Several years ago I wrote about the Honda CR-V saying that while it was a great SUV in just about every area, it was a hard car to love. That’s because it was too smooth, too good. It just didn’t evoke much emotion.
Enter the newly redesigned 2017 Honda CR-V. And while it hasn’t exactly gone off the emotional edge, it’s definitely reaching into the feelings zone. Everything about the CR-V is better and frankly it’s just a little more likable. That’s important because the last generation CR-V was already a big seller for Honda. In 2016 one-quarter of all Hondas sold in the US were CR-Vs. In fact, according to Honda, the CR-V has been the best-selling SUV in America for the past 20 years, with total U.S. sales of nearly 4 million units since it was introduced in 1997. So when contemplating changes the company brass was likely holding its collective breath. They can let it go. The new CR-V is just fine.
Let’s start with the outside. Honda styling hasn’t exactly been cutting edge over the last 15 years. Attractive? Yes. Forward thinking? Not really. This latest version of the CR-V takes a solid step into the current generation of automotive design. You could argue that this body style may even be a few years late, but at least it’s finally here.
The new look isn’t a radical departure, just a fresh restyling. Up front CR-V owners will be very comfortable with the same upward-sweep of the headlights. What they’ll also see is more bling with more chrome in the grille. And if it’s bling they want, they’ll love the rear hatch. A chrome bar stretches across and connects nicely with the bolder taillights. The side of the CR-V has a little more contouring as well which gives it a nicer look. Once again, it’s not a whole new direction, just a great update. Incidentally, Honda says the new body is more aerodynamic which will likely help fuel mileage.
The interior is a nice upgrade as well. It’s funny how one little thing can make a big difference, but that’s the case with the CR-V’s new center arm-rest. There’s a reason most manufacturers build them this way, and it was nice to see Honda jump in with something that does what driver’s actually want.
I like the new instrument display. Unlike some displays on other types of cars, the CR-V’s readout is constant. But that’s fine. It does just about everything you’ll need. There’s also a video display mounted on the dash. While it’s not the best integration I’ve seen, it’s definitely well done. The new Honda interface controls are better than the older version. The usual cluster of climate control buttons are immediately below. There’s a standard mechanical shift underneath that. None of that fancy fly-by-wire electronic stuff.
Under the hood, the Honda has given the CR-V its first turbocharged engine. It’s a 1.5 liter direct fuel injection four-cylinder good for 190 horsepower. Your other option is a 2.4 liter non-turbo engine that actually delivers only 184 horsepower. The smaller turbo engine on the all-wheel-drive model gets 27 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway for a combined total of 30 mpg. The non-turbo gets slightly less. During my week with the CR-V I didn’t do quite that well, but then mine was strictly city driving.
The only downside for me is the continuously variable transmission. They work great, but they aren’t exactly fun. Stepping on the throttle doesn’t give you very much kick. Granted, it’s only 190 horsepower, but CVT trannies never seem to be very enjoyable. But then, most folks simply want transportation not hard-core performance and the CR-V will deliver just fine.
The CR-V now also has the Honda Sensing suite of safety and driver-assisting technologies as standard equipment on EX and higher trims. High tech goodies like Road Departure Mitigation, Adaptive Cruise Control and Rear Cross Traffic Monitor will help keep you safe.
My test car was the Touring model with the 1.5 turbocharged engine. Nicely equipped, the final sticker price was $34,595.
The world of compact SUVs is very crowded. It’s impressive that the CR-V has dominated so well for so long. With a fresh look for 2017, it’s likely that Honda’s CR-V is poised to keep that string alive for years to come.