The category that was birthed by this vehicle and the Toyota RAV4 a couple of decades ago has grown to become one of the biggest selling classes of vehicles. When the first crossovers started driving down our streets, many pooh-poohed them, giggling at their cutesy-wutesy looks and seeming frailty. I mean, we didn’t know any better, right? We were used to proper SUVs with the underpinnings of trucks, and big engines, and off-roadable bits and pieces. That’s what everyone drove back then. But as Honda and Toyota realized, that’s not what everyone actually needed. Nope, most of us don’t need anything more than a crossover, and that’s why we’ve seen this category grow exponentially, to become what it is today.
Honda refreshed the CR-V for 2015, with a few changes inside and out, and under the hood as well.
Click on any picture to see a larger version.
Honda claims the refreshed exterior gives the CR-V a tougher look, but I’d say that’s a bit rich. It does get restyled front and rear fascias, both of which serve to give the vehicle a bit of a wider-looking stance. Tough isn’t the word I’d use, but it certainly looks better. The new grille is flanked by cool LED daytime running lights and projector-beam headlights. My top-of-the-line Touring trim came with big 18-inch rims, shod with 225/60-sized tires.
Getting into the CR-V is no problem – it has a keyless entry system and it’s a nice, comfortable step-in height. I thought that the materials, while nice, felt a bit behind the curve – there are acres of hard, black plastics. Thankfully, the fit and finish is good and the woodgrain trim does break things up a bit and it looks nice. But it doesn’t look luxurious. The front seats are heated and crafted of nice perforated leather (the driver’s side is power-adjustable and has memory settings). I found the seat cushion a bit hard for me, but overall, they’re comfortable and well-bolstered.
The CR-V has two screens. Buried in the top of the dash is a smaller information screen that can display a bunch of different things, and front and centre is a 7-inch touch screen with pinch and swipe functions. It looks after your media, navigation, phone, vehicle settings and fuel economy history. The user interface is a bit quirky and trying at times, starting with Honda’s insistence on making you tap the “Yes, I understand that the touchscreen is a dangerous thing and it could distract me and I could die” confirmation button every single time you start the vehicle. If you don’t, it shuts the screen down. I’m not kidding. Also, the tiny hard buttons on the side of the screen are impossible to use without taking your eyes off the road. Thankfully, most of them are replicated with steering wheel controls. That said, the screen is easy to read and the touch functions are quite responsive. The CR-V’s upgraded 7-speaker audio system plays a wealth of sources and sounds great.
The Touring trim gets a wealth of driver assistance technology for 2015. Seriously, it’s loaded! Collision mitigation braking (which works very well – I’ll leave my story at that…), a lane departure warning system and active lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, Honda’s cool LaneWatch blind-spot camera and a multi-angle rearview camera make for a full suite of goodies to keep you and your occupants safe.
There’s also a nice tilt and slide sunroof overhead.
Rear seating is definitely one of the CR-V’s strong areas. You’ll find a spacious back seat, with good head room and leg room. Add the flat floor and the fact that the rear seats recline, and you’ve got a roomy and flexible space. There’s no plug for charging stuff (there should be), but the middle seatback does fold down to become a nice armrest with cupholders. Our three kids fit back there just fine, leg room and width-wise. I appreciate that Honda sculpted the back of the centre console, taking it out of the way of the centre passenger’s foot room. If you’re putting children’s seats in, there are two sets of LATCH anchors. And when you don’t have rear passengers, you can fold the rear headrests down so they’re not in your rear view.
You will find plenty of useful spaces to put your stuff in the CR-V. The centre console features configurable cupholders and a bunch of little organizer trays, and there’s a storage bin under the adjustable armrest lid. But the real winner is the trunk. You get a power tailgate in the Touring model, and when you pop it, you’ll start with a large 1054 litre trunk. We loved the delightfully low load floor, which makes moving your groceries in and out of the vehicle a breeze. Fold the 60/40-split rear seats down, and the trunk grows to an almost incomprehensible 2007 litres, which is bigger than most of the other vehicles out there, even those in the larger vehicle classes. It’s outstanding, to be honest. There’s a retractable, removable tonneau cover to keep your stuff in place and away from prying eyes – even those that manage to peer through the standard privacy glass.
Under the Hood
Honda dropped a tweaked 2.4-litre motor in the engine bay. It still makes 185 horsepower at 6400 RPM, but cranks out 181 lb.ft of torque now, and at a lower 3900 RPM. The real news is the CVT (continuously-variable transmission) which the 4-cylinder is paired with. Of course, all the upper trim levels are all-wheel drive. Honda rates the CR-V at 9.2 L/100 km (26 US mpg) in the city and 7.2 L/100 km (33 US mpg) on the highway. We ended up with an average of 10.7 L/100 km (22 US mpg) after a rough week of heavy commuting through snow, and a couple of freeway sprints. While this is reasonable, I’d hoped for a bit better. C’mon, Earth Dreams technology, do your thing!
One of the first things I noticed when I got underway is the seating position – you sit high up and have a commanding view of road ahead of you. On that note, visibility out of the rest of the vehicle is great too.
Depress the spicy red push-start ignition button and the engine fires up. This engine paired with the CVT is a good combination. Honda has figured out how to make CVTs unobtrusive in their operation, and for the most part, it’s an intelligent drivetrain. There’s a Sport mode, which really picks things up a notch in terms of responsiveness, and there’s also an Econ mode, which dulls the car’s drivetrain a bit in the name of fuel economy – but it remains drivable. I found the CR-V’s engine/transmission combination was suited to a utilitarian driving style. If you don’t need supernatural get-up-and-go, you’ll find the CR-V to have good acceleration off the line and enough jam to get you comfortably from one place to another. It’s not a lot of power, and the little CUV has packed on a few pounds over the years, tipping the scales at 1652 kg (3642 lb) these days. Just don’t expect tire-scorching runs from it, and you will be happy.
The CR-V’s suspension is surprisingly firm and definitely ends up on the sportier side of the spectrum, which might make it a bit harsh for some people. It’s not rough, but it’s certainly on the firm side of comfortable and I’d recommend taking an extended road test if you’re considering it to be sure you’re OK with that. Handling is pretty good – yes, it’s tall and yes, there’s some body roll but it’s a great vehicle for cruising around town and competently bites into corners when you ask it to.
I found the CR-V to be on the noisy side once we got on the highway. There’s quite a bit of wind noise at higher speeds, and the suspension wasn’t super-quiet over bumpy, rutted streets – which is basically every street in Edmonton in the winter. In addition, our entire family noticed that the climate control fan was really loud. Basically if it’s running, it’s noticeably noisy. None of these things are intrusive, but I couldn’t help but notice them.
While some of the changes and additional tech are welcome here, the CR-V is essentially the same platform from the previous years. And that’s a good thing. Honda has done a great job distilling what most people need from their vehicle (reliability, utility, economy) and put that into the CR-V, regardless of which trim level you choose. The Touring doesn’t come cheap at nearly $38,000 before taxes, but in the end, you can get the same interior and cargo space, all-wheel drive capability and drivetrain in lesser trims, for much less money. Another way to look at it is the Touring is a reasonably priced way to get an incredible amount of safety and driver assistance technology as well as luxurious touches like leather seating – and still get all the other goodies you wanted in the CR-V.
WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was quite high. She said the driving experience was “easy” for her – getting it in and out of the garage, parking and just getting from point A to point B was no problem. She also loved the size of the trunk and how easy it was to load up.
I have been a fan of the current generation of CR-V, and the 2015 is no exception. It can get pricey, and for that Touring-trim money, some might expect a slightly more upscale interior. But overall, you end up getting a lot for your money and resale value should be very high too. I wouldn’t hesitate recommending the CR-V if you’re shopping the mid-size crossover class – where it seems many of us are shopping these days.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Honda Canada.
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Pricing: 2015 Honda CR-V
Base price (Touring trim): $35,790
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $37,726