Honda CR-V — Making an excellent crossover better

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Jump inside a 2017 Honda CR-V compact crossover and relish in the very comfortable interior, and then take it for a couple of spins around the block and you will understand why it has become the best selling SUV in the country. The CR-V has been made over for the 2017 model year and Honda has done a creditable job leaving in place the things that made the last generation an exceptional vehicle while adding new engines, technology and infotainment features.

In addition to bringing the styling up to segment leader status, Honda has added a new 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, modernized the dashboard that includes an updated touchscreen that features — a standing ovation for Honda engineers — a real volume control knob.

While the fifth-generation CR-V retains the basic look of the outgoing model stylists have designed a new aggressive front fascia, reshaped the rear windows, and added muscular-looking haunches at the rear of the vehicle. The 16-inch wheels are history, and now the CR-V comes with either 17-or 18-inch wheels. A rear spoiler and LED daytime running lights are now standard equipment.

The CR-V, which has racked up more than 4 million sales since its introduction in 1997, is once again built on a platform shared by the new Civic, but it's slightly larger in every key dimension. The wheelbase has grown from 103.1 inches to 104.7 inches, length is up 1.2 inches to 180.6 and the width has grown 1.4 inches. This has created more cargo and passenger space. Luggage capacity behind the seats is now 39 cubic feet, two more than the previous generation, and folding the seatbacks flat results in 76 cubic feet. An adjustable load floor can be configured to provide a flat floor.

Perhaps the key new feature is the addition of Honda's first turbocharged engine in years, the same engine found in the current-generation Civic, but with slightly lower compression ratio and higher boost pressure to generate 190 horsepower and 179 pound-feet of torque. Horsepower is up five and torque has increased by 2 pound-feet over the top engine in the outgoing CR-V, and a healthy 16 horsepower and 17 lb-ft more than the current Civic.

The base LX comes with a 2.4-liter four cylinder making 184 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque while the other trim levels (EX, EX-L and Touring) award the buyer with the turbocharged engine.

The engine size is commiserate with most vehicles in the segment, providing the CR-V with capable performance through a well-done continuously variable transmission, measured at 7.6 seconds from 0-to-60 and 89 mph at 16 seconds in the quarter mile. But Honda does have something to brag about — gas mileage, which tops almost all comers. The front-driven CR-V is EPA-rated at 28-mpg city, 34-highway and 30-overall. All-wheel drive also carries a commendable rating of 27/33/29. And all require only the cheaper regular gas. If you opt for the base 2.4-liter engine, mileage is slightly worse.

The new crossover is very composed on the road with great on-center feel. A new variable-ratio electrically assisted power steering setup offers quick response times and the proper levels of assist when maneuvering in tight quarters. While not in sports car territory, the new CR-V actually has some sportiness about it when the roads become winding, displaying less body roll than most in the segment. At the same time the cabin is relatively quiet at highway speeds and the ride is pleasant.

Honda has created a more stylish interior while maintaining the outgoing CR-V's excellent ergonomics and ease of use. Interior materials are generally first class with some areas of hard plastic, but not nearly as much as the outgoing model. CR-V also comes with a deep storage well, a sliding tray and expanded door panel storage.

The base LX starting at $24,985 including destination charge comes with a solid roster of equipment including full power accessories, LED running lights, automatic climate control, cruise control, five-inch color LCD screen and a four-speaker audio system with Bluetooth and USB connectivity.

As you go through the trims, equipment increases. For instance with EX you get keyless entry and start, heated front seats, sunroof, blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control. EX-L brings such things as a programmable-height power liftgate and eight-speaker audio system. Navigation is an option on the EX-L. All-wheel drive is available on all trims but the LX for $1,300. The top-trim Touring AWD brings virtually everything Honda has to offer for $34,595 including destination. That was the price of our test vehicle.

Base price: $24,985; as driven, $34,595
Engine: 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 190 @ 5,600 rpm
Torque: 179 foot-pounds @ 2,000 rpm
Transmission: continuously variable
Drive: all wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 104.7 inches
Length: 180.6
Curb weight: 3,512 pounds
Turning circle: 37.4 feet
Luggage capacity: 39.2 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 75.8 cubic feet
Towing capacity: 1,500 pounds
Fuel capacity: 14 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 27 city, 33 highway, 29 overall
0-60: 7.6 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Kia Sorento

The Good
• Roomy interior with large cargo capacity
• Excellent ride quality
• Thrifty turbocharged engine that delivers good performance

The Bad
• Base engine weaker, thirstier than turbo engine

The Ugly
• Still no tuning knob for radio