Car Comparisons

Comparison Test: Compact Crossover SUVs - 2015

Comparison Data

Base Price
Optional Equipment
$195 Granite Crystal Metallic paint, $895 SafetyTec Group (rear parking assist, power mirrors, mirror signals, mirror lamps, blind spot & cross-path detection), $795 Cold Weather Group (floor mats, heated mirrors, heated front seats, wiper de-icer, heated steering wheel), $1,295 Comfort/Convenience Group (cargo net, tonneau cover, auto-dimming rearview mirror w/ microphone, keyless entry, proximity keyless start, dual-zone A/C, power driver seat w/ lumbar adjust, power liftgate, security alarm, remote start, garage door opener, humidity sensor), $1,595 sunroof, $750 Uconnect 8.4A touchscreen infotainment w/ SiriusXM & Bluetooth, $400 nine speakers & subwoofer, $225 CD player, $425 back-up camera
$2,135 Technology Package (JBL audio with 11 speakers, lane departure warning, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic warning, back-up sensors, automatic highbeam)
$2,100 Technology Package (radar cruise, radar brake support, forward collision warning, highbeam control, lane departure warning, SiriusXM satellite radio)
$2,800 Premium Package (auto-levelling LED headlights, power slide/recline passenger seat, power liftgate, power front passenger seat, Bose audio system w/ nine speakers & two woofers, RDS, speed-sensitive volume control, Nissan Navigation w/ 7" touchscreen & voice recognition, SiriuxXM traffic, Around View monitor, blind spot warning, lane departure warning, moving object detection, forward collision warning), $135 Metallic/Pearl paint (Cayenne Red)
A/C Tax
Destination Fee
Price as Tested

Honda CR-V vs Hyundai Santa Fe Sport vs Jeep Cherokee vs Mazda CX-5 vs Nissan Rogue vs Subaru Forester vs Toyota RAV4

Review by Jeff Wilson, Lesley Wimbush, Peter Bleakney and Jonathan Yarkony

It’s time to pick a new winner.

Photos by Jeff Wilson and Jonathan Yarkony

Introduction, Jeff Wilson

A lot can happen in a year.

Just ask anyone who’s gone from recent graduate to getting his or her first grown-up job (and salary). Or anyone who has witnessed the birth of their first child, depriving them of sleep and sanity. Or those who have gone from working day in and day out to the wonderful freedom of retirement.

Any of these folks will tell you they have experienced profound change at the significant cost of effort and dedication, and yet the payoff is also profound. These consumers are prime buyers for new vehicles that can reliably serve their active, if hectic, lifestyles, regardless of weather; vehicles like the all-purpose compact crossover sport utility vehicle.

It has been a little over a year since called together its evaluation team of testers and the key players in the compact crossover segment for a comprehensive evaluation of the best and brightest available to Canadian consumers. The results once again show profound changes and yet identify a very positive evolution of refinement and quality.

Indeed, after a long day of driving each car back to back under the same weather conditions on the same roads, all agreed that every one of these seven are truly good machines. It is our job to examine the minutiae, consider the merits and criticize the follies of these fine examples of do-everything daily drivers and to ultimately select our favourite.

But before we do, a quick overview of the crossover characters in this year’s test.

Naturally, last year’s winner, the Mazda CX-5 GT, received the first invitation. Not content with taking home the prize last year, the compact crossover from the Hiroshima company has seen a significant improvement to its infotainment system for the 2016 model year as it adopts the more contemporary design from the Mazda3.

Next up, Honda’s CR-V has enjoyed a victory or two in a smaller head-to-head competition and our first major crossover comparison at, but more importantly, it has undergone significant mid-cycle changes to everything from the powertrain to the interior and exterior design and was expected to bring high praise here.

Toyota’s RAV4 continues to be a popular choice with Canadians, who purchased enough of them in January of this year to make it the sales leader in the small SUV category. When the masses speak with their wallets, it is worth giving another look and that’s just what we’ve done.

Hyundai’s Santa Fe Sport placed mid-pack with a moderately optioned SE trim last year, but one driven by the gutsy 2.0L turbo engine. This time, we have a few more options but the base 2.4L engine, to see just how well this ute stacks up in more economical, efficient form.

Nissan’s Rogue is also a top-five seller in Canada, and a past winner of a head-to-head with our beloved Mazda CX-5. At the time, the biggest complaint leveled against the Rogue was toward its uncomfortable seats. As we reported last autumn over a long haul down Route 66, the big news for ’15 is the implementation of Nissan’s “Zero Gravity Seats” that remain comfortable for hours. Will the Rogue steal the throne this year?

While Subaru’s Forester remains a popular recommendation by our staff, it has failed to win a comparison test in recent years. The addition of Subaru’s highly coveted EyeSight safety suite keeps the Forester an excellent value and a top safety – and quality – pick from resources like IIHS and Consumers’ Reports.

Last but not least is the lone representative of the North American brands, with Jeep’s Cherokee having narrowly eked out a victory over the Forester last year, but never yet tested in the crucible of a large comparison. This time the Jeep doesn’t have the 3.2L V6, instead being fitted with the 2.4L four-cylinder engine. Will it still engage our testers?

Conspicuous by its absence is Ford’s Escape, the overall Canadian class sales leader for 2014 by a whopping margin over the number two Honda CR-V. Ford err… escaped our test by not having a competitively trimmed Escape available at test time. With that said, Ford’s smallest North American SUV has not seen any significant change since the last time a top-tier Escape managed no better than 3rd place in an comparison test.

A very busy year has passed in our lives and the life cycles of these very important vehicles. It’s time to pick a new winner.

7th Place: 2015 Jeep Cherokee, JW

Among this collective of cute utes, Jeep’s Cherokee simply isn’t. Dimensionally, of course, it’s on par, but the Cherokee’s polarizing styling – particularly its aggressive front end treatment – is the least cute of the bunch to my eyes, but in our group its daring styling was rewarded as the third best looking. Better bold than bland, I guess.

But it’s also the most macho in its mannerisms too. Where several of the competitors made cringe-worthy sounds as they cracked and hammered over a particularly nasty chunk of ripped-up roadway, the Cherokee took it in stride as if to say, “Please, I’m a Jeep – let’s go play with some real rocks.” When Senior Editor Yarkony wanted to pose one of the vehicles for a photo half-mounting a sizable snow bank, he knew enough to try it only with the rugged little Jeep, which scampered up like a mountain goat. A shame that the exhaust was loose and buzzed under acceleration, and a mystery rattle turned out to be glass shards inside the roll-out cargo cover housing (it sounded like an rainstick every time we took a corner sharply) – these are maintenance issues rather than vehicle qualities, but the Cherokee’s NVH scores suffered for them nonetheless.

Despite its butch appearance and behaviour, Jeep has loaded up the Cherokee with some pretty premium-feeling kit inside. Most notably, the UConnect infotainment drew mostly praises for its massive touchscreen and straightforward navigation – menu navigation that is, this model did not feature navigation. Still, needing to drill down a few levels to make some climate control adjustments is cumbersome and drew the ire of contributor, Laurance Yap. Senior Editor Yarkony pointed out that heated seat and steering wheel controls pop up on the main screen on startup when temperatures are low.

The rest of the interior was nearly as polarizing as the exterior, with some finding the strange colour combos “interesting” in positive way, while others felt it was discordant and overwrought.

One area of unanimous disdain was the questionable build quality of our particular Cherokee. A loose windshield mounting and a couple of prominent (and highly irritating) rattles and buzzes we mentioned earlier had us all marking down the quality scores for the Jeep.

What’s more, the only vehicle in the test fitted with a nine-speed automatic made it clear why nobody else offered anywhere near as many cogs in their gearboxes: nine is simply too many. The Cherokee always seems to be hunting for the right gear at any given moment, but on a positive note, a few of us appreciated the Jeep’s smooth and responsive shifts when called upon to do so manually. Perhaps the nine-speed just had to work too hard keeping the 184 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque of the 2.4L Tigershark in its powerband while maintaining efficiency, especially tough with 1,788 kg of curb weight to drag around - shocking curb weight and heaviest vehicle in this test.

Ultimately the Jeep’s several redeeming qualities could not outweigh our collective concerns for its build quality or worst-in-test fuel consumption and cargo capability (though cargo/seating flexibility redeemed it slightly). Even in this hotly contested comparison, there needs to be a winner and a loser, and while every one of these vehicles represents a decent value that will appeal to a lot of buyers, it’s the Cherokee that needs another year of polishing to be truly great.

Pricing: 2015 Jeep Cherokee North 4X4
Base Price: $24,195
Tested Trim: $29,395
Options: $195 Granite Crystal Metallic paint, $895 SafetyTec Group (rear parking assist, power mirrors, mirror signals, mirror lamps, blind spot & cross-path detection), $795 Cold Weather Group (floor mats, heated mirrors, heated front seats, wiper de-icer, heated steering wheel), $1,295 Comfort/Convenience Group (cargo net, tonneau cover, auto-dimming rearview mirror w/ microphone, keyless entry, proximity keyless start, dual-zone A/C, power driver seat w/ lumbar adjust, power liftgate, security alarm, remote start, garage door opener, humidity sensor), $1,595 sunroof, $750 Uconnect 8.4A touchscreen infotainment w/ SiriusXM & Bluetooth, $400 nine speakers & subwoofer, $225 CD player, $425 back-up camera
Freight: $1,695
A/C Tax: $100
Price as Tested: $37,765


6th Place: 2015 Toyota RAV4 AWD XLE, Lesley Wimbush

I can remember when this was one of my least favourite vehicles in the segment. Dorky and pokey, it was the opposite of everything fun, and usually driven by those with character to match.

A few sharp creases and some streamlining have gone a long way towards altering that box on wheels image. And while it would be pushing it to call it "fun", the RAV4 is a decent little all-rounder and would be most agreeable to live with.

Looks-wise, the little Toyota didn't really resonate with our group, and came in near the bottom, just below the Forester. Personally, I think it's kind of cute, in an angry hamster sort of way – especially with this bright copper paint.

I have to admit to a bit of a chuckle over the interior. The highly bolstered sports seats and fat, grippy wheel would do justice to a sports car.

It's an odd environment, earning comments like: "Interior is a riot, as if it was designed by multiple people that weren’t talking to each other" (Laurance) and "odd ergonomics and confused styling" but "best seats in the bunch" (Jonathan).

Aside from the excellent seats, there's an abundance of high quality stitched leather, and some interesting faux carbon-fibre trim. But the styling is über-busy, and chopped into multiple different segments. Ergonomically, its biggest blunder is the row of switchgear hidden beneath the jutting centre stack – it takes a concentrated effort to figure out where the seat heaters, rear wiper, Eco and Sport mode buttons and outlets are located.

Comfort wise, the RAV4 scored in the lower mid-pack, with fairly flat rear seats, but they recline and offer decent head and shoulder room. In a three-way tie for last place with the Forester and Rogue, the RAV4's fiddly child seat installation would've earned a blue-streak curse from Jacob. Rear entry isn't as good as some of the others.

It didn't score well in content amenities either, which I found surprising. The $2,135 Technology package adds lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot monitor, back-up sensors and an 11-speaker sound system, on top of the Limited's standard navigation, Bluetooth, cruise, smart key, power sunroof, power liftgate, 6.1-inch display, auto headlights, fog lights, heated seats and steering wheel voice controls.

The RAV4's 1,090 L of cargo space and lowest liftover height put it near the top, and it was mid-pack in terms of flexibility. Jon liked the "interesting" cargo net, but thought it was a bit flimsy.

In terms of driving impressions, the RAV4 didn't find a whole lot of favour with our group. There were comments of "hollow", " harsh suspension" and a "chassis that was easily upset". It was however, in the upper mid-pack for ease of driving, and some of us found it the most "car-like" of the bunch. In Sport mode, the RAV4 is almost comically peppy, with a frantically responsive throttle response and high-strung transmission.

It's surprising that the RAV4 scored lower mid-range for ease of parking, since both Laurance and I mentioned that it had possibly the best sightlines of the bunch.

While rich in features, its weaker scores in comfort, functionality, mechanical and driving qualities, worst warranty in the group and a high price drove down its value score, although official and observed fuel economies were respectable.

Again, it's a reflection of how varied opinions can be from a wide-ranging group of people, and underscores the value of these group comparisons.

Pricing:2015 Toyota RAV4 AWD Limited
Base Price: $24,365
Tested Trim: $33,410
Options: $2,135 Technology Package (JBL audio with 11 speakers, lane departure warning, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic warning, back-up sensors, automatic highbeam)
Freight: $1,690
A/C Tax: $100
Price as Tested: $37,335


5th Place: 2015 Subaru Forester, Peter Bleakney

At $34,145 the Subie was the least expensive vehicle here. And despite this Japanese automaker’s steady march into the mainstream, the Forester stood out like that weird kid in your third grade class photo. “Yeah, we can still do quirky” the Forester declares.

It sits all upright and boxy to the other crossover’s more stylish bodywork, and the interior quality looks a generation behind. The doors have a hollow clang to them that suggests a lack of sound dampening. On the road, this suspicion is confirmed – plenty of road and engine noise. Don’t mistake this for weak structural integrity, as the Forester is a perennial IIHS Top Safety Pick+ for crashworthiness, acing every single category, including the challenging small overlap test.

The 175 hp, 174 lb-ft flat-four conspires with CVT to deliver a super-sensitive throttle tip-in that requires some serious recalibration of the right Welly.

Ah, but there are benefits to this willful subversiveness. Subaru’s low-profile engine allows a low cowl line. Factor in the tall greenhouse and the Forester’s outward visibility is positively panoramic when compared to the swoopy thick-pillared competition. The Forester is also remarkably agile with quick reflexes and flat cornering. And of course, Subaru’s full-time symmetrical all-wheel drive is a gift that keeps on giving when the weather turns to crap.

It also aced the ease of parking category and a close second in ease of driving thanks to its excellent outward visibility and tight turning circle.

Despite this Touring model’s lack of features when compared to the other vehicles here, it was equipped with Subaru’s impressive EyeSight system that uses a stereo camera at the top of the windshield to provide lane departure warning, pre-collision braking, and a well calibrated adaptive cruise control with full-stop potential.

We gave the Forester top marks for front and rear seat access, and it scored with the best for ergonomic usability but trailed in the audio/visual department with a weak sound system and dated screens and interface. Additionally, the powered liftgate seemed to take an eternity to respond after pressing the key fob button or tailgate release.

The Subie was ultimately bruised here by its lower trim level. As Noah stated, “Once you get into the Limited, it becomes a much, MUCH nicer place to be. If it was the 2.5i Limited with Tech, the only issue I would expect is the aggressive throttle tip-in.” And it still would have been price competitive.

Heck, even the top-dog Forester XT Limited with Tech at $37,895 would have fit here. However, despite the joy of its 250 turbocharged horses, the XT’s thirst cost it dearly in previous comparison, and the 2.5’s thrift was above average. The Forester provides solid uncomplicated practicality, but so does every competitor while also offering better quality, comfort and polish, and even with price adjustment wasn’t enough to warrant a higher finish.

Pricing: 2015 Subaru Forester 2.5i Touring with Technology Option
Base Price: $25,995
Tested Trim: $32,495
Options: N/A
Freight: $1,650
A/C Tax: $100
Price as Tested: $34,245


4th Place: 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, LW

This recent comparo must've been a somewhat humbling experience for the Santa Fe Sport. After all, it's probably grown used to sweeping the top spots, and yet this time, it only managed a respectable fourth.

So what went wrong? Not that fourth is a bad place to be by a long shot, it's still a respectable ranking that many carmakers would give their left lugnut for.

The Santa Fe is still the value-packed, easy-to-live-with all-rounder that it always was, but the other contenders are ramping up their games.

Who would have thought that Honda's mainstream utility vehicle would boast such decent handling dynamics, or that the Rogue and the CX-5 would score so high in flexibility and amenities?

And that, folks, is why we continue to pit these vehicles against each other, because even we're surprised by the outcomes.

The Santa Fe Sport ranked right at the top for exterior styling, but not many of us were impressed with the interior, as it fell to just below mid-pack. Comments ranged from "a bit dated" to "the most styling, if not the most stylish" (Laurance).

Ergonomics, quality and gauges were all mid-pack - which is surprising because in the past we've praised the intuitive interface.

Likewise for driver position and comfort. This isn't necessarily a bad thing – the Santa Fe has nicely bolstered, comfortable seats, but they just didn't stand out in this category.

Ah, but when it comes to looking after passengers, this is where the Santa Fe shines. With its plush, heated and reclining rear seats, wide opening rear doors and easy child seat installation system, the Santa Fe swept the top spots.

Most of these have a decent level of content, and despite the unusual bonus of a heated steering wheel and rear seats, ranked mid-pack – largely in part due to its lack of navigation and driving aids.

Being a half-size larger than most of these compacts, it was the undisputed champion of cargo space, handily beating out all the other contenders. Flexibility and interior cabin storage were again at the top thanks to its sliding, tilting seats and underfloor storage space.

The Santa Fe is pleasant to drive, with top scores for noise and vibration, though it’s not fast by any means, carrying around the most weight with average power. It feels solid and well-damped over bumps and ranked upper mid-pack for refinement and handling. Thanks to that sloping rear roofline and fat c-pillar, however, it tied dead last with the Cherokee for visibility. Ease of driving and parking were at the bottom of the pack, again, largely due to visibility and size.

We ranked the Santa Fe in the upper mid-pack for value with plenty of practicality and solid quality for the price, but not quite a leader feature-wise. It lost a few points for having one of the worst fuel consumption ratings of the bunch, but it earned them back by having the best warranty.

Overall, the Santa Fe Sport continues to be a practical and stylish choice, and the base engine isn’t too far off the efficiency and performance of the best in this class, and it’s not that it has fallen off, just that others have risen to the challenge.

Pricing: 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport Luxury
Base Price: $26,899
Tested Trim: $34,999
Options: N/A
Freight: $1,795
A/C Tax: $100
Price as Tested: $36,894


3rd Place: 2016 Mazda CX-5, Jonathan Yarkony

Despite the improvements for the 2016 model that launched early this year, the improved Mazda CX-5 still fell a little short. It’s not disappointing in any way, and only its top-trim highest-in-test pricing cost it the second-place position. For $38,890, we have the GT trim with added Technology Package packing every bell and whistle that Mazda offers in the CX-5, the most impressive of which were the 19-inch wheels that Peter, Lesley and Brian fawned over, earning it a close second in styling.

For those that worry that styling might influence our results too heavily, we tested that theory by removing all the aesthetic scores, and in fact the final results did not change.

The CX-5’s beauty isn’t just skin deep, however. Despite some critics of the HMI menus (Laurance found the “infotainment controls the most confusing, although the screen graphics are attractive”), the CX-5 swept the quality, usability, NVH and driver seat comfort categories. It’s just a good place to spend time, even “elegant” according to Peter and “a very nice place to be” for Brian, the leather, plastics and controls in the highly featured trim all well crafted to go along with the quiet cabin – a flaw prior to this update. Beyond the driver seat, the CX-5 scores fell off for rear seating and cargo, though the 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats with cargo area release levers will appeal to skiers and others that carry long, skinny objects. While odd that the most expensive in test was the only one without power tailgate, the tailgate is light and I'd take that over the Forester's painfully slow power hatch any day.

Of course, it is the CX-5’s double-win in comfort and handling that is a surprising and impressive accomplishment, with excellent steering making this an easy car to drive, though parking was hampered by its mediocre visibility, and braking was not confidence inspiring. Laurance raved: “Most grown-up ride-and-handling balance – rides terrifically well on bad pavement, and is a fine steer in the corners.” Peter echoed: “Solid, refined and very dynamically cohesive package.” The 2.5L Skyactiv engine is still competitive at 184 hp and 185 lb-ft, trailing only our eventual winner, but the six-speed transmission wasn’t universally loved, Noah finding it “lazy”, especially compared to a couple of our almost instantly responsive CVTs.

Skyactiv also delivered on the efficiency front, with the second best observed fuel consumption on the day of testing and solid EPA ratings. Also, with the new unlimited mileage warranty and seven years of corrosion perforation warranty to combat Mazda’s reputation for rust, we gave it top warranty marks.

The Mazda CX-5 remains a great driver with great looks and quality, but only modest practicality and a high price (also costing it in the value scores) leave it on the lowest step of the podium.

Pricing: 2016 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
Base Price: $22,995
Tested Trim: $34,895
Options: $2,100 Technology Package (radar cruise, radar brake support, forward collision warning, highbeam control, lane departure warning, SiriusXM satellite radio)
Freight: $1,895
A/C Tax: $100
Price as Tested: $38,990


2nd Place: 2015 Nissan Rogue, PB

If there was an award for most improved compact crossover, the Rogue would certainly be in the running. Granted, this refresh has been with us for a year or so, but nonetheless, as evidenced by the Nissan’s fine showing here, it seems a handsome prince’s kiss turned the tinny old toad into a sumptuous being. And with the second lowest sticker and a generous load of kit, she’s not too demanding either.

Once plunked in the comfy leather seats, you’re facing a handsome and high quality dash. We liked the backlit FineVision gauges and clear central display that shows the birds-eye view navigation and infotainment options. It’s a logical layout that’s easy to figure out, but Laurence Yap noted “setting radio presets is still more complex than it needs to be.” The audio quality got high marks.

You’ll be thankful for the sharp back-up camera – a 360-degree view, too – because rearward visibility is woeful.

The Rogue had the most compliant ride here and second most comfortable driver seats (those Zero Gravity seats live up to the hype!), making it a quiet and comfortable cruiser. But its butt-friendly demeanour comes at the expense of some handling agility. The numb steering came in for criticism too. Hardly deal breakers, as most buyers in this segment will take day-to-day comfort over zoomy dynamics.

We judged second-row seat comfort for two near the top of the pack (behind Santa Fe and Forester) – the well-contoured seats both slide and recline. But squeezing three back there proved not so good. Long suffering Lesley, our intrepid centre-hump tester, deemed it least comfortable, and outboard passenger headroom was encroached upon by the bump for the side-curtain airbags.

Behind the second-row seats is where things get interesting. The Rogue features a clever two-panel adjustable flooring system that allows items of various sizes to be securely stowed and stacked. It proved exceptionally suited for our hockey-bag and stroller test – the smelly sports duffle nestled in the well while the stroller slid easily in and out of its own upper compartment. Brilliant. The only gripe was the tendency of the shelves to rattle.

Performance from the 170-hp 2.5L four is just adequate, and the CVT (continuously variable transmission) got the lowest score in the group, although it must be noted that under normal driving conditions (read: not foot to the floor) the engine revs are kept in check and things are generally calm within the cabin. It should also be noted that the Honda’s CVT got the highest marks of any transmission in this bunch, so we can’t be accused of prejudice against belt-and-pully trannies.

The Rogue has four-wheel lock for the AWD (operates up to 40 km) that would help in deep snow or muck.

This top-trim Nissan Rogue SL impresses with its value, comfort, perceived quality, utility and easygoing nature. It won’t raise your heartbeat, but hey, it might actually lower it.

Pricing: 2015 Nissan Rogue SL AWD
Base Price: $23,998
Tested Trim: $31,298
Options: $2,800 Premium Package (auto-levelling LED headlights, power slide/recline passenger seat, power liftgate, power front passenger seat, Bose audio system w/ nine speakers & two woofers, RDS, speed-sensitive volume control, Nissan Navigation w/ 7" touchscreen & voice recognition, SiriuxXM traffic, Around View monitor, blind spot warning, lane departure warning, moving object detection, forward collision warning), $135 Metallic/Pearl paint (Cayenne Red)
Freight: $1,750
A/C Tax: $100
Price as Tested: $36,083


1st Place: 2015 Honda CR-V

What a difference a year makes indeed. Despite the essential goodness of the simple, practical template for an SUV that Honda has damn near perfected, it began to trail competitors with more power, clever functionality, or better value. However, with one significant change in the powertrain department, the 2015 CR-V again finds its basic goodness, and such goodness it is that it is great.

Okay, this is no Hemi V8 or BMW straight-six, but it is a Honda four-cylinder, and it is a dream come true. The although identically sized at 2.4 litres, the addition of direct injection to the already effective variable valve timing (VTEC, of course) make the 185 horsepower available a tad sooner and add almost 18 glorious lb-ft of torque. The 181 lb-ft of torque aren’t earth-shattering, but combined with a focus on refinement and vibration reduction, the 2.4 pulls smoothly and strongly, propelling this 1,652 kg machine smartly, without strain, and without annoying the heck out of me as it did on our long-term test a couple winters back.

But the joy doesn’t end with the satisfying engine and best-in-test transmission, a CVT that lives up to the promise of responsiveness and efficiency (also best both on test day and according to EPA ratings) without any of the usual side effects of excess revs and droning. This thing also drives well with a second in handling and best steering/braking and ease of driving. Peter saw it as evidence of Honda DNA: “Quick steering and alert chassis. Ride is a bit stiff and noisy, but feels super light on its feet.” Noah found it “surprisingly nimble and stable,” but noted some torque steer despite the AWD system. I tested it in knee-deep snow banks while simultaneously climbing over curbing, and the AWD system worked just fine for the anticipated level of need most owners will have.

The good news continues in the practicality and conveniences department, with ample seating and cargo space, easy access and plenty of room for odds and ends in the roomy cabin. Unfortunately, the seats are still a weak point, Brian noting “seat bottoms too flat, didn’t find them very comfortable.”

Speaking of weak points, this is an entirely new infotainment system in the top Touring trim we tested, Honda has yet to master this dark art. Despite a clean look and good quality, Laurance was stumped: “What’s the deal with the amateur-hour graphics for the touchscreen? Its functionality is fine, but the graphics look like they come from a Commodore 64.” Noah found the infotainment system had a “fairly large learning curve,” which explains its poor usability score. I continue to be frustrated by the near useless second screen on the dash top, with much of its information redundant, the controls’ counterintuitive placement on the steering wheel, and I’ll concede that a volume knob is better than this Honda’s touch slider, despite liking it for its geek factor. On the plus side, everybody loved LaneWatch, providing a view of the right-hand blind spot on the nav screen when you signal a right turn or lane change.

Honda and Toyota had the weakest warranties, but when your reputation for reliability is as good as theirs, I guess people figure you’ll never need it anyway. And although sporting the second-highest price at $38,335, the CR-V was packed with the highest feature content and so we still found that the well-engineered chassis and balanced performance and practicality offered a good value.

At the end of the day, the 2015 CR-V is just a smooth, practical, efficient machine, that is incredibly easy to live with. This engine has real punch now, and the transmission is everything a CVT has ever promised. It proves again that our comparisons reward balanced capabilities over dominance in any one area, and the CR-V is the most well rounded of this group of excellent all-season, everyday all-purpose vehicles.

Pricing: 2015 Honda CR-V Touring
Base Price: $25,990
Tested Trim: $36,540
Options: N/A
Freight: $1,695
A/C Tax: $100
Price as Tested: $38,335