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PowerSteering: 2017 Honda CR-V Review

PowerSteering: 2017 Honda CR-V Review

By Liz Kim, March 08, 2017

Introduction
It’s not just your imagination. Crossover SUVs are indeed taking over the world. Sales have exploded over the past two decades, and consumers now purchase three times as many crossovers as they do traditional SUVs and minivans combined. In fact, crossovers account for nearly two out of every three non-truck purchases in the United States.

Currently, Honda is the king of the crossover SUV sales chart. No doubt, the redesigned 2017 Honda CR-V will ensure that the company reign continues. That’s because the CR-V is not only the best-selling model among all crossovers, it also tallies near-continuous year-over-year increases.

2017 Honda CR-V front quarter right photoGiven this background, it’s not a big leap to say that the new Honda CR-V is the most influential model in America, one that every carmaker is closely watching and assessing in order to keep up or hope to overtake. Thus, Honda’s very success is at stake with the fifth-generation CR-V, arriving on the 20th anniversary of the original CR-V’s introduction.

Even though the 2017 CR-V is new from the ground up, Honda stuck with the tried-and-true formula that made the CR-V so beloved in the first place—namely, its utility, manageable dimensions, and easy-to-drive characteristics. Beyond this, Honda tweaked everything to make small but tangible improvements. Based on the same architecture that spawns the Civic, Honda gives 2017 CR-V buyers a new engine choice and updated technological features. Honda sticks with a familiar trim level structure, offering LX, EX, EX-L, and the top-of-the-line Touring version.

For this review, our expert evaluated a 2017 Honda CR-V Touring with all-wheel drive (AWD). The price came to $33,695, including the $940 destination charge.



What Owners Say
Before we discuss the results of our evaluation of the new 2017 CR-V, it’s helpful to understand who bought the previous version of this compact SUV and what they liked most and least about it.

Compared with all models in J.D. Power’s Compact SUV segment, CR-V buyers are older (60 years vs. 56 years segment average) and enjoy a slightly higher median annual household income ($90,833 vs. $89,505). Women comprise 51% of CR-V buyers, exactly matching the overall Compact SUV segment.

Fewer CR-V buyers identify themselves as price (18% vs. 24%) or performance (8% vs. 11%) buyers than the segment averages, while more select “Hometown Retired” (37% vs. 29%) to describe themselves. Just 40% of CR-V buyers agree that they prefer to buy a vehicle from a domestic company, compared with 62% of Compact SUV buyers.

Honda CR-V buyers seek a reliable, high-quality vehicle that doesn’t cost much to maintain. J.D. Power data shows that 75% of CR-V buyers strongly agree that they avoid vehicles that they think will have high maintenance costs (vs. 66% for the segment); 52% strongly agree that their first consideration in choosing a vehicle is quality of workmanship (vs. 45%); and 71% strongly agree that their first consideration in choosing a vehicle is reliability. Furthermore, 61% of CR-V buyers agree that they are willing to pay more for a vehicle that is environmentally friendly, compared with 56% of Compact SUV buyers.

Fewer CR-V buyers agree that their friends and family think of them as someone who knows a great deal about autos (51% vs. 56%), and fewer agree that they like a vehicle that stands out from the crowd (56% vs. 66%). Perhaps not surprisingly, then, more CR-V buyers are likely to agree that a vehicle is just a way to get from place to place (49% vs. 44%).

Buyers say their favorite things about the CR-V are (in descending order) the exterior styling, driving dynamics and interior design (in a tie), visibility/safety, and seats. Buyers indicate their least favorite things about the CR-V are (in descending order) the engine/transmission, storage and space, climate system, fuel economy, and the infotainment system.


What Our Expert Says
In the sections that follow, our expert provides her own assessment of how the new 2017 CR-V performs in each of the 10 categories that comprise the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study.SM

Exterior
While the front styling of the newest CR-V may be bolder than the previous model’s somewhat bland appearance, it signals that this is unmistakably a Honda. Sculpting along the flanks holds interest, and the haunches over the wheels give the CR-V a sense of strength. My Touring test vehicle also had sporty dual exhaust outlets, adding a sense of attitude to the CR-V’s rear end.

Honda might consider revising the design of the 18-in. aluminum wheels that come with the EX trim level and above, as they attracted more negative than positive commentary during the vehicle road test.

Interior
Honda doesn’t try to upend design norms when it comes to the new CR-V’s interior. For example, there are no upscale dual-tone dashboards here. Whether you choose the black, gray, or ivory interior color, the dashboard is black, with a strip of plastic wood trim to break up the monotony inside of the Touring trim level.

2017 Honda CR-V interior photoIn terms of control layout, Honda sticks to common themes, placing them where drivers are accustomed to finding them and designing their operation to conventional standards. This makes the CR-V exceptionally easy to understand and use.

A few new features may take a bit of acclimation, though, such as a push-button electronic parking brake and an all-digital dashboard that no longer provides analog gauges.

Seats
The new CR-V’s front seats provide a good amount of thigh support, bolstering, and cushioning. While there were plenty of power adjustments for the driver’s seat—12 in all—no amount of money will buy a height adjuster for the passenger seat. And while heated seats are available on higher trim levels, there is no option for ventilated seats.

Rear-seat passengers will find roomy accommodations with plenty of legroom, foot room, hip room, and shoulder space. In fact, three average-size adults will fit with little complaint. Honda also supplies 2 USB charging ports for rear-seat occupants to use.

Climate Control System
Honda’s climate control system is a model of simplicity, with dual-zone functionality and temperature knobs for easy adjustment. The buttons for the aforementioned heated seats are grouped together with the rest of the climate controls, as they should be.

Temperate testing weather and cloudy days did not stress the climate system’s effectiveness, but this has been a source of dissatisfaction for CR-V owners in the past.

Infotainment System
Apparently, Honda did not realize that a humble stereo volume knob could be of such great importance until it disappeared in the previous-generation CR-V, prompting owners to rate the infotainment system as their least favorite element of the vehicle.

2017 Honda CR-V HondaLink infotainment system photoWith the new CR-V, the volume knob makes a return to the dashboard, and turning the volume up and down is easy again. If Honda also provided a tuning knob, that would make the system even better.

The CR-V’s infotainment system is fairly average in terms of size, graphics, and functionality, meeting the basic standards of the industry. Unfortunately, the HondaLink connected services offering is not particularly robust, and while it does provide automatic collision notification, it lacks increasingly common features that are popular with parents of novice drivers, such as speed, curfew, and boundary alerts as well as driving-behavior reports.

Storage and Space
Providing a versatile interior to carry your things as well as your passengers’ has always been a hallmark of the Honda CR-V. The 2017 version is no exception, giving owners a generous 39.2 cu. ft. of cargo space with the rear seats in use and 75.8 cu. ft. of space with the rear seats folded.

Those numbers measure at the very top of the compact SUV segment and even compete handily with the capacity of midsize utility vehicles such as the Ford Edge, Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, and Nissan Murano. The cargo floor is height-adjustable, too, and has a handy tray to help keep your things organized. Choose the CR-V Touring and the power liftgate supplies hands-free functionality. Simply wave your foot under the rear bumper and the hatch opens—a handy feature for when both of your hands are full.

Inside, Honda provides a large, configurable center console storage area equipped with lots of bins, trays, and cubbies in which to keep items secure and organized. Large door panel bins expand storage, and during a week of family shuttling duty I never found the CR-V lacking on this front.

Visibility and Safety
One of the chief attributes that consumers prefer about crossover SUVs is the high ride height and expansive view out, and the CR-V delivers in this regard. While the windshield pillars are beefier than they have been in the past, the sloping hood provides a commanding view of the road.

Another big improvement to the 2017 CR-V is that Honda has done away with the previous LaneWatch system, a camera-based feature that showed only the blind spot on the right side of the vehicle and which did not work for the left side of the vehicle. In its place is a more useful and intuitive blind-spot monitoring system, which also comes with a rear cross-traffic alert system.

2017 Honda CR-V rear quarter left photoAdditionally, most versions of the CR-V include important active safety features like forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist, and a road-departure prevention feature that actively steers the vehicle to hopefully prevent you from driving into a ditch.

As this review is published, the 2017 CR-V has not been crash-tested by either the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). However, the vehicle is built to Honda’s internal next-generation Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure standards, which bodes well for impressive performance in this regard.

Engine/Transmission
Honda offers two different engines for the 2017 CR-V. The base LX trim level has a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder carried over from last year, while all other versions get a new turbocharged, 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine. Power ratings for each reside in the same neighborhood, but the turbocharged engine makes the power accessible at lower engine rpm while returning better fuel economy by EPA standards.

With the turbocharged engine, plenty of passing power makes the CR-V feel responsive, but a hint of turbo lag affects how the SUV feels from a standstill. I also disliked the loud and high-pitched drone accompanying acceleration, likely due to Honda’s use of a continuously variable transmission (CVT) to power the front wheels (all-wheel drive is optional).

Honda says the CVT is programmed to feel and sound like a traditional automatic transmission, and while this is true it could be made more obvious.

Fuel Economy
When equipped with AWD, the EPA says to expect 29 mpg in combined driving (27 city/33 highway) from the new CR-V. My test vehicle returned disappointing results, averaging 26.1 mpg during a week of driving. Still, that’s an improvement over my last experience with the previous CR-V and its normally aspirated 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, which provided 24.9 mpg rather than the 28 mpg average stated by the EPA.

Driving Dynamics
While the new 2017 CR-V predictably feels more top-heavy and tippy than a Civic sedan, Honda did a fine job of tuning the suspension. It provides a smooth, peaceful ride around town and proves admirably adept on curving highways. The steering is a bit heavy and slow off center, but is otherwise responsive and accurate, while the brakes are suitably modulated to give you response commensurate to pressure.

In short, you don’t spend much time thinking about the CR-V’s driving dynamics, because they are expertly tuned for this type of vehicle.


Final Impressions
Given the abundant success of the CR-V over the past two decades, Honda wasn’t about to make radical changes to its redesigned compact crossover SUV. The company is having no trouble attracting new buyers and can’t afford to alienate the CR-V’s loyal fan base.

Nevertheless, with this redesigned 2017 CR-V, Honda made the right changes and updates to refine and perfect this vehicle, addressing some of the complaints owners had about the previous model without introducing new points of contention.

What’s that old saying? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it? Honda, it seems, takes this age-old wisdom to heart.

American Honda Motor Company supplied the vehicle used for this 2017 Honda CR-V review.


Additional Research:


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