The CR-V is the best SUV in its compact class. Yes, I know I’m going out on a limb making this claim, but as of September 30, 2018 a total of 42,748 Canadians agreed with me, and this number only represented those who purchased it this year.
That figure also represents the most compact SUVs sold over the first nine months of 2018, meaning that Honda is currently first in this extremely important category. Toyota, which was first last year is now runner up with 41,023 units down the road, whereas Ford’s Escape is a distant third with 34,928 deliveries, Nissan’s Rogue has only managed 32,373 sales, and the remaining 10 rivals merely in the twenty-somethings, teens and four figures.
The CR-V’s success makes a lot of sense, especially the latest fifth-generation model. Its styling is certainly more upscale than previous versions, particularly when dolled up in top-line Touring trim that gets full high/low beam LED headlamps, a chrome garnish on each LED fog lamp bezel, more chrome trim decorating the side sill extensions, bright metal dual tailpipes, satin-silver roof rails, and sporty machine-finished 18-inch alloys with black painted pockets. My tester was finished in Gunmetal Metallic for a sophisticated look at no extra cost, but you can dress yours up in five alternative shades, Platinum White Pearl costing $300 extra, plus two rich looking colours.
Each time I climbed inside of my 2018 tester and took it for a drive I was thoroughly impressed, just as I was with my previous 2017 CR-V Touring test model. It’s not the fastest or the best handling SUV in its class, but its cabin is finished to a higher level of refinement than the majority of its peers and it’s oh so comfortable. What’s more, it’s fitted with an almost fully digital dash, a large high-resolution infotainment system, and even gets some pretty authentic looking woodgrain trim. It’s really more about how much attention to detail has been painstakingly added, mind you, and the overall design of the interior.
Finishing the top of the dash in soft-touch synthetic is nothing new in this category, but Honda goes one step further by trimming the entire instrument panel in nicely stitched leatherette with a stylish piano black inlay down the middle. To be clear, and I don’t know why they didn’t just finish it all the way across, the bolster ahead of the front passenger is soft synthetic, as is the section that stretches above the infotainment system, but the tiny piece surrounding the ignition button and another one on the left lower side of the gauge cluster is made to look identical as the others yet finished in hard plastic. On the positive, the door panels get soft touch uppers, nice padded and stitched leatherette inserts, comfortable padded armrests, and the usual hard plastic lower door panels, while the centre armrest is finished identically to those on the doors, yet quite wide and very comfortable.
Speaking of comfort, the CR-V Touring’s driver’s seat is extremely good. It’s wide enough for most body types, with decent side bolstering, and even includes four-way powered lumbar support. In case you weren’t aware, you won’t even be able to get four-way adjustable lumbar with the Lexus NX, a similarly sized vehicle priced much higher than the CR-V, and this Honda’s ergonomics are much better than the pricey premium model too, thanks to more reach from the tilt and telescopic steering wheel. The comfortable seating position and fully adjustable lumbar support resulted in a vehicle I could drive all day long without pain, which is a rarer find than it should be this day and age.
As part of its comfort quotient the new CR-V remains roomy and accommodating from front to back, with the rear seating area so spacious that there seems to be little need for a larger mid-size five-occupant Honda crossover SUV. It’s so roomy, in fact, that Honda offers a seven-passenger version in other markets, although all of this being said Honda has announced that a new crossover SUV, once again bearing the Passport name (remember the Isuzu Rodeo that was rebadged as a Honda Passport from 1993 to 2002? Yeah didn’t think you would), will soon be unveiled at the Los Angeles auto show.
As for cargo space, the CR-V is one of the more sizeable in the compact SUV class boasting 1,110 (39.2 cubic feet) behind the 60/40-split rear seatbacks and 2,146 litres (75.8 cubic feet) when they’re laid flat. The process to lower them is as good as this segment gets too, thanks to handy levers on each side of the cargo wall that drop them down automatically. What’s more, unlike the previous fourth-generation CR-V the load floor is almost perfectly flat, and therefore much more utile. The rear portion of that floor is also removable and stuffed with a full-size spare tire and jack, although even better is the ability to lower that load floor a few inches for fitting in taller cargo.
Honda provides a large panoramic glass sunroof to shed light on the CR-V Touring’s beautiful interior, not to mention ambient lighting to draw attention to key areas, while additional Touring trim exclusives that I haven’t mentioned yet include rain-sensing wipers, a really accurate and easy-to-use navigation system with nicely detailed mapping and turn-by-turn directions, bilingual voice recognition, an excellent sounding 331-watt audio upgrade with nine speakers including a subwoofer and HD radio, helpful hands-free access to the programmable height-enhanced powered tailgate, and Blind Spot Information (BSI) with Rear Cross Traffic Monitoring, which unfortunately replaces Honda’s superb and exclusive LaneWatch passenger-side blindspot camera that comes standard on EX and EX-L trims.
I should mention that an entire suite of Honda Sensing advanced driver assist systems comes standard with all-wheel drive models in all four CR-V trims, and includes automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, forward collision warning with autonomous collision mitigation braking, lane departure warning with lane keeping assist and road departure mitigation. Along with the usual active and passive safety features, including Honda’s impact-absorbing Next-Generation Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure, so-equipped CR-V’s achieve an almost best possible IIHS Top Safety Pick rating.
While Touring trim starts at $38,690 plus freight and fees, you can get into a well-equipped base 2018 CR-V LX model from $27,290, and take note there are two additional trims in between including $33,590 EX and $35,890 EX-L. Honda’s Real Time AWD with Intelligent Control System, the latter referring to an electric motor within the transmission that engages the rear wheels when front tire slip occurs, adds $2,800 in LX trim yet comes standard with the EX, EX-L and Touring. For complete pricing of trims and options, plus otherwise difficult to get dealer invoice pricing that can save you thousands, as well as useful rebate information, be sure you visit CarCostCanada.
As you might have guessed, Touring trim incorporates most items from the mid-range EX, including the aforementioned fog lamps, plus turn signals infused into the side mirror housings, a HomeLink garage door opener, a 12-way powered driver’s seat, rear USB charge points, a retractable cargo cover, and more, while an auto-dimming rearview mirror, heatable steering wheel, leather shift knob, perforated leather upholstery, driver’s seat memory, four-way powered front passenger seat, heatable rear outboard seats, and some additional audio gear including satellite radio, plus the powered liftgate (sans gesture control) get pulled up from EX-L trim.
I was previously surprised to find out the CR-V’s proximity-sensing keyless access and pushbutton ignition were standard across the line and the same remains true for 2018, whereas additional base LX features pulled up to Touring trim include LED taillights, an electromechanical parking brake, a configurable colour TFT primary gauge cluster, dual-zone auto climate control, heatable front seats, a high resolution 7.0-inch colour infotainment touchscreen with gesture controls like tap, pinch and swipe, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, a multi-angle backup camera with dynamic guidelines, Bluetooth phone connectivity with streaming audio, Wi-Fi tethering, an always appreciated rotating volume knob, HondaLink Assist automatic emergency response system, plus more.
I mentioned earlier that the CR-V isn’t the fastest or best handling SUV in its class, but it still should be sporty enough for most buying into this family-oriented category. Honda provides one smooth, responsive 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine capable of 190 horsepower and 179 lb-ft of torque, which is better than average in this class, while its continuously variable automatic transmission is all about refined, linear acceleration. The CVT kicks down to provide more power and a sportier feel when needed, and doesn’t cause as much of a droning engine/exhaust note as some other CVT-equipped powertrains. What’s more, the CR-V’s claimed 8.4 L/100km city, 7.0 highway and 7.8 combined FWD fuel economy rating, and 8.7 city, 7.2 highway, 8.0 combined AWD consumption estimates make it extremely efficient.
As for the ride, it’s once again smooth and comfortable, although plenty sporty through the corners. Then again I didn’t drive it quickly very often, because the CR-V simply doesn’t tease or tempt its driver to do so. I think that’s a good thing, because it could save you money when it comes to potential speeding tickets, and provides a more relaxing atmosphere that suits this type of luxury-lined family hauler. True, at 55 I’m getting older and don’t care as much about performance during my daily drives, so for me this CR-V is just about perfect.
Another thing we older folks appreciate more than most in younger generations is reliability, and Honda regularly outperforms most competitors in third-party studies. For instance, the most recent J.D. Power and Associates 2018 Vehicle Dependability Study placed Honda within the top 10 of all automotive brands, and therefore above the industry average, while Consumer Reports’ latest 2018 automotive brand report card has Honda in ninth place overall and third amongst mainstream volume nameplates, beating Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai, Mazda, Volkswagen and the list goes on. Additionally, CR pointed to the new CR-V as one reason why Honda’s score improved this year.
So all added up it’s no wonder Honda does so well with its CR-V. As noted earlier, it’s easily my pick for best in class, thanks to doing most everything better than its peers, from styling to interior design, finishing, quality, comfort, load flexibility and ease of use. Its electronic interfaces are excellent, while its drivetrain and suspension combo is amongst the best in the business, all resulting in one superb compact crossover SUV made all the better in top-line Touring trim. I highly recommend it.