3 years
What is the HONDA HRN216VKA lawn mower like to use?
The Honda HRN216VKA arrived at my home already assembled, but from what I’ve read, assembly is simple and could take up to 10 minutes to complete.
As it is a gas mower, I filled the tank with the suggested amount of gas (the oil had already been added to the tank when it arrived at my house). Then, I adjusted the wheels with the dual levers to my preferred height. I’m not a fan of the Honda’s plastic wheels, but I can overlook that because it has seven different cutting adjustments that range from 1–4 inches. Plus, I liked how easy it was to adjust the cutting height with the levers on the wheels.
Clipping collection and mulching options
Before I started the mower, I had to decide whether to mulch, bag, or discharge the yard clippings. The Honda HRN216VKA has a Clip Director on the side of the deck. All it takes is sliding it to the right or left to choose which function I desire the mower to do. The Honda comes with a 1.9-bushel bag – which is easy to get on and off – but I preferred to use the mulching feature most of the time. I tested the lawn mower in the fall/early winter so my yard was full of leaves and I wanted to recycle the leaves as mulch so as to provide my yard with some nutrients.
As far as the discharge option, it’s a rear discharge which means it is designed to spit the clippings on the backside of the mower – right on your legs. This seems like an unnecessary (and messy!) feature to me, but the option is built into the mower if that’s something you prefer.
- Learn more about the benefits of mulching
To start the mower, I pulled the flywheel brake safety system lever toward the handle and gripped it with my left hand while my right hand pulled the recoil starter rope. It usually takes one or two pulls for the engine to start. I like that it doesn’t require an engine choke.
Of course, the first thing I wanted to try was the Smart Drive Self Propel system. The folks at Honda made the lever an ergonomic paddle lever that can be pushed down with your thumbs or palm. I use my thumbs on both hands, but you can easily use just one hand if you’d like. The lever can be adjusted in five different positions which means I was able to find a comfortable position for my wrist.
I will warn you – the Smart Drive Self Propel has a kick. It can go from 0 to 4 mph immediately. Too much pressure and the lawn mower will buck and zip forward. If you’re not holding on tight, it could escape your grip. However, if you don’t apply enough pressure, you’ll basically be pushing the lawn mower (I did push the lawn mower without the self-propel to see how heavy it was and it’s not too bad). I can attest that it took me a few tries to intuitively get a feel for how to use the Smart Drive Self Propel.
Once I got the hang of it, I got to work mowing the lawn. When I pushed the Smart Drive Self Propel lever all the way down, thus achieving 4 mph, I found myself jogging to keep up with the lawn mower. This was good on evenings when the sun set early, and I wanted to finish the lawn before it got dark. Of course, I didn’t always use the 4 mph setting, but even 2 and 3 mph is a brisk walk.
As I mentioned, if you push too hard on the lever, the lawn mower will buck off the ground, which isn’t great for the plastic wheels when the mower comes crashing down. That said, the Honda’s self-propel lever provided a great burst of power when I needed to mow up an incline and around corners.
On the other hand, if I was mowing horizontally on an incline, I tried to use a lower speed. When I used a higher speed mowing horizontally on an incline, the lawn mower seemed to bump up and down more than I liked and missed blades of grass. The last thing I’ll note about speed has to do with the mulching feature. I found that the leaves were better mulched at a lower speed than a high one.
The 21-inch cutting deck is on the smaller end of standard push mowers, which typically range between 21–36 inches wide. This isn’t a major drawback because the Smart Drive Self Propel offers speeds that allow me to cut just as quickly as I might have with a larger cutting deck.
Self-Propel Smart Drive on the Honda HRN216VKA lawn mower
The most notable feature of the Honda HN216VKA lawn mower is the Self-Propel Smart Drive feature. Most self-propel features on lawn mowers are designed as levers that you pull, however, Honda engineers worked with an ergonomic specialist to develop a control and cone clutch transmission in the form of a paddle lever that you adjust with the simple push of your thumbs or palm. You can use one hand or both hands and even adjust the position of the lever up or down in five different settings for the comfort of your wrist.
Best yet – it provides instant speed up to 4 mph which is fairly fast. I believe the fastest self-propel systems reach 6 mph. With this function, you don’t have to really push the lawn mower, only guide it along the path you want it to take.
Mulch, bag and discharge feature on the Honda HRN216VKA lawn mower
Honda has made it easier to choose what to do with your grass and leaf clippings thanks to their 3-in-1 system with Clip Director. On the deck, you’ll see find a green clip that can be slid left or right and stops on three different functions: mulching, bagging, or discharging.
You don’t have to add attachments to mulch or discharge, but you will have to add the included 1.9-bushel bag if you choose the ‘bagging’ setting. This shouldn’t take but a minute or so.
How does the Honda HRN216VKA lawn mower rate online?
On the Honda website, the Honda HRN216VKA has a 4.2 rating out of 643 reviews, and on the Home Depot website, 82% of customers out of 4,640 reviews recommend the HRN216VKA.
With ratings like that, it’s fair to say that most customers are satisfied with their purchase. Some reviewers weren’t fans of the plastic wheels, and a few pointed out issues with the self-propel feature. Some reported that it required a learning curve, while others noted that it occasionally stopped working and needed maintenance under the three-year warranty plan.
How does the Honda HRN216VKA lawn mower compare to similar models?
The only other lawn mower that I’ve personally tested is the Troy-Bilt TB260 XP SpaceSavr Self-Propelled Lawn Mower. It’s more affordable than the HRN216VKA Lawn Mower and has a self-propelling system. Although Troy-Bilt doesn’t advertise the speed of the lawn mower’s self-propel system, I can confidently say that the Honda is much faster. Where the Troy-Bilt has front-wheel drive, the Honda has rear-wheel drive. The main area where the Troy-Bilt excels above the Honda is its SpaceSavr design which offers the option of vertical storage. It also does slightly better when mowing horizontally on an incline.
The one lawn mower that is most comparable to the Honda HRN216VKA is the Toro 21382. It’s equipped with a Honda GCV160 engine, mulching, bagging, and discharge system, and a similar self-propel system. The difference is that the Toro lever is not ergonomically designed (like the Honda is), however, the Toro can reach speeds up to 4.8 mph, where the Honda only reaches 4.0 mph. (I don’t think that extra 0.8 mph will make a difference) Other areas where the Toro stands out is the 2.1-bushel bag, a five-year-warranty, and higher-quality wheels. Perhaps this is why the Toro is $699, which is about $180 more than the Honda.
Should you buy the Honda HRN216VKA lawn mower?
The Honda HRN216VKA is a solid lawn mower. It may take you a few times to figure out how to use the self-propel lever properly, but once you have it down, you’ll be amazed by how easy mowing becomes. You essentially won’t have to push the lawn mower, just guide it to where it needs to go at speeds up to 4 mph. This is especially helpful for those with inclines in their yard.
Yes, the mower is on the pricier end, but this has to do with the high-quality and high-power GCV170 engine and outstanding features like the mulching, bagging, and discharge system, MicroCut twin blades, seven different cutting heights, eight-inch wheels, and rear wheel drive.
With this Honda lawn mower, mowing your yard will be a whole lot easier and less stressful on your body.
About this review, and our reviewer
Alex Temblador is a Dallas-based award-winning author and freelance writer that has covered home, design, architecture, and art in publications like Real Homes, Gardeningetc, Home & Gardens, Dwell, Architectural Digest, Artsy, Neighborhoods.com, Culture Trip, among many others. She recently bought her first home, a green Sears & Roebuck house that's over 100 years old, sits on half an acre of land and features a stunning wraparound porch, original hardwood floors, pocket doors, and a butler pantry. Alex loves to test products for Gardeningetc, Real Homes, and Homes & Gardens buying guides and reviews which has helped to expand the richness of her first-time homeowner life. The Mixed Latinx writer can usually be found working or relaxing in her outdoor spaces.
As with all our reviews, the Honda HRN216VKA was tested first-hand in Alex’s backyard, using it just as you would so you know exactly what you are buying. The products are given to us free of charge and we test them for as long as possible before sending them back to the brand unless we are able to keep it. This means that we can continue to use the product which gives us the opportunity to return to our reviews for updating, so you can keep up-to-date with how it's fared over a period of time.
Alex Temblador is a Dallas-based award-winning author and freelance writer that has covered home, design, architecture, and art in publications like Real Homes, Gardeningetc, Home & Gardens, Dwell, Architectural Digest, Artsy, Neighborhoods.com, Culture Trip, among many others. She recently bought her first home, a green Sears & Roebuck house that's over 100 years old, sits on half an acre of land, and features a stunning wraparound porch, original hardwood floors, pocket doors, and a butler pantry. Alex loves to test products for Gardeningetc, Real Homes, and Homes & Gardens buying guides and reviews which has helped to expand the richness of her first-time homeowner life – she has tested everything from hedge trimmers to hot tubs. The Mixed Latinx writer can usually be found working or relaxing in her outdoor spaces.
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