The Honda CR-V is a compact crossover SUV that’s space-efficient, fuel-efficient and comfortable. The back seat easily folds down and lifting cargo in is made easier with the CR-V’s low floor. Front-wheel drive is standard, but all-wheel drive is optional for all-weather operatioseatn.
Redesigned for 2012, the CR-V was updated for the 2015 model year, acquiring a reworked interior as well as fresh styling. Honda’s 2.4-liter, direct-injected four-cylinder engine makes 185 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque, coupled to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). That combination is EPA-rated at up to 26/33 mpg City/Highway, or 25/31 mpg with all-wheel drive.
The suspension is tuned to yield a softer ride, rather than crisp responses. Steering is even and predictable.
The Honda CR-V competes against the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson, and Toyota RAV4. Judged by exterior dimensions, the CR-V qualifies almost as a midsize model. In addition to roominess, passengers can expect a pleasant ride, and even the back seat is impressively comfortable.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has given it Good scores on each test. The rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for the 2015 model sunk to four stars in the frontal-impact test, but 2016 testing brought those ratings back up to five stars.
Additional safety benefits come in the form of standard and available features. All trims but the LX model include Honda’s clever LaneWatch camera, mounted in the right-hand mirror. Whenever the driver activates the right turn signal, a dashboard display shows the view to the right rear, highlighting the blind spot. It’s the kind of feature that should be on every vehicle. Active-safety systems, including lane-keeping assist, lane-departure warning and adaptive cruise control, are available, but only for the top-end Touring trim level.
The 2016 Honda CR-V comes in five trim levels: LX, Special Edition, EX, EX-L with leather, and Touring. All-wheel drive ($1,300) is optional.
CR-V LX ($23,745) has power windows, locks, and mirrors; air conditioning; cruise control; rearview camera; four-speaker audio; and 16-inch steel wheels. SE ($24,545) adds privacy glass, a security system, and 17-inch alloy wheels. EX ($25,995) adds LaneWatch, a 10-way power driver’s seat, pushbutton start and keyless entry, heated front seats, and a sunroof.
EX-L ($28,445) comes with automatic climate control, leather seat and steering-wheel trim, satellite radio and upgraded audio. EX-L w/Navi ($29,945) has all-wheel drive and navigation.
Touring ($32,095) adds a power tailgate; 18-inch alloy wheels; driver’s seat memory; and a package of safety technologies including forward-collision warning, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, and lane-keeping assist.
Six airbags and a rearview camera are standard.
Some call the CR-V handsome; others brand it innocuous. To some, Honda’s compact looks bulky or bulbous, especially when viewing its tapered rear end. Whatever your opinion, the basic profile hasn’t changed since the 2012 redesign, and the CR-V is still boxy, despite its curves.
For 2015, a new chrome-accented grille appeared, helping to tie the CR-V more closely to the subcompact Fit as well as the latest Civic sedan and the new, smaller HR-V crossover. At least, Honda designers have avoided introducing any edgy touches that might interfere with the CR-V’s functionality. The efficient design ensures useful space for both passengers and cargo.
Not only is the CR-V exceptionally roomy, its cabin is fitted with better-quality plastic materials than in the past. All but the base LX model get a seven-inch touchscreen for the audio system.
Except when pushing hard on the gas, the cabin is quiet. Soft-touch materials cover dashboard surfaces and touch points. Less appealing are the 3-D gauge faces under a glass cover, which look cheap. The shift lever protrudes from the lower center of the dashboard.
The CR-V is among the most useful compact crossovers, due to the combination of a voluminous interior and a smart-folding back seat. That seat folds and flips down with a single pull, winding up in the footwell behind the front seat. It’s one of the CR-V’s best features.
With rear seatbacks up, cargo space totals 37.2 cubic feet; folded down, 61.4 cubic feet. The load floor is the lowest in the compact class, for easy loading.
Passengers sit somewhat high. Front occupants get soft, comfortable seats, though a bit more side bolstering would be welcome. Two adults fit in back, with ample head space and legroom.
Rearward visibility issues make the rearview camera essential. Thick pillars and a high rear window impede over-the-shoulder views, though slim windshield pillars permit good forward vision. Rear-seat headrests can fold down for a broader view in the mirror.
The Honda CR-V provides reassuring, predictable handling, even if it doesn’t deliver an engaging road experience.
The belt and pulley-operated continuously variable transmission and four-cylinder engine yield sluggish response to the gas pedal. When the CR-V is filled with passengers, acceleration is even slower. Power delivery is smooth, however.
Electric power steering isn’t as well-weighted as some. On certain roads, many small adjustments might be needed to remain on course. A CR-V rides quietly, helped in part by improved door sealing.
Real Time all-wheel-drive is helpful on snow-covered, slippery roads.
The Honda CR-V offers practical transportation with plenty of space, in a manageable size. Most popular are the midlevel EX and EX-L versions; few take the base LX. To get such extras as navigation or active-safety features, you may have to upgrade to EX-L Navi or Touring.
Driving impressions by Marty Padgett, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.