We’ve sampled just about every version of the current Honda CR-V, but in very specific environments.
The average family buys into this segment of crossover for the purpose of versatility. These family-haulers are used for everything from driving the family carpool to tackling the weekend trip to the hardware store. But one of the most overlooked aspects of use is the traditional road trip. We jumped behind the wheel of this 2021 Honda CR-V Touring for a weekend getaway.
This generation of the CR-V has been around for just over three years now, and it’s definitely one of the better options in the segment. It’s one of the best packaged models in its class as it relates to usable interior volume, and the interior materials make it a very pleasant place to be in. Those running the daily family errands will find ease in loading everything imaginable into the CR-V, and the perfect height makes it a real joy to get in and out of.
All Canadian versions of the CR-V come with just one powertrain, a 1.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine. It’s turbocharged and puts out 190 horsepower at 5,600RPM and 179 lb-ft. of torque between 2,000 and 5,000RPM. The only available transmission is a CVT, which in this case does suck the life out of the engine in a number of situations. It’s not particularly slow, and in urban settings is rather eager and makes more than adequate amounts of power available to the driver.
Out on the highway though, the CVT moans and groans substantially, and makes the CR-V feel like it’s working very hard to maintain speed. There’s a lot of engine noise adding to the whining of the CVT, and it just makes for a rather unpleasant experience. The naturally aspirated 2.4-liter engine on the previous generation CR-V was a little bit better in this regard, so perhaps it’s the move to a smaller-displacement turbocharged engine that has given the CR-V this weakness.
Honda Canada rates the all-wheel-drive CR-V at 8.7L/100km in the city and 7.4L/100km on the highway, for a combined 8.1L/100km. We did roughly 1,000km of exclusive highway driving, and couldn’t muster any better than 9.0L/100km. Any sort of passing maneuver will immediately result in the fuel efficiency average worsening. The 53-liter fuel tank is also much too small to allow for any real cruising range without stopping for frequent refuelling. The saving grace is that the CR-V only requires regular fuel.
The interior of the CR-V is full of high quality materials. There some matte-wood trim on the dashboard and door panels that’s quite nice to the touch, and the rest of the interior is upholstered in soft-touch plastic and leather. The Touring trim here gets perforated leather seats that are heated both front and rear, and the steering wheel is also heated. Unlike some of its competition, the CR-V can comfortably seat five adults. The cargo capacity of 1,065-liters is also generous, and with the seats down it grows to 2,146-liters.
Technology is one area the CR-V needs a serious upgrade, and this criticism is mostly directed right at the seven-inch touchscreen infotainment setup. It’s compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which works fine, but the native Honda system has low-resolution graphics and is slow to respond. This trim level offers built-in navigation, but again, we recommend using the smartphone interface rather than fiddling with the clunky built-in system. There’s a TFT screen in the instrument cluster as well, which provides the necessary information, but the lack of customizability shows the system’s age.
The comprehensive Honda Sensing suite of active driver aids is standard on the CR-V. It includes lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, and more. The Touring model adds a Blind Spot Information system as well as Rear Cross Traffic Monitoring. One area in need of improvement is the rear-view camera, which lags behind the competition in resolution. Honda would benefit from implementation of a 360-degree system.
Pricing for the 2021 CR-V starts at $29,805 for the base front-drive LX variant. Most Canadians will want all-wheel-drive, and stepping up to the LX AWD costs $32,605. Highlights on our Touring tester include the built-in navigation system, wireless charging, 331-watt nine-speaker premium audio system, LED headlights, a panoramic moonroof, and power liftgate. This fully loaded model costs $41,905, and the only model above it is the CR-V Black Edition, which adds only visual upgrades.
The 2021 Honda CR-V Touring may be one of the best compact crossovers out there right now, but it’s definitely not the optimal road trip choice. Its eager engine and well-tuned chassis are excellent in urban settings, but begin to show their weakness on long stretches at highway speeds. Those piling on serious highway kilometers will want to look at alternatives like the Subaru Forester, Volkswagen Tiguan, and the Chevrolet Equinox. Meanwhile, drivers spending the majority of their time locally will still find a top-notch companion in the CR-V.