It’s amazing how time flies in the auto industry.
Especially in the compact SUV segment.
We tested the all-new 2017 CR-V less than a year ago, but it’s got loads of competitors nibbling at its heels, from an all-new Subaru Forester, Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross and Toyota RAV4 plus a heavily-revised Jeep Cherokee. And don’t forget the Nissan Rogue Sport, Hyundai Kona and other ilk, that are a little smaller, but still in the hunt.
How you holdin’ up?
Being such a competitive segment, most manufacturers seem willing to be more expressive in their styling – you don’t want to be lost in the crowd. In that crowd, the CR-V still looks great, but where it felt edgy last year, it’s migrated over to the more conservative side of the party. Not a problem though, we like it looking more upscale and stylish, vs outdoorsy and rugged.
Being a top of the line Touring model brings some bling, with LED headlights with auto/off, handy roof rails, and out back, dual chrome exhaust finishers tucked below the hands-free access power tailgate. We especially liked the standard 18” ninja throwing stars alloy wheels. Dressed in a rich Crystal Black, our tester looked like a high-quality piece.
Last year, the upscale and spacious interior of the CR-V blew us away, and we don’t think anyone has brought anything to the party that comes close. It starts with a strong impression of quality, courtesy of the Touring’s stunning ivory leather seats. Stunning, yes. Practical? Hmm.we’d probably opt for black leather to keep the wear and tear of kids/pets/activities to a minimum.
There’s also handsome faux wood/chrome throughout, and the lines are clean and crisp. The digital dash display is typical Honda, and will be instantly familiar to anyone who’s been in a Civic lately.
The large tablet-style display in the dash is easy to use, and like most of the modern Honda’s now features an honest-to-gosh volume knob. Huzzah! We really appreciated using that knob, with the Touring’s 9-speaker, 330-watt premium audio system. The Touring also includes Honda’s satellite linked navigation system – it works fine, but the graphics do feel a little dated. May be a moot point – with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto along for the ride, you can pull up whatever kind of maps you like.
The shift lever (leather-wrapped like the steering wheel) is mounted high, which puts it in a perfect place – main controls from e-parking brake to climate controls are close at hand, and easily found. It’s also a very sensible interior – lots of cubbies and storage spaces – the center console is notably huge, and the sliding lid gives you excellent flexibility in what you want to bring, and how you want to bring it.
Flexibility is also the key word in back. The rear seat area is huge, and the seats are comfy for full-size adults. With the rear seats up, the cargo area is impressive, and with the folded, jaw-dropping expansive.
Last year was Honda’s entry into the mainstream turbo market, in both Civic and CR-V. While a 1.5-liter, turbocharged engine may sound small for a good-size SUV like the CR-V, it’s a powerhouse, with a 190 hp and 179 lb-ft of torque at just 2,000 rpm. Combined with an excellent CVT transmission, and carrying a load of weight (our AWD Touring is the heaviest model) it felt zippy, with a quick response to the accelerator. Even enjoying the turbo, we averaged just under 30 mpg. Impressive.
We got some unusual-for-California rain and found the AWD system gives great confidence. Handling also has nice feel, and the ride is comfy but well controlled. While not as sporty as our favorite curve-tamer SUV the Mazda CX-5, for most buyers it’s an ideal blend for commuting or longer road trips.
Considering its family-hauler mission, the CR-V is well equipped, with the Honda Sensing safety suite that includes Adaptive Cruise Control with low speed follow and Lane Keep Assist. This is one of the best systems of its kind – we were constantly impressed how well it managed to do things on its own, requiring little input. Nice on those daily traffic slogs.
Opting for an EX also includes the Blind Spot Information System with Cross Traffic Monitor – that alone would have us opting for at least the EX trim.
Can we build one for you?
Honda has always made it simple when it comes to ordering. Few options, just a few nicely equipped trim levels to let you ladder up the luxury, performance, and convenience.
The entry-level LX model starts at $24,250 and is gives goods like LED running lights, a multi-angle rearview camera, 17-inch alloy wheels, auto a/c, remote entry, Bluetooth and USB. All the essentials. Add $1,400 for AWD. Power is supplied by a 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder engine.
The EX is probably the sweet spot in the lineup. For $27,050 you step up to the wonderful 1.5-liter Turbo engine, Honda Sensing safety suite, 7-inch touch-screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, remote engine start, heated front seats, a moonroof, dual-zone A/C, Blind Spot and Rear Cross Traffic alert, and more. That’s superb value.
Craving a little more luxury? The EX-L adds leather seats, power tailgate, driver’s memory system, 8-speaker, 180-watt audio system, Navigation, and CVT with Sport Mode. Yours for $29,950.
Our Touring tester starts at $32,750. The whole enchilada model includes Hands-Free Access Power Tailgate, LED Headlights with Auto-On/Off, rain-sensing windshield wipers, roof rails and 330-Watt premium audio system with 9 Speakers. Adding in All Wheel Drive brought us up to $35,145 including $995 for destination.
The brand-new 2019 Toyota RAV4 will be the Honda’s natural competitor – look for a review soon. A loaded RAV4 Limited rings in at $37,720. A loaded 2019 Mazda CX-5 signature comes in at $38,185, so the CR-V may be a bit of a bargain as well.
In the ultra-competitive compact SUV market, the remarkable CR-V does everything so well, it remains top dog.
And stop that nibbling, the rest of you!
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.