A slew of upgrades keeps the CR-V ahead of nearly all its competitors, again.
– Cleveland, Ohio
I can’t remember a time when the Honda CR-V wasn’t great. It’s one of those rare vehicles about which I could say to anyone thinking of buying one, “Oh yeah, you’ll love it.” The all-new 2017 Honda CR-V is better than before across the board with more interior space, greater fuel efficiency, and access to more advanced safety features. This new version hasn’t improved enough in any one area, though, to justify saying, “Oh yeah, you have to get the new one.” Such is the curse of continued excellence.
Huge trunk! The CR-V has a massive cargo area thanks to the shape of its rear roofline. Rather than sloping downward after the first row of seats, it stays relatively flat until the very end of the vehicle. The result is a cavern facing you when the rear hatch opens. The load-in height also remains very low, which is a feat considering ground clearance has risen a full 1.5 inches. This cargo hold is a dream for new parents wondering how they’re going to fit a stroller, diaper bag, toys, and more in a compact crossover. You can fit everything in the CR-V and have room to spare.
Fuel economy champ. Meet the new most fuel-efficient crossover. Whether in front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive form, the new CR-V officially uses less fuel than any of its compact crossover competitors. Its official ratings are 30 miles per gallon combined for the FWD model and 29 mpg combined with AWD like my tester. With an average of 28.6 mpg over the course of a week, my own experience nearly matched the EPA’s rating. Those numbers are remarkable for any compact crossover, but especially one as large as the CR-V that’s also all-wheel-drive.
Superlative CVT. The CR-V’s continuously variable transmission is one of the best the auto industry has to offer. Since CVTs don’t have gears, most examples sound and feel alien to drivers who are used to the shift patterns and harmonics of a traditional gearbox. Honda’s CVT, though, fades into the background to the point where its strange machinations are hardly noticeable. The familiar “drone” sound for which its competitors’ CVTs are so often harangued just isn’t there. It might all be due to the CR-V having better sound deadening than its competitors, but this CVT’s manners are by far the easiest to live with.
Extra safety standard. Following Toyota’s lead, Honda has now made its Honda Sensing suite of advanced safety technology standard on all but the CR-V’s least expensive trim level. It comes with an automatic accident-warning and brake-to-avoid system, lane departure warning with active lane keeping assist and a similar road departure mitigation system, and adaptive cruise control. All of that comes standard for as little as $26,695 on the front-wheel-drive CR-V EX. Toyota, Subaru, and now Honda are the only ones offering these advanced safety features at either low cost or as standard equipment on the majority of their models’ trim levels, and should be applauded for it.
Nitpicks. It’s difficult to fault the CR-V for much, so here’s a grab bag of small things that might annoy you. Kudos to Honda for adding a physical volume button to the CR-V’s touchscreen infotainment system, but its presence makes the absence of a physical tuning knob on the right side of the screen as annoying as not having a volume knob was last year. Also, the all-digital display behind the steering wheel has no view showing classic analog gauges. All you get is a sweeping digital tach across the top and your speed represented as a number in the center; nostalgia is dead inside the CR-V. Yeah, that’s pretty much it.
Busy design. Looks are always subjective, but Honda’s designs are slowly transitioning from classically handsome to complex and overwrought. You may love it, but the CR-V’s new look is a step backwards compared to the last generation that evolved over time into a great-looking shape. This new skin is a mess of a creases, curves, and crimped sheet metal that looks like it might be one of Michael Bay’s missing Transformers.
Photos: John Neff / Motor1.com