2015 Honda CR-V

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — Did you know that the Honda CR-V is the world’s most popular SUV? It’s also the top seller in Honda’s lineup of vehicles worldwide. It’s easy to understand why the CR-V is the most popular SUV in this country where SUVs reign, but many people in the rest of the world like “cars” far more than SUVs or trucks. Perhaps Honda’s success is attributed to the CR-V being just the right size — not too big or too small — and it behaves more like a car than a rugged sport utility or conventional truck.

After driving the 2015 CR-V we came away convinced that this carlike crossover is indeed an ideal passenger vehicle, be it for single people, professionals, families or retired couples. It just does everything right with no foibles. What’s more it comes with Honda’s great reputation for reliability and quality.

At first glance you might think the 2015 CR-V has received not much more than a minor refreshing of the current model, which was first introduced in 2012. It certainly looks like that from the outside, except for a more stylistic nose job with different shaped headlights. New wheels and chrome trim on the rear tailgate give it a more up market look as well.

But Honda’s “major mid-cycle refreshing” has brought a substantial number of changes under the skin and inside. For example, apparently one of the major criticisms voiced by CR-V owners was the lack of an air vent for rear seat passengers. Since air conditioning is standard on all trim levels that problem has been remedied by adding dual vents behind the center console. Since the whole center console had to be redesigned for the air vents Honda engineers increased the size of the storage console and improved the armrest.

Other changes inside include sliding sun visors and availability of a 7-inch touch screen display, 10-way power and heated driver’s seat, and on the new top-of-the- line Touring a power tailgate. We also found the interior to be noticeably more refined than some of the CR-Vs direct competitors with a nice soft touch finish to the dashboard and better seat materials.

The 2015 CR-V offers several of the advanced safety and driver assistive features in the so-named Honda Sensing suite in the new Touring model. They include Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Lane Keeping Assist (LKAS) and Honda LaneWatch. Until now most of these systems have only been offered in expensive luxury cars so it is good to see them moving down into more affordable cars.

We were particularly enamored with the LaneWatch system that’s standard in all but the base LX model. A small camera in the passenger side door mirror displays a view of the right side on the center console touch screen. It took a while to become accustomed to looking at the screen instead of the right side mirror but once it became second nature it definitely lets you keep your eyes on the road without having to turn your head as much.

All CR-Vs are powered by a revised 2.4-liter direct-injected i-VTEC four-cylinder engine that has the same power output (185 hp) but an 11 percent increase in torque (181 lb-ft). The engine is coupled to a newly designed CVT transmission and Honda calls the combination Earth Dreams Technology. There’s even a logo on the engine cover.

The improvements have lead to a considerable improvement in fuel economy. The 2015 EPA ratings are 27 City, 34 mpg Highway and 29 mpg combined — an improvement of four mpg in the city and three mpg on the highway. If you opt for the all wheel drive version economy only drops one mpg, which is not bad considering the advantages of AWD.

The majority of drivers will have no complaints about the transmission as it works smoothly and delivers better fuel economy than a regular automatic transmission. We only found it obtrusive on a couple of occasions when we accelerated hard on a freeway and the engine seemed to “race ahead” of the transmission.

Despite the relatively long list of improvements Honda has only increased the price of the 2015 CR-V, compared to the 2014 models, by about $200. In fact it says when you consider items, such as LaneWatch that are now standard (except on the LX), and standard rearview cameras; the purchase price of a 2015 model is lower.

The price range stretches from $23,320 (plus $790 shipping) for the base LX model with 2WD to $31,520 for the Touring with 2WD. AWD adds $1200 to the price at each trim level. The EX is the most popular model and it starts at $25,420.

Honda says more than half of CR-V buyers opt for AWD models, which makes sense since most of the country has bad weather sometime every year.

Overall the CR-V is a pleasant car to drive. The steering is precise, the ride is good and it handles well. Having said that it is not a sports sedan, nor does it have a lot of character. It’s not a car that a driving enthusiast would hanker after. But it’s a car that just does everything right for the majority of buyers who want a car – sorry SUV – that looks smart, yet is unpretentious and gets the job done.

— John Rettie and Ted Biederman