The Honda CR-V is in a heated four-way battle for the top stop in sales in the compact crossover segment with the Nissan Rogue, Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4. Year over year, the average increase in deliveries for these CUVs is of about 15% which is to say that the segment is on fire.
Honda’s been at this game for more than 20 years and whenever they release a new CR-V, consumers come out of the woodwork and line-up to buy one and this, despite what critics like myself may say about it. The undeniable facts are that the CR-V is a staple in this hotly contested category and as long as Honda brings versatility and reliability to the table, regardless of styling, they’ll always win.
The new CR-V also has value, and equipment going for it. A number of its would-be competitors offer less for more or the wrong elements, sending hesitant buyers that were tempted by the competition right back to a Honda dealer. Even thought I don’t think it’s the best in the segment, it remains an excellent choice.
I can’t for the life of me come to like what Honda’s done to CR-V’s outer shell. In fact, 2006 was the last model year when I considered the compact CUV to be handsome. Honda did pull a neat trick where all trims save the base LX sport the same 18” wheels. This makes all CR-Vs look the same. Up until recently, I thought everyone was buying Tourings.
The more upright hatch give the CR-V a less timid profile while the busy front end tries to be taken seriously. I do like the LED headlights on the Touring, and the roof rails, but the overall styling exercise doesn’t fit. I suppose I can call it original.
The cabin however is brilliant in almost every way. The dashboard layout is simple and functional, while the numerous layers here fit well together. I say almost as the gauges already look “previous generation” even though similar arrangements are found in other Hondas. This cabin is as attractive as it is functional.
The majority of CR-V buyers will probably state that roominess is what they like most about their vehicle. Here, Honda cut no corners, and pulled out all the stops.
The trunk is simply massive at just over 1,000 litres with the rear bench in place. The boots floor can be lowered slightly creating an encased area that can be good for limiting cargo movement. The pockets on each side are ideal for smaller items. With the rear bench down, I think it’s possible to park a smart fortwo back there. About the rear seating area, it too is positively enormous. There’s more leg-, head- and appendage room than ever. Three adults could sit abreast without complaining too much, or one baby seat and two kids could as well.
Up front, it’s more of the same. I love the adjustable armrest and the many cubbyholes for whatnots and more. The seats all around are just firm enough, or is that soft enough… Anyhow, in the space and comfort departments, the CR-V is a winner, and tough to beat.
Honda once suffered from offering less and charging more for it. We can thank the Korean automakers for having set almost everyone straight. At $26,890, the CR-V LX 2WD serves only as a price point, nothing more. The AWD LX includes a full battery of active safety features, fog lights and variable intermittent wipers, a power moonroof and more for only $2,800 more.
The top-line Touring is also value-packed despite its steep-ish $38,290 sticker price. When compared to one of my personal favourite compact CUV alternatives, the CR-V retails for $75 more but includes the likes of a power hatch, rear heated seats, a heated steering wheel and a factory remote starter. Yeah, so here, the CR-V makes the VW Golf Alltrack look bad. In the drive department however, it’s a very different story.
When I say best in segment, I’m referring to the driving experience, which is a crucial element for me. On paper, the Honda is more powerful and fuel-efficient but in the real world, the experience reads differently.
I’m keeping in mind that the CR-V was never meant to be driven with gusto, but then again, neither is the Golf. The turbocharged 1.5-litre 4-cylinder has all the desire in the world to get things going and the revised CVT is right there with it. Inherently, this type of transmission will never be as responsive as an automated dual-clutch unit for example. That’s enough about the comparison.
The rewarding dollop of torque is on tap early enough to keep things moving briskly. With the shifter set to “S” for Sport, the transmission’s extra willingness turns the fun factor up a notch, or barely. I can almost sense the engine’s longing to move forward but it’ll never really happen.
The ride quality on the other hand is excellent. The CR-V feels like a Honda, that is to say solid, stable and surefooted. At one time, the CR-V could be driven in a spirited manner but it now has passed. Body roll is present as is understeer but these are built-in safety measure to keep an eager driver like myself at bay. The level of refinement has definitely increased.
Bottom line, I really like the Honda CR-V, and you will love it even more. You really can’t go wrong.