The Honda CR-V was Canada’s best-selling SUV in each of 2015’s final two months, just as it was in America in seven of the last eight years. (We’re using the term “SUV” loosely here in order to avoid constant delineation.) Canadian and U.S. CR-V volume increased to previously unseen levels in 2014.
• Bigger inside than outside
• LKAS is a wonder
• Nimble but stable
• Ride quality
• 185-bhp is sufficient
• Aggravating touchscreen
• Irritating buttons beside touchscreen
• Not a looker
• Real-world fuel consumption
• More power wouldn’t go amiss
North American consumers look favourably upon Honda’s reliability reputation. The CR-V is also a long-established nameplate in a relatively fresh category. But there must be numerous other reasons for the CR-V’s wild success.
More specifically, there must have been numerous other reasons at the tail end of 2014, as a refreshed 2015 CR-V like the one Honda Canada sent to our driveway began to outsell not only all other SUVs with increasingly large margins but also all passenger cars, as well.
Clearly tens of thousands of consumers are willing to overlook the CR-V’s faults, few though there may be.
EPA Hwy: 33 mpg NRCAN OEE City: 9.1 L/100km NRCAN OEE Hwy: 7.2 L/100km Observed: 23.8 mpg Observed: 9.9 L/100km
* Canadian dollars, includes $1795 in fees.
AWD CR-Vs start at $30,145.
MPG fuel economy ratings from the
Environmental Protection Agency.
L/100km ratings from the Canadian
Office of Energy Efficiency’s new
5-cycle testing for MY2015 vehicles.
The CR-V’s new continuously variable transmission, implemented surprisingly well alongside the a 185-horsepower 2.4L four-cylinder, periodically allows revs to fall so low that an unnecessary amount of vibration enters the cabin.
This Touring-trim CR-V is the full meal deal, but it lacks any form of power adjustment for the passenger seat.
The interior, particularly at this lofty CAD $38,335 price tag, is mostly inoffensive but offers luxury only in terms of equipment, not in its materials or design flair. And the interior can certainly offend, with Lilliputian buttons accompanying a touchscreen which failed on all but one occasion to come to life before the five-minute mark of a morning drive.
Speaking subjectively, the CR-V is not the prettiest girl next door – Paris’s Place de l’Étoile doesn’t have as many intersecting lines as the CR-V’s front end. We’re also left to wonder why Honda hires wheel designers whose efforts wouldn’t be good enough for Pontiac circa 2001.
However, the CR-V is near perfect where it counts. It’s less than 180 inches long but packs 2873 litres of completely usable passenger volume into the tidy package. Rear seat passengers enjoy a flat floor that makes three-across trips a distinct possibility. Rear seats up, the CR-V provides 1054 litres of cargo capacity. The Ford Escape is one inch shorter than the CR-V, bumper to bumper, but offers 8% less cargo volume, 3% less passenger space, and 4% less rear legroom. It feels like the dimensional differences are more distinguishable than those figures suggest, especially aft of the rear seat.
For young families who might have sought out an Accord in a previous era, the 2015 CR-V’s space efficiency, easily accessed seat-folding levers, low load floor, and semi-lofty ride height form a winning ticket.
Fortunately, it drives nicely, as well. There is nothing sporty here, although the steering is well weighted and the brake pedal is nicely modulated. The CR-V accelerates more swiftly than you might expect for a 3642-pound high-rider: Car & Driver says 0-60 mph takes 8.2 seconds. Especially as revs rise to a more Honda-like level, the CR-V doesn’t require more power, but don’t take that as an indication that the CR-V will adequately satisfy your urge to scoot up off-ramps like your fellow hockey parents in their Santa Fe Sport 2.0Ts and Forester XTs. It won’t.
The CR-V may not ride quite as sweetly for MY2015 as it did before the refresh, but overall refinement is still the name of its game. Of greater consequence is the fact that the 2015 CR-V continues to marry subdued ride quality to a nimble chassis. Honda engineers crafted an SUV that feels decidedly compact in routine driving and one which remains rather level-headed through corners, seemingly treading the middle ground between the mature Nissan Rogue and the enthusiastic Mazda CX-5.
2015 CR-V Tourings include most of the features from Honda’s storehouse: all-wheel-drive, navigation, LaneWatch (right side only, of course), keyless access, perforated leather seating, power tailgate, sunroof, and a bevy of safety abbreviations from ABS, EBD, and VSE to CMBS, ACC, LDW, and LKAS, the final being a semi-autonomous steering function that helps to reduce driver fatigue on long highway stints.
CR-Vs start at $27,785 in LX trim. All-wheel-drive adds $2360 to the price of an LX-trim CR-V but power is sent to all four wheels in each of the upper trim levels: the $31,685 SE, $33,685 EX, $35,685 EX-L, and the $38,335 Touring. We averaged 9.9 L/100km over the course of a week with the CR-V Touring AWD, which tips the scales with 145 extra pounds compared with the base all-wheel-drive CR-V. Cold temperatures, winter tires, frequent snow coverage, and a disproportionate amount of time spent in the city caused the CR-V’s observed fuel economy to come up short of the official Natural Resources Canada’s 9.1 L/100km city rating.
The CR-V is certainly not the most exciting small utility vehicle on the market today, nor is it the only one capable of cramming a shocking amount of humankind and stuff into a small space. But it does most things better than most of its potential competitors. There are a couple of niggling issues Honda could quickly resolve, but clearly no issues Honda needs to resolve in order to keep the CR-V at the top of the sales leaderboard.