VICTORIA, BRITISH COLUMBIA – We first saw the Honda CR-V in North America in 1996 as a 1997 model year vehicle. Excluding the brief Honda-Isuzu collaboration that brought us the Honda Passport and Acura SLX, the CR-V was Honda’s first sport-utility vehicle sold in Canada. It sold well, and continued to increase in popularity significantly over the next two decades. The 2017 model year marks the 20th anniversary of the original CR-V, and Honda saw it fit to debut the all-new fifth generation model, which debuted in October. We flew to Victoria, B.C. to sample the 2017 Honda CR-V lineup, a crossover that we know Canadians will be lining up in herds to buy.
Honda has been on a roll, holding the number one position in retail sales in four major segments. This includes the Civic, Accord, HR-V, and of course, the CR-V. The CR-V is the third bestseller in its segment currently, beaten out by the Ford Escape (reviewed here) and the Toyota RAV4. Over twenty years on the market, over 450,000 CR-Vs have been sold to Canadians, with 2016 year-to-date sales boasting over 40,000 units alone. When addressing challenges to try and get that number one position in its segment, Honda has implemented aggressive design, a more dynamic and sporty driving experience, and more premium interior materials – all of this while bringing more value to the table.
Longer than its predecessor by 1.5 inches, the new CR-V also boasts a larger wheelbase, up by 1.6”. The last CR-V did the job exactly as asked, and was a reliable, safe choice, but it was never very exciting. Rivals like the Mazda CX-5 (reviewed here) and Hyundai Tucson (reviewed here) surpassed it in style or tech, leaving the CR-V behind in these regards. The expanded dimensions of the CR-V work to ensure interior space is maximized where it’s needed. Rear seat legroom is more usable, and the flat floor in the cargo area (with the seats folded down) has a two-level removable floor system and provides 1.8 meters of flat cargo space.
The new model implements fresh styling, reflective of the new Honda design language we have seen on the new Civic and HR-V (reviewed here), and also shares the same global platform as the award-winning Civic. All trim levels of CR-V get LED daytime running lights, turn signals, and taillights, while the top-trim Touring model gets full LED headlights as standard equipment. The design is a bolder move from the previous generation, using more flared fenders and a fascia that’s more pronounced and modern looking. The daytime running lights outlines the fascia in a similar manner to the new Pilot and Ridgeline.
Built in Canada, the base CR-V LX still gets a 2.4L inline four-cylinder that carries over from the outgoing model, but not in our market. The really huge news here is the implementation of the Earth Dreams 1.5L turbocharged inline four that’s shared with the Civic – standard on all Canadian models of the CR-V. This marks the first time Honda has sold a turbocharged crossover (excluding the first-generation Acura RDX) in Canada. Up in power significantly from the Civic, the CR-V’s powerplant is good for 190 horsepower at 5,600RPM and 179 lb-ft of torque, available between 2,000 and 5,000RPM.
Something we have come to fully expect from Honda, the steering precision is some of the best in the segment. It’s still electric power steering, but there’s a surprising amount of feel through the wheel, which has a relatively small diameter and is easy to flick from side to side. The car handles with ease and technologies like Vehicle Stability Assist are right there to help in case intervention is needed. Stability control systems are standard on all trim levels of CR-V.
The sole transmission choice offered to Canadians is the continuously variable transmission with G-Shift control. Honda was later to the CVT game than some other manufacturers, but their unit is one of the best in the industry right now. It offers immediate response, complements the character of each car, and has a sport mode that holds RPMs for spirited driving. No paddle shifters or manual shifting modes are available on the CR-V.
Honda has rated the 2017 CR-V at 8.7L/100km city, 7.2L/100km highway, and a combined estimate of 8.0L/100km. These numbers are for the four-wheel-drive model that most will buy, and the FWD LX is rated at 8.4, 7.0, and 7.8L/100km respectively. These numbers are on regular 87-octane fuel, and there is no recommendation for premium regardless of turbocharging. The increase in efficiency is thanks to an overall weight reduction of 35 kilograms over the previous vehicle.
Save for the base LX, all CR-Vs get a next-generation Real Time All-Wheel-Drive system. It’s able to send up to 40% of available torque to the rear wheels, weighs less, and has new electronic mechanism for the hydraulic pump. The system is pretty sophisticated and is right up there with Subaru’s Symmetrical all-wheel-drive system. Canadians upgrading from their existing Civic or Accord to get the peace of mind that comes with all-wheel-drive will not be disappointed. Real Time AWD is an automatic system that’s activated when it detects slip – there’s no option to leave the vehicle in 2WD mode when AWD is not necessary. There’s added capability to venture off the beaten path thanks to a 34mm increase in ground clearance.
On the inside, Honda has used a floating rear sub frame and added liquid-filled compliance bushing for the suspension to improve noise insulation. The CR-V also gets Active Noise Control (ANC), more sound insulating materials, and improved aerodynamics for quietness. Even with the winter tires equipped on our test vehicles, the new car is notably quieter than the outgoing one, and feels smoother in overall operation. Effortlessness and comfort is key here, as the enthusiast is not the target market for the CR-V – this is a car targeted squarely at the mainstream buyer seeking versatility.
Interior ergonomics have been enhanced significantly, including a larger sized storage tray that can hold up to a 5.5” smart phone. The interior is quite similar to the one in the new Civic, which is a very good thing. Dash materials are all soft touch, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard right across the line. After tons of criticism when the volume knob was replaced with clumsy sliders, Honda has brought back the volume knob on the CR-V’s Display Audio system! The Touring model gets a nine-speaker 331W audio system. The panel where the screen sits is quite large, though the screen itself is substantially smaller – this discrepancy bothered me a bit and made the dash look a bit awkward.
All models get push button start, remote start, and a front wiper de-icer. Rear passengers get access to two 2.5A USB ports to charge devices (EX and up). Those who opt for higher trim levels will get access to things like a heated steering wheel and rear seats (standard on EX-L and Touring), and a panoramic sunroof. The seats have been completely redesigned, and are far more supportive for longer distances. Over our extensive drive route, we remarked on how little fatigue our bodies were experiencing thanks to this.
The Honda Sensing suite of driver assist features is standard on all models with AWD. This includes Collision Mitigating Braking System (CMBS), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with low-speed follow, Road Departure Mitigation (RDM), and Lane Keeping Assist (LKAS). New for the 2017 model is a blind spot information monitor (Touring only), rear cross traffic alert, and a driver attention level monitor. The attention level monitor is connected to the steering wheel and warns you to take a break when it senses fatigue. All of this has earned the CR-V an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ rating.
Pricing for the CR-V starts at $26,690 for the LX FWD model, and the entry-level AWD model is $29,490. The base car still comes nicely equipped with 17” alloy wheels, automatic climate control, electronic parking brake, smartphone integration, Display Audio system, and the AWD model gets Honda Sensing tech. Also available is $32,990 EX, the $35,290 EX-L, and of course, the range-topping $38,090 Touring. Highlighted features on the Touring include navigation, panoramic sunroof, dual chrome exhaust, chrome exterior trim, exclusive wheel designs, ambient lighting, and blind spot indicators.
With unique new colour offerings such as Molten Lava and Dark Olive, the 2017 Honda CR-V sets aside the boringness of the old car and makes a leap toward earning the number one sales position in Canada within its segment. Honda has a stellar reputation for reliability, and delivering an engaging driving experience. Boasting added versatility, plenty of new features across the lineup, a punchy new engine, and of course, a volume knob, the new CR-V should have no issues climbing up the sales ladder. The new CR-V goes on sale to Canadians on December 21 of this year.
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