Test Drive: 2017 Honda CR-V

Honda’s given their elemental CR-V new looks, new features, new tech, an all-new platform, and its first-ever standard turbo engine, as part of the growing trend of replacing displacement with boost.

The 2017 CR-V will make former CR-V owners feel right at home in many meaningful ways – and that’s a good thing.

And though it’s all-new for this year, the 2017 Honda CR-V will make former CR-V owners feel right at home in many meaningful ways – and that’s a good thing.

Same driving position: just a lateral butt-slide gets you seated, behind a tall windshield, surrounded by plenty of glass, and with a low-mounted centre console contributing to a feeling of roominess. You sit upright, in a commanding position. Other than a blind spot or two at the rear, it’s like sitting up tall, inside of a big glass box.

You can see the edge of the CR-V’s hood, which makes it easy to park. Ditto the backup camera, with wide-angle lens that can see down an entire laneway. And ditto the relatively small turning circle. In any situation, the CR-V is a confident and maneuverable thing to drive.

It looks and feels bigger than it is, too.

As CR-V long has, at-hand storage galore is on full offer – implemented in volume, and with numerous thoughtful touches that delight pack-rat motorists like your writer.

I typically enter a vehicle with my wallet, cell phone, MP3 player, camera, extra lens or two, chewing gum (bubble-mint), and coffee change. There’s room for these items, and more, all within reach, and out of sight. The deep centre console swallows up my Nikon SLR and a spare lens, and offers charge ports, and a sliding drawer. Proper cup holders, deep door pockets, and various bins and cubbies are all nearby. It’s all flexible, easily reached, and easily reconfigured. My Ikea closet organizer is probably jealous – and if you’re a bit of a neat freak, you’ll love the way the cabin keeps drivers and families organized and clutter-free.

Rear seats are easily accessed via wide door openings and the relatively low step-in height. Once seated, even larger passengers will have plenty of head- and leg-room, as well as foot-room, thanks to the flat rear-seat floor, sans hump. Folding second-row seats is a cinch, and the cargo hold’s knee-height load floor enables easy unpacking of gear and groceries. A full-sized family canine should have little issue jumping in and out, and the cargo hold itself is square, wide and deep, making it easy to stack items inside.

So – tall, upright, flexible, easy to load and unload, easy to board and exit, and packing vigorous amounts of at-hand storage for nearby stuff. That’s a great list of attributes, and we haven’t even talked about what’s new yet.

Like the engine: a 1.5-litre turbo four-cylinder with 190 horsepower and (importantly), 180lb-ft of torque.

Torque is the all-important number for moving a heavy object, like a crossover, and the new engine delivers it plentifully, from low revs. From the driver’s seat? The new engine is quieter and more responsive when operated gently, with minimal throttle input and engine speeds required to get it moving. Past CR-V engines needed to work harder to deliver the same sort of acceleration this one generates before you’re even really able to hear it.

Light-footed drivers will appreciate the CR-V’s ability to ooze, almost noiselessly, up to speed without breaking 1,500 revs. Heavier-footed drivers will appreciate the snappy off-the-line grunt, which sees the CR-V fire with gusto out of traffic lights when prodded. All drivers will appreciate the fuel efficiency. On my watch, the tester averaged 8.9 L/100km of regular-grade fuel. That’s the best CR-V mileage I’ve ever achieved, despite the additional torque.

The CVT transmission, standard on all units, is partly to thank here: drive gently, and the revs stay steady as speeds increase. Forget wasteful revving up and down through gear ratios: give it a little throttle, and watch as the tachometer locks in around 2,000 rpm, and the CR-V glides up to speed.

Hammer down, and this gearless gearbox simulates shifting – allowing the revs to climb, fall, and repeat, for a more natural sensation. But it’s during the driving, where the revs stay steady and the CR-V gushes up to speed without a break in power delivery, that you’d hardly notice it has a transmission at all. Driven the way 99 percent of CR-V drivers will drive their CR-V, 99 percent of the time, it just feels like a really smooth automatic.

The driving environment is modernized to fall in line with other newer Honda models. The tablet-inspired central command system with must-have Android Auto functionality turns the central screen into your smartphone, and the futuristic digital instrument cluster adds more high-tech flair. Designers specified more wood, and stitching and leather and contrast, richening the interior a measure. It’s fresh and new, but the overall feel is familiar – logical, blocky, easy to interface with.

The quality look imparted by the simulated wood trim and stitched leather are let down a measure by a few low-budget bits, including the delicate and loose-feeling gear shifter, flimsier-than-expected door panels, and a few too many panels finished in crispy black plastic.

Most drivers will find the ride to be nicely done – similar to the last-generation CR-V, but a touch more fine-tuned. The dampers are firm around the edges with a softer core, making for a sturdy, comfortable and responsive ride. The CR-V rarely crashes into bumps, cruises smooth highways comfortably, and only demonstrates a major reduction in ride quality on the on the roughest roads. It’s comfortable and quiet, mostly, but visit the roughest road you can find on a test-drive to determine your acceptance of the CR-V’s full ride-quality spectrum.

A few other notables.

First, the headlight system is fantastic, and especially with the high-beams engaged. The LED-fired headlamps fitted (exclusively) to top-grade Touring models, like the tester, flood the road ahead with light as white and potent and saturating as I typically expect in a Cadillac or Audi.

Second? The heater. Though CR-V can sustain its cabin at any temperature as you like, a slower-than-expected warm-up time left your writer wondering whether the teensy engine might be taxed when asked to quickly heat a cabin this large. Even at just fifteen below (Celsius), it’s a good wait for the engine coolant gauge moves from the “C” mark, and that gauge can drop a good amount when the CR-V is parked, for even a few minutes. The remote start system may help compensate.

Ultimately, CR-V again blends clever cabin packaging and design with a commanding driving position, heaps of storage, and an overall easy-to-drive feel that’ll connect nicely with shoppers after plenty of space and flexibility. This is, once again, a must-drive model in the segment when priorities include versatility, fuel efficiency, and a generous helping of the latest in connectivity and safety tech. Other worthy contenders include the Jeep Cherokee, Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4.

2017 Honda CR-V Touring
Engine Displacement: 1.5L
Engine Cylinders: 4
Peak Horsepower: 190 hp @ 5,600 rpm
Peak Torque: 179 lb-ft @ 2,000-5,000 rpm
Fuel Economy: 8.7/7.2/8.0 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space: 1110 L/2,146 L seats down
articles_PricingType 2017 Honda CR-V Touring
Base Price $38,090
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,725
Price as Tested $39,915
Optional Equipment None
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 8.2
8 Styling
8 Powertrain
7 Quality
8 Comfort
9 Practicality
8 Drivability
9 Usability/Ergonomics
8 Fuel Economy
9 Features
8 Value