Completely redesigned for last year, the Honda CR-V is rapidly becoming the compact crossover of choice for the modern American family. While improved all-around, the fifth generation is once again based upon the same platform as the Civic, but the big news is that it adopts the turbocharged engine from the current Civic line-up – a 1.5-liter turbo-four available on all but the base model. Versatile drivetrains now a standard, exceptional refinement and practicality second to none are making the CR-V a formidable option in the segment.
With proportions par for the segment, the CR-V relies on Honda’s design DNA to set it apart from its rivals. Ground clearance of 7.8-8.2 inches, drivetrain dependent – gives the CR-V a commanding stance, whilst 18-inch alloy wheels on all but the base trim – the LX gets 17s – fill the arches substantially without being overly flashy. Black body surrounds complement the chrome trimmings, while roof rails and dual tailpipes on the Touring trim give the CR-V a beefy design for broad-spectrum appeal. LED daytime running lights are standard on all, though only the top-trim Touring gets LED headlights.
Two engines are available for the USDM Honda CR-V, with the base 2.4-liter four cylinder a naturally aspirated offering in the base LX trim. It offers 184 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque, sending power through a continuously variable transmission to the choice of either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. EPA rated economy figures of 26, 32, and 28 MPG for city, highway, and combined cycles respectively are on offer in the front-wheel drive setup, with all-wheel drive dropping those by a single digit apiece. From the EX trim up, a 1.5-liter 4-cylinder packs a turbo and delivers 190hp and 179 lb-ft, with the same CVT and FWD/AWD configurations available. Though down on torque, the peak figure arrives between 2000-5000 rpm, giving it broader versatility than the base 2.4, while economy improves to 28/34/30 MPG. A hybrid is available in other markets, though it’s unclear if it’ll reach the US.
The Honda CR-V offers an impressive updated infotainment system, marking the return of the volume knob for the Japanese brand. On all trims above LX, a 7.0-inch touchscreen setup features Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality, along with Sirius XM Radio and 2 USB charging ports. The physical controls are alright, but the touchscreen prompts are clunky and require some forcefulness. Voice commands are available, but work better when a smartphone is paired to enable Siri or Google Voice. The seats are comfortable, with eight-way adjustment lumbar support adjustment on EX models and up, while ingress and egress is made easy by wide door apertures. Once inside, the CR-V offers roomier accommodation than rivals with up to 105.9 cubic feet of passenger volume.
Despite the compact nature of the CR-V, it’s a master of practicality. The center console can be reconfigured and has a deep storage well and a rubberized sliding tray, while door pockets are deep and cup holders are large. Trunk volume is simply massive, with 39.2 cubic feet on offer behind the rear seats – rivalling larger SUVs beyond the compact crossover class. The rear seats fold easily, unlocking up to 75.8 cu ft. A height adjustable cargo floor allows the choice between a flat loading bay and a stepped one with maximum volume. For loading in tightly roofed parking areas, the tailgate offers adjustable opening height.
The CR-V is more than just practical, as it also offers some of the best driving dynamics around. Though the figures of the turbo motor are on par with the base 2.4, the broad spread of torque and the responsiveness of the turbo mill make it impressive, with ample acceleration that won’t set your hair alight. Braking performance is impressive, but it’s the handling that leads the class by some margin, with a natural steering feel, precision responses, and suspension that strikes a fine balance between comfort and handling. All but the largest of road abnormalities are absorbed easily, whilst body roll is kept to a fair minimum.
Honda has a penchant for reliability and the warranties show their belief in their own product with a limited warranty of 3 years/36,000 miles and a powertrain warranty of 5 years/60,000 miles. Only the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage offer better with a powertrain warranty of 10 years/100,000 miles. The only reliability concern over the CR-V is the announcement that 54 2017-18 Civic hatchbacks and CR-Vs are affected by incorrectly manufactured torque sensors in the gearbox providing incorrect steering-torque information at full steering lock – which may have an effect on the power steering’s responses. A recently reported issue is of excess gas making its way into the oil system, though Honda has as yet not released any information on this.
With a base price of $24,350 the Honda CR-V closely matches counterparts in the segment, though the base LX makes do without the touch screen, 18-inch alloy wheels, and numerous safety features, and features the less efficient 2.4-liter engine. The remaining EX ($27,250), EX-L ($29,750) and Touring ($32,750) trims up the ante though come in pricier than top specification rivals from Mazda and Jeep. Of the lot, the second-tier EX trim offers the best bang for your buck, with heated front seats, a 7.0-inch touchscreen with full smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a range of driver assistance technology. Throw in all-wheel drive for an extra $1,400 and it’s a comprehensive package.
If you’re worried compact crossovers might not be big enough for your family, but can’t afford something in a larger segment, the Honda CR-V gives you the best of both worlds. The responsive turbocharged engine offering, all-around space, and impressive drivability make the CR-V an out and out class leader. This one comes highly recommended!