One crossover that has stuck to its promise of efficient practicality.
The Honda CR-V is a staple on our roads, seen in particularly strong numbers here in the Toronto suburbs. It’s not hard to spot examples from any of the five generations working hard faithfully carting families and commuters around. This reliable service has not gone unappreciated and the CR-V continues to increase in popularity. Well-worn examples still command respectable resale values on the used market. Honda has stuck to their and efficient formula over the years, and for 2020 have made a few tweaks. To see how it compares to the long list of fresh competitors, we spent a week with a 2020 Honda CR-V Sport.
The CR-V in its current form is a fairly handsome and agreeable SUV, as it has successfully avoided the tall and narrow look that many of its competitors have been plagued by. It benefits from a wide stance and blunt fascia that give it a tough little bulldog appearance. For 2020 the grille has been revised and the LED taillights now have a darkened look. I am a fan of the black plastic cladding; it seems higher quality than other manufactures and flows well with the lines while still offering the lower body protection from the elements. Our tester’s Radiant Red Metallic is a welcome change from the bland shades you’ll find on most CR-Vs. This mid-range Sport trim also got nice dual exhaust tip finishers and charcoal grey 19-inch wheels.
The interior in the CR-V is where families will spend a lot of time, and Honda has taken great care to build a supremely practical space with lots of clever storage cubbies to keep things organized. For 2020 the center console has been revised and now offers a multi-tier storage bin, two big cupholders and either a wireless charging pad or large storage tray. Materials and overall fit and finish are some of the best in the segment with durable rubberized plastics and texturized aluminum-like accents for a splash of brightness. The black headliner adds a bit of drama, and the power moonroof in our tester avoids the space feeling too dark.
The infotainment system has been a sore-spot for Honda for awhile now and unfortunately the CR-V is no exception. It’s a dated and cumbersome system to use, especially since there are no hard-button alternatives for many common use controls. The system is compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay though, and using one of those systems primarily softens the frustration.
As a mid-range Sport trim model our tester came with fabric seats with leather side bolsters; the leather feels plasticky and cheap, but the fabric is soft and will hold up well to years of use. The fabric also warms up quickly using the standard front heated seats, as does the heated leather wrapped steering wheel. The seats proved supportive on a six-hour trip and there is plenty of space for rear passengers to make themselves comfortable. In keeping with the focus on practicality, the CR-V boasts one of the largest cargo areas in the segment. The split rear seat easily folds flat, which can be done remotely using releases in the trunk. We were very appreciative of the handy tie down hooks in the cargo area which allowed us to strap down heavier objects.
All CR-Vs regardless of trim level, come with the 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder which makes a healthy 190 horsepower and 179 lb-ft. of torque from 2,000 to 5,000RPM. The hard working little four is mated to a CVT transmission that’s geared towards efficiency first and foremost, which sucks most of the liveliness out of the engine. The 1.5L still impresses with refinement and adequate power, but the CVT combined with limited useable torque means acceleration is not a strong point. Honda is banking on the fact that acceleration is likely down near the bottom of the priority list for most buyers. All CR-Vs with the exception of the base LX-2WD come with real-time all-wheel-drive and Honda’s Intelligent Control System, meaning the CR-V is sure footed in wintery conditions.
Despite its lack of acceleration gusto, the CR-V is quite pleasant to drive thanks to sharp steering, complacent ride and well controlled cabin noise. Overall, it’s a driving experience that’s one of the most refined in the segment, making the CR-V well suited to commuter duty. One thing worth noting if you intend to use your SUV for more than commuting, is that the CR-V’s tow rating tops out at 1500 pounds. This is less than some of it’s close competitors, but only an issue for those buyers who intend to tow.
Efficiency is another strong point of the CR-V and its small displacement four-cylinder. A week’s worth of rush hour commuting delivered an average of 8.6L/100km, and interestingly, a 650km highway trip, half of it loaded down with a few hundred pounds of parts in the back, netted the same 8.6L/100km average. These numbers do fall just shy of the official ratings, but I’ve found that these small displacement fours need a very gentle foot if maximizing economy is your intent.
As mentioned, we did use the CR-V for lengthy round trip to Windsor and while I was initially a little concerned about whether the CR-V would be big enough for three of us plus our cargo, it quickly proved that there was no cause for concern. The CR-V tracks well on the highway and its quiet cabin kept everyone content for the trip. My only gripe is that the engine does feel a bit laboured while passing or climbing steep grades at highway speeds, which likely explains why the CR-V’s fuel consumption didn’t improve on the open highway compared to the congested rush hour traffic from earlier in the week.
All CR-Vs, except for the 2WD model, come standard with Honda Sensing technology, a complete suite of all the latest electronic driving aids. This includes forward collision warning, collision mitigation braking, lane keep assist, road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning. I did find the forward collision warning overly sensitive, especially with rush hour city driving, but the adaptive cruise control system is slick and works very well; great to have on a long trip.
If a CR-V sounds like it might be the right fit for you, you’ll want to know that you can get into one for a starting price of $30,636, but that’s for a basic LX-2WD. The LX AWD is $33,436 and you also get the Honda Sensing Technology package. Next is the Sport, which is the trim level our tester came in, at $36,936. This adds the exterior details, 19-inch wheels, moonroof, power tailgate, heated steering wheel, upgraded seat fabric, roof rails, LED fog lights and more. In fact, the Sport trim has everything you need, and there was nothing I missed not having during my test with it.
For buyers interested in more toys; the EX-L is the next step up at $39,736, it gets leather seating, heated rear seats, wood grain accents, and a short list of additional luxuries. The Touring trim takes it up another notch adding a panoramic roof, LED headlamps, nine-speaker sound system, wireless charging, and more for $43,036. Lastly, there is a Black Edition new for this year, which comes with everything the Touring has, plus blacked out trim and premium leather for $44,836.
The 2020 Honda CR-V Sport is one crossover that has stuck to its promise of efficient practicality for over two decades now, and has proven that Honda knows exactly what young families need. It’s not exactly a driver’s SUV, but a lovable family workhorse that gets the job done with refinement and smoothness. After spending some time with this new trim, I can honestly say that there’s no need to spend any more on a higher trim level. The CR-V Sport really does have everything you need, and nothing you don’t. If you’re in the market for a practical compact crossover, the CR-V needs to be at the top of your shopping list.