Test Drive: 2018 Honda CR-V Touring

Smarter than the average bear, yours truly. So, when asked to make the annual pilgrimage from the Toronto area to Detroit for the North American International Auto Show this year – a journey that’s notoriously fraught with driving conditions of pure winter misery – I sought to find a vehicle that would meet several criteria.

When called on for aggressive acceleration, the little turbo coupled to the CVT does sound like a demonic leaf blower, but the ruckus is short-lived.

First of all, it needed to be comfortable. It should also be efficient. And, just in case the Snow-pocalypse came, a bit of ground clearance and some proper winter tires would be appreciated too.

And Apple CarPlay. I love it when Siri reads me my text messages, especially if they’ve got those ridiculous emojis embedded.

Granted, there are at least a dozen brilliant choices on the market that fit those criteria, but since I hadn’t driven the new 2018 Honda CR-V yet, and I heard they added a volume knob to the infotainment system, I booked one for the drive.

I’m glad I did, too. While road conditions both to and from Detroit weren’t as bad this year as in some past trips, there were icy patches and frigid temperatures to contend with, making the CR-V’s heated seats, heated steering wheel, and remote starter function very welcome features indeed.

Inside spacious and quiet

The rest of the interior is a pretty nice place to collect kilometres too. Those leather-clad seats are supportive and comfortable, even for hours on end, and the heated back seat offers plenty of leg- and headroom for passengers.

Plus, the backseat is split 60/40 and folds flat with a simple pull of a lever, opening up over 2,100 litres of volume. Even with the back seats up, the 1,065 L available will hold an impressive amount of cargo.

The CR-V, especially in this top-level Touring trim, is well equipped. The panoramic sunroof allows passengers to bask in the sunlight even during these wintery months, and the 331-watt audio system fills the cabin with music. Wind and road noises are both well hushed, making the audio system (or, the good old art of conversation for those so inclined) all the more enjoyable.

The HondaLink infotainment system has a 7-inch touchscreen display, navigation, satellite radio, and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The system is intuitive and CarPlay is well integrated, enabling easy switching between, say, SiriusXM and Apple Maps. Honda’s navigation is based on a Garmin skeleton and I find the graphic treatment a bit cartoony in appearance, but it works well and quickly. There are USB charge points placed around the cabin to make sure almost everyone can plug in at the same time.

The CR-V’s interior touchpoints are all finished in high-quality materials. There are lots of synthetics – faux-metal trim, plastic wood, stitched vinyl on the dash – but they’re all pretty convincing replications of the real deal, and they’re assembled with precision.

The roads this winter have been seriously heaved and riddled with potholes after the severe temperature swings, but bouncing along, there’s not a squeak or rattle from anywhere in this CR-V’s cabin. Plan on this generation being as long-term durable as the previous generations if the initial build quality is anything to go by.

Having professed my love for Honda’s excellent 1.5L turbocharged four-cylinder in its Civic application, I was eager to see how it fared in a much bigger and heavier (and all-wheel-drive) vehicle. The short answer: it does just fine, thanks.

While there’s clearly more mass to haul around with a CR-V than a Civic, the engine’s output is bumped up to 190 hp and 179 lb-ft of torque. In an effort to offset efficiency-sapping elements like winter tires, cold temperatures, and a driver with an abnormally heavy throttle foot, I tried to keep the Eco setting on as much as possible, which admittedly, makes the CR-V feel rather sluggish. The sensation was exacerbated by the CVT transmission, which makes for a rubber-band feeling to the power delivery.

Efficient engine well-tamed, until throttle pinned

But with the Eco button switched off, the CR-V is livelier in its acceleration, though still far from what one would call “spritely”, as one might describe the Civic. The CR-V doesn’t have nearly the get-up-and-go of the Ford Escape or Subaru Forester with their bigger turbocharged engines, either, but acceleration is certainly adequate and most people shopping this category aren’t likely to do much drag-racing anyway.

For what it’s worth, towing capacity for the CR-V is rated at 680 kg; same as the Subaru, Ford and Toyota’s RAV4 (though both the Jeep Cherokee and Chevrolet Equinox will haul much more).

When called on for aggressive acceleration, the little turbo coupled to the CVT does sound like a demonic leaf blower, but the ruckus is short-lived and once the revs settle at speed, it’s very smooth and quiet, especially given how small it is.

Unsurprisingly, the CR-V conquers the competition in fuel efficiency, posting a city average of 8.7 L/100 km, 7.2 highway, and a combined average of 8.0. Regular fuel is all that’s asked for, and those average figures tend to be around 2 L/100 km better than most of the competitors – a difference that will surely affect the wallet over multi-year ownership.

I wouldn’t have minded a larger fuel tank to provide greater highway range on the slog to Detroit and back, especially since our average consumption rate of 8.5 L/100km brought on the fuel warning light after 500 or so kilometres.

Handling is good for a compact SUV. It’s nimble enough to allow for safe emergency-avoidance manoeuvres, but the electrically-powered steering is numb of feel. The brakes offer good bite and strong, progressive performance. Overall, if not exhilarating, the CR-V is at least pleasant and easy to drive, which is precisely what most buyers will want.

Safety key, with helpful active technologies

With the HondaSense suite of active safety and convenience features, the most boring stretch of Highway 401 between Woodstock and Windsor provided an opportunity to see just how helpful the lane keeping assist and adaptive cruise control functions could be. As it turns out, they are very helpful, and enabled significant stretches where only occasional steering inputs were required, and even then, only to change lanes. That said, this is not intended to be an autonomous driving setting, and I was never able to let my attention lapse, since the occasional snow-obscured road markings would send the CR-V drifting toward the shoulder.

Really, there is very little to complain about with the CR-V. The B-pillars are thick and impede blind spot checks (but then, there’s also Honda’s LaneWatch system that pulls up what’s behind the passenger mirror onto the centre screen to offset that, at least on the right side). In the summer, I’d wish for cooled seats (not offered on the CR-V). And if Honda could make the heated steering wheel a bit warmer, that’d be great too.

That’s it. After logging 1,500 kms in less than a week, Honda’s CR-V was a great choice for the annual Detroit trip, just as it was expected to be. Following a few years of mediocrity, Honda has been on a real tear lately with some excellent products. The Civic and Accord make strong cases for best-in-class honours, and the same can now be argued for the CR-V. While not the sportiest, biggest, smallest or flashiest, it is an outstanding family vehicle with great utility, excellent build quality and efficiency.

2018 Honda CR-V Touring AWD
Engine Displacement: 1.5L
Engine Cylinders: 4
Peak Horsepower: 190 hp
Peak Torque: 179 lb-ft
Fuel Economy: 8.7/7.2/8.0 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space: 1,065 / 2,146 L seats down
2018 Honda CR-V Touring AWD
Base Price $38,490
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,795
Price as Tested $40,385
Optional Equipment None
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 7.7
6 Styling
7 Powertrain
8 Quality
8 Comfort
8 Practicality
8 Drivability
8 Usability/Ergonomics
8 Fuel Economy
8 Features
8 Value