The Honda CR-V, a compact crossover SUV with room for passengers and cargo, was all new for 2017; so for 2018 it’s unchanged. CR-V’s driving dynamics are appealing and it’s relatively refined and isolated from road turmoil. The Honda’s main rival is the Toyota RAV4, but the compact crossover field is crowded with good cars.
CR-V LX models uses a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 184 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque.
All other models use a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder that makes 190 horsepower and 179 pound-feet. That’s a mere 6 horsepower difference on paper, but the turbo feels much stronger. All models use a gearless continuously variable transmission (CVT).
Front-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive available, including on the LX. When road conditions warrant, the all-wheel-drive can distribute greater power to rear wheels for more stable handling and greater all-weather capability. A rearview camera is standard on all models.
The fuel mileage is high, from 27 to 30 miles per gallon depending on the powertrain. A front-drive LX is EPA-rated at 26/32 mpg City/Highway, or 28 mpg Combined. All-wheel drive lowers that estimate to 25/31/27 mpg City/Highway/Combined. A turbo with front-wheel drive is EPA-rated at 28/34 mpg City/Highway, or 30 mpg Combined, while the all-wheel-drive version lops 1 mpg off each figure.
All models except the LX (about 75 percent) include Honda Sensing, a suite of safety technology including automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and lane-departure warning. If the CR-V starts to drift, lane-keep assist can nudge the CR-V back where it belongs. The system determines drift by the driver not using the turn signal to change lanes, so if you start to change lanes without using the turn signal, the steering wheel will resist. Honda Sensing also includes road departure mitigation, blind-spot monitoring, and automatic high beams.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the CR-V five stars overall in crash testing, with five-star scores in each test with contact, and four stars for rollover prevention, typical for crossovers and SUVs, which are taller than sedans.
Top ratings also were given by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which awarded the CR-V a Top Safety Pick+ for those CR-Vs with Honda Sensing and LED headlamps.
The 2018 Honda CR-V LX ($24,150) comes with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and CVT, plus automatic climate control, four-speaker audio, a rearview camera, cruise control, 17-inch alloy wheels, LED running lamps, keyless entry, and Bluetooth audio. (Prices are MSRP and do not include $940 destination charge.)
CR-V EX ($26,950) comes with the 1.5-liter turbocharged engine, and adds 18-inch wheels, heated front seats, power driver’s seat, automatic headlights, heated mirrors, pushbutton start, a 7.0-inch touchscreen, satellite radio, and moonroof. Also standard is the Honda Sensing suite of safety technology.
CR-V EX-L ($29,450) upgrades with leather-trimmed seat upholstery, a power tailgate, power passenger’s seat, driver’s seat memory, and eight-speaker audio. Navigation is optional ($1,000).
Touring ($32,650) includes navigation, LED headlights, automatic wipers, a hands-free power tailgate, 330-watt audio, side roof rails, unique wheels, and rear cross-traffic alert.
All-wheel drive is available for all trim levels except LX ($1400).
The CR-V exudes a sense of upscale. It can be seen as stylish or quirky. Up front are aerodynamic LEDs, but the front bumper protrudes a bit, as if it weren’t part of the headlamp design. Upswept rear roof pillars continue a CR-V design theme that’s been going on for years. The taillights sit high, separated by a chrome strip on a tailgate with a curious bulge. The badging is oddly positioned.
The layout of the cabin is more conventional than the outside styling, and it’s widely acclaimed. Five occupants enjoy room and comfort, surrounded by materials of high quality. For both passengers and cargo, the available space is used in an especially effective manner.
The 2017 redesign increased the cargo area by nearly a foot, without increasing the CR-V’s exterior length. In the back, legroom grew by 2 inches. And the rear seat is wider, making more room for the third passenger back there, always squeezed in a compact.
Pull a lever, and the adjustable second-row backrests fold totally flat, a convenient feature. A removable panel reveals a concealed, under-floor storage area.
All trim levels except the LX include a 12-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar support; however the wide center console may cut into the driver’s leg space.
Organized and functional, the dashboard reaches toward luxury in top-level Touring trim. CR-V EX and Touring editions rely more on their 7.0-inch touchscreen than on traditional switches or buttons. A new screen coating is used to resist fingerprints, and a volume-control knob has been added.
The navigation system is one of the easiest to use. Inputting an address is as easy as typing it in on a computer. However the system in our test car sometimes dropped the destination when stopping and restarting the car, forcing a laborious re-entry.
Honda engineers carefully blended composed handling with a refined ride. The CR-V is intended for the core of the compact crossover market, so its driving behavior is slanted more toward a premium feel than aggressive or sporty. Steering is accurate and responsive, and the car feels secure and confident when moving briskly on curvy two-lanes.
The suspension subdues flawed pavement. The frame was stiffened as part of the 2017 redesign, enabling a softer suspension to be used without affecting the overall stability. It might not handle better in corners than the athletic Mazda CX-5, but the ride is more comfortable.
Performance is adequate in the LX with the base 2.4-liter engine, but considerably stronger in models using the 1.5-liter turbo, whose acceleration and passing power are helped by torque that is fully there at a low 2000 rpm. The turbo CR-V can reach 60 mph about 1.5 seconds quicker than a 2.4-liter LX, although the engine sounds harsh when accelerating hard.
The continuously variable transmission is the weakest link in CR-V, sluggish when accelerating at highway speeds. Pushing harder on the throttle to compensate causes it to jump to a lower ratio, not what the driver intended, an annoying trait.
The Honda CR-V is one of the best of the many compact crossover SUVs, a leader in cabin space, refinement and comfort. Handling is good, ride quality is very good. The base CR-V LX is nicely equipped, however its 2.4-liter engine is considerably slower than the EX and other models with the smaller but more powerful turbocharged engine. The CVT is the weak link here, with a hesitation when you most need a quick response.
Sam Moses contributed to this review, with Mitch McCullough reporting from the Northeast, and staff reports.