Honda’s fifth generation CR-V compact SUV makes its debut in the form of the 2017 model, which hits showrooms across the country in December, 2016. We spent a few days in Victoria, British Columbia test driving it and here are our six takeaways from what’s sure to be a hot seller in this hot and competitive market.
1. FROM BLAND TO GRAND
Honda is vying to have the CR-V be the segment leader in units on the road and while they’ve done a tremendous job in staying near the top, they haven’t quite got there yet. Part of what’s held them back was the bland styling of the previous CR-V models. They were good looking, just not great looking. Also, due to the conservative styling, basic performance, plain cabin experience and moderate value, past CR-Vs got lost in the race to the top. Fortunately, Honda realized this and corrected all of the above points.
For 2017's new fifth generation offering, they’ve taken design cues from the Acura luxury division (the front end is absolutely gorgeous) and it's now got a premium look and feel to it. It’s also taller, longer and wider than the outgoing model by a small margin. The fenders look stronger, the design lines are elegant and there’s definitely an athletic appearance that previous models were lacking. The rear lights now include both horizontal and vertical flowing lines and the standard LED lights offer a classy touch that’s reminiscent of the luxurious Volvo V90. The interior takes a huge leap forward with a modern design, premium feel and offering plenty of space both up front and in the rear seats.
Not quite the “Ugly Duckling” story, the new CR-V has made plenty of small changes that make the entire appearance markedly better, which was desperately needed.
2. ONE ENGINE TO RULE THEM ALL
The 2017 CR-V will feature its first ever turbocharged engine via a 1.5-liter DOHC, direct-injected and turbocharged in-line 4-cylinder rated at 190 horsepower and 179 lb-ft. of torque.
After racking up a couple hundred clicks through the winding roads of Victoria, I can attest that this new engine is capable, responsive, and just what the CR-V needs to push its way to the top.
Even in Eco mode, the engine managed to handle the various inclines handily, even if there was a bit of higher revving at times. Flipping the centre-mounted gear shifter into Sport mode adds enough oomph to the driving experience that’s certainly noticeable to both the driver and passenger. Exercise caution when going from Drive to Sport as the Lower gear is but one notch away. If you’re too aggressive in popping the gear shift from an attempted D to S, you may hit L and put unnecessary stress on the engine.
Fuel economy for the AWD model rates at 8.7 city and 7.2 highway for L/100 km. I averaged an even 8.0 in combined driving through highway, city and rural routes with being both gentle and rough on the engine. Expect real world figures to be not too far off what the suggested ratings are.
3. HEY, KEEP IT DOWN BACK THERE!
Proving Honda's attention to detail, the 2017 CR-V now has fold-flat rear seats so you can fit more Swedish flat-packed furniture, suitcases, guitar amps (well, for me), and plenty of other items in the trunk. Cleverly, there’s a two level trunk height so that, according to Honda Canada, you can fit four full sized suitcases with the rear seats up. Looks like new CR-V drivers will double as airport limo drivers for friends and family. Cargo space registers at 39.2 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats up, or 75.8 with the second row folded, which is extremely competitive in this segment.
Another big change for this model is the Hands Free Power Tailgate, which is that “make a kicking motion beneath the car” technology that saves you from being an amateur juggler.
You’re also able to control the height at which the power tailgate rises. If you’ve got shorter arms or have a low garage or park underground with low ceilings, the 2017 CR-V allows you to select how far open the rear door goes with a simple touch of a button. Great work, Honda, for showing your utilitarian side for us functional folks!
4. IT’S WHAT’S INSIDE THAT COUNTS
The new interior is far more airy and spacious and since that’s where all your time is spent, Honda has made the cabin of the CR-V inviting and comfortable. Starting with the two rear seat USB ports (very smart move in our smartphone heavy world), best in class interior space and rear seat leg room, and very comfortable seats, the 2017 CR-V’s improved interior will turn heads for sure (especially since there’s now more room to actually turn your head). While I personally don’t think that faux wood trim belongs in any Honda, it’s offered on the Touring model and I’m sure some will in fact like it.
The centre console boasts an available seven-inch touchscreen that’s responsive and very easy to navigate. There’s a bit of wasted space on the ends of the touchscreen that I’d like to have seen used to bump up the screen size by at least an inch in total. The all-digital dashboard is quite easy to read and understand, and steering wheel controls include that wonderful “push or slide” volume control technology.
You can max out on the top-trim Touring model with a nine-speaker, 311 watt audio system. Even the base LX’s four-speaker system will do, seeing as Honda has strengthened the acoustic treatment to reduce outside road noise from bleeding in. Simply put, the new CR-V’s interior is smart, simple and stylish.
5. THE RETURN OF THE VOLUME (S)KNOB
Traditionalists, rejoice! After getting an earful from Canadians about having to use their finger to slide instead of turn to adjust the volume settings, Honda has brought back the volume knob that’s located on the bottom left corner of the infotainment screen, closest to the driver.
I get it - it’s a hassle to slide your finger if you want to move from 6 to 7 on the loudness scale once Stevie Ray Vaughn/Wonder/Nicks comes on and you end up going from 6 to 16. But if only there was another way to adjust the volume…oh right, there is! And it’s on the steering wheel, where at least one hand is at all times!
A vocal minority of people complained - well, made their views known - to Honda Canada about the missing knob (we’re all creatures of habit in a way, I suppose) and it’s now back for you to twist and turn to your heart's and ear's content.
That poor steering wheel volume control must have a slight complex, methinks.
6. EVERYBODY WANTS TO RULE THE WORLD
And Honda is no exception. They’re currently holding bragging rights for the following verticals:
- Compact car – Civic
- Midsize car – Accord
- Subcompact SUV – HR-V
- Premium Minivan – Odyssey
So it’s no surprise that they want to dethrone Toyota’s RAV4 for top spot in the compact SUV market in 2017. Given what they’ve done to boost the value and looks for the CR-V, they’re on the right track.
With the same four model trims (LX, EX EX-L, Touring) the price range moves from mid-$20K to a steak dinner for two at the Keg over $37K, plus whatever you tick off on the option sheet. There’s more value out of the box in the 2017 line up than the 2016 one and as such, prices have marginally increased on all four trims, with the largest lift being $1,000 on the top two models. Honda counters this by saying that there’s more than $3,500 of average net value added across the lineup, which is patriotically built in Canada.
With Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, front wiper de-icer, LED lights, the smart Honda Sensing safety technology standard on all All-Wheel-Drive options (almost all in the CR-V lineup) and remote start appearing as standard equipment, the CR-V shows off plenty of value-for-money.
They’ve even stepped it up with available heated rear seats and steering wheel, along with a massive panoramic sunroof to help draw potential buyers.
Honda has stepped up its game tremendously with the new CR-V and have positioned it as a high value for mid-sized price compact SUV. They score full marks from me on the exterior redesign (which was desperately needed), terrific fuel economy and a redesigned interior. If all goes according to plan, Honda will have prospective buyers not needing to hit the “T” portion of the alphabet for their compact automotive needs.
Enjoy the full gallery below: