The Honda CR-V was the best-selling crossover in America last year, but most of those sales happened before the all-new 2017 model hit showrooms in December. Things have only gotten better since then. It’s now firmly supplanted the Accord as Honda’s top model and finds itself vying for the title of Best-Selling Vehicle That’s Not a Pickup.
There’s good reason for this.
There wasn’t much wrong with the CR-V, but now it has more room, more efficiency and more refinement than any other vehicle in the class. The CR-V’s excellence is such that trying to pin down how it can be so superior to the others is like trying to understand the concept of an infinite universe.
It is. Just deal, and bask in the glory.
I’m speaking objectively. You’ll have to decide if you like the way it looks. The CR-V is instantly recognizable as a crossover, but with a muscular style that suggests it’s been to the gym. Turns out it is fit and trim.
Despite its bulked-up look and dimensions, it weighs a little less than the old one. It’s also the most powerful CR-V yet — if you step up from the entry-level $24,985 LX model, with its tried and true 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, to a $27,635 EX, which comes with the CR-V’s first turbocharged motor: a 1.5-liter four-cylinder rated at 190 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. That’s not the most available in the segment, but it’s plenty, and its fuel economy rules the roost at 30 mpg combined with front-wheel-drive, which is better than the sleeker Honda Accord sedan can do, and 29 mpg with all-wheel-drive, which the Accord doesn’t have.
The tiny engine even sounds pretty good, thanks to electronic noise-massaging wizardry, which also helps give the CR-V the quietest cabin this side of an Acura showroom. The interior is Honda’s best-looking, too. With lots of soft surfaces and convincing wood and metal finishes, it outshines the larger, more expensive Pilot. Unlike in many crossovers today, the CR-V’s rear seats can’t slide back and forth to divvy up leg and cargo room as needed, which seems like an oversight until you realize there’s more than enough of each to make the feature unnecessary.
The EX, EX-L and Touring trim levels have a 7-inch touch screen for an infotainment system that’s equipped with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, but its most impressive feature is the reintroduction of a volume knob. It’s literally a small thing, but the last CR-V didn’t have one. You had to rub your finger back and forth on the screen to change the volume. This never worked right and was as distracting as it was infuriating. No one liked it, except maybe the person who designed it, although I wonder about that. The fact that Honda reverted to old-school tech indicates that it takes constructive criticism well. (Here’s some more: Next time, bring back the tuning knob, too.)
Turbo CR-Vs also come with a safety boost provided by the Honda Sensing package of autonomous driving aids. This includes a self-steering lane-keeping system, adaptive cruise control and pedestrian-detecting automatic emergency braking. I suggest applying the brakes for yourself sometime because they are as responsive as the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show champion, and you’re the one that gets the treat.
Do it on a twisty road, where the CR-V shines brighter than a small crossover should. The steering is quick, the suspension keeps the body in check while soaking up the worst the pavement can throw at it, the continuously variable transmission works as well as one with fixed gears and the view out of the windows is as expansive as that universe you’re still trying to figure out.
Family car shopping is a much simpler concept. If you need one, but not three rows of seats, buy the CR-V like everyone else.
You won’t feel so alone anymore.
2017 Honda CR-V AWD Touring
Base price: $24,985
As tested: $34,595
Type: 5-passenger, 4-door utility
Engine: 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Power: 190 hp, 184 lb-ft torque
Transmission: Continuously variable automatic
MPG: 27 city/33 hwy