The number of older Honda CRVs driving around in our midst is a testament to how durable these little sport-utes are. Many of them have been well cared for by their loyal owners and will rack up a lot of kilometres before being traded or passed along to another family member. For two decades Honda has been selling this model and now the fifth generation is on the road. The popular compact crossover market now has dozens of competitors but the CR-V is still one of the best for the money.
Yes, it's a bit mainstream in its execution but that's not so bad and clearly most owners like my sister-in-law are just fine with that because the CR-V is so good at its intended purpose. The revamp to the 2017 version is a little more daring in styling, added content, safety features and a new powerplant under the hood.
The 2.4 litre four-cylinder is history replaced by a turbocharged 1.5 litre four putting out 190 horses and 197 lb-ft of torque. The result is an engine that feels peppier than the old one, but not in extreme acceleration. Linked with a continuously variable transmission the combo works well and delivers good fuel consumption too. I got 8.4L/100 km buzzing around town. The CR-V is rated at 7.0L/100 km on the highway. It uses regular fuel.
My tester was a top-of-the-line Touring model priced to start at $38,090. Honda does offer the CR-V in a base, front-wheel-drive LX form ($26,690). After that, it's all-wheel drive; LX AWD ($29,490), EX ($32,990), EX-L ($35,290).
Honda engineers have revamped the CR-V's chassis to provide the crossover with a bit more agility in the turns. Up front is a typical MacPherson strut front suspension, with a new rear multi-link setup; both ends now with specially tuned low-friction dampers as well as solid rear stabilizer bars that promote flatter cornering. The dual-pinion, variable-ratio electric power steering has a solid weight to it and provides decent communication with the road.
Inside, the CR-V has some major improvements, starting with upgraded materials throughout. But what's really important is that the interior is roomy, even for us tall guys. I can set the front seat for me then jump into the back seat and still have sufficient legroom as well as headroom. Cargo space is plentiful, 1065 litres with the rear seats up; double that when they're dropped flat. By the way, the new CR-V isn't much larger overall than the previous model. Under-floor storage is available just behind the rear seats. There's also the two-position removable rear cargo floor, which can be set in a low position to open up even more space for taller, bulkier items.
For 2017 Honda has added to the usual standard safety and driver-assistive technologies to include road departure mitigation and adaptive cruise control (with low-speed follow). Other noteworthy features include; remote engine start, dual-zone climate control, electric parking brake, rear USB charging ports, front passenger seat with four-way power adjustment and driver's seat with eight-way power adjustment and four-way power lumbar support.
The Touring edition's heated front and rear seats, along with a heated steering wheel all get a passing mark. The heated seats really work well, and not just for winter I might add. The heaters provide enough warmth to ease sore lower back muscles.
On the downside, not much to grumble about except for the fuel filler door release — down low near the brake pedal. Also annoying to me was the design of the digital instrument panel especially for speed readout. Designed by some young Honda engineer who wanted a high-tech look to the instruments I assume. Well it doesn't work, pal. Go back to traditional dials. Far easier to read than the cluttered bars sweeping across the top. I would also suggest offering navigation for all models not just the Touring.
Overall the 2017 CR-V remains a good mainstream sport-ute. Not outstanding but certainly pleasant to ride in, filled with features people want and plenty roomy and comfortable.
Garry Melnyk is a St. Albert resident and lifelong car buff who has written about new cars and trucks for radio and print publications since the '70s.