There’s no question why the CR-V is a best-seller. It’s a fantastic vehicle.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
Pricing: 2020 Honda CR-V
Base price (Sport trim): $35,205
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested, not including freight and taxes: $37,145
Honda’s CR-V has long battled with Toyota’s RAV4 over the best-seller crown in this category. Although Toyota is the perennial winner, the CR-V is not an also-ran here – it sells in droves and is an outstanding vehicle in its own right.
The CR-V’s familiar shape is aging well in my opinion. Nothing offensive, nothing weird, but also not too boring. There are some more aggressive touches, such as lower air dam in the front, the flattened wheel arches and the sharp creases on the hood that stretch all the way into the A-pillar. Out back, the dual exhaust tips look great and I think the vertical and horizontal tail light signature is cool.
Those 19-inch Shark Gray wheels, exclusive to this Sport trim, shod with fat 235/55-sized tires stand out nicely, as does the Radiant Red paint colour.
The cabin materials are OK – many of the soft-touch plastics are pretty much the next thing to hard plastics and there is a lot of hard plastic to be found. One thing that bothered me (as someone who rests his right knee against the centre console while driving) was that there is a “pad” sticking out of the console, but it’s still hard plastic!
The heated front seats – upholstered in fabric and leatherette – are very well bolstered and highly comfortable, even for long road trips – we know because we took one in them.
Ahead of you, and behind the fat and grippy (read: awesome!) steering wheel, is a configurable digital dash.
The 7-inch touchscreen is standard Honda fare – it’s getting a bit long in the tooth and isn’t the most beautiful user interface, but it still works fine. Apple CarPlay and Android are nicely integrated here. The sound system is decent, but not awesome.
Below the screen is the dual-zone climate control system and below that is a kind chin that juts out, which holds the gear selector. There’s a standard size sunroof overhead.
The CR-V’s driver assistance technology, in this trim, is very complete. You get a back-up camera, forward collision warning and collision mitigation, lane departure warning and lane keeping assist, road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control and Honda’s interesting LaneWatch which uses a side-mounted camera and shows you what’s next to your car when you signal right, versus a passive sonar-based system. I believe Honda is phasing LaneWatch out – it works fine, but always felt like an answer to a question nobody asked.
I have to call out the back-up camera’s resolution – it’s is one of the worst I’ve seen in a long time and looks like Honda is using a potato to capture this video feed. Sorry Honda, but that’s not acceptable these days.
Back passengers are treated to a very spacious area. I’m 5’10” and had 6 inches of leg room and 4 inches of head room to spare. The seats offer one recline position and overall the space was great for all three of our kids, one being a 16 year-old now, thanks to the wide seats and almost-flat floor.
Rear passengers get two USB plugs as well as adjustable air vents, the middle seatback folds down to become an armrest with two cupholders and the door bins are worthy of mention for their large size.
There are two and half sets of LATCH connectors for child seats – one set on each side, and the extra anchor in the middle that allows for a wider booster seat.
There is a rubberized bin big enough to hold a mid-sized phone at the front of the console, along with 2 USB plugs. There are two square cupholders, which I love because they work for my chocolate milks! Behind those on the console is a very deep storage bin, with a 12V plug, and it can be accessed by sliding a tray forward or backward. That’s nice because it will hide what is underneath. And at the back of the console is an armrest, which flips up and also allows you to access that same bin. It sounds complicated but works well in practice.
The trunk, accessible by a power lift gate, is enormous at 1110L. It is well proportioned space too – we went on a long weekend road trip with our entire family and had cargo room to spare.
I loved the adjustable floor height, allowing you to maximize the space by using the lowest setting or to make a completely flat floor when the rear seats are folded. Those rear seats split 60/40 and fold down (either at the seats or remotely from the trunk) to increase cargo space to 2145L if you need the extra capacity. Excellent versatility! There’s also a removable, retractable tonneau cover.
Under the Hood
The CR-V is motivated by Honda’s ubiquitous 1.5L turbocharged 4-cylinder. It’s a stout little thing, cranking out 190HP and 179 lb.ft of torque at a low 2,000 RPM. All CR-Vs get a continuously-variable transmission (CVT) and all but the entry-level LX trim get all-wheel drive. This combination is rated at 8.7/7.4 L/100 km (city/highway).
Interestingly, we averaged a somewhat high 8.2 L/100 km – high, because our week with the CR-V included 800 km of highway driving.
The CR-V has excellent power delivery from a standing start, and that get-up-and-go makes it feel faster than it really is – which is great for city driving. It also does a decent job on the highway when you need to pass – it certainly has enough power to hold its won. The CVT sends the engine revs soaring when you step on it to pass, and you end up with quite a noisy racket for a bit as the vehicle gets to the speed you need. Other than that, things are very quiet inside. We were very impressed with the overall refinement – other than the engine noise under heavy throttle.
You can select a Sport mode using the gear selector – it definitely serves to make things feel more responsive and sporty. There are no paddles to change “gears” manually. Conversely, you can also choose ECON mode which makes things a tad sluggish, but certainly remains drivable.
The CR-V’s handling is predictable and competent, but this is one of the least sporty-feeling Hondas I’ve driven in quite a while. That’s not necessarily a strike against it, as the focus is most certainly on comfort here. But know that it’s spongier and more top-heavy than you might expect from a Honda, so you’ll find quite a bit of body roll around corners and curves. The payoff is an absolutely sublime ride, and again, that remarkable refinement you feel throughout the vehicle while driving benefits from this.
Visibility out of the CR-V is mostly good, with a nice high driving position – the one exception is that the view out the back window is a bit constricted.
If you need to tow stuff, the CR-V can haul 1,500 pounds (680 kg) behind it. And the remote starter is a nice touch.
WAF (Wife Approval Factor) was very high. She liked the CR-V’s looks, how it drove and how spacious it was.
I really like the CR-V. It has all the power it needs, it’s efficient, comfortable, modern and extraordinarily spacious for passengers and their stuff alike. We found it very easy to live with day in and day out, as well as for a nice road trip to the mountains.
It should be on anyone’s shopping list looking at small crossovers.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Honda Canada.
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