Review: 2017 CR-V delivers sleek styling, cargo space

From safety to innovative tech, the CR-V delivers.

UPDATED: The 2017 Honda CR-V has a dramatic new look with a big lower front jaw and many, many angles.
UPDATED: The 2017 Honda CR-V has a dramatic new look with a big lower front jaw and many, many angles. –George Kennedy

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The all-new 2017 Honda CR-V pushes the limits on style and versatility, but where its strongest rival, the Toyota RAV4, puts an emphasis on minimally invasive tech, the CR-V is right in your face with it. In some ways, Honda is setting a new standard, but is it forgetting what made the CR-V so great in the process?

Honda introduced the CR-V 20 years ago, featuring the attractive simplicity that was synonymous with Honda from the late 1990s through the mid-2000s. The new look of this fifth-generation model is more polarizing. If there are critics of the Jeep Cherokee’s recent LED headlight layout, then someone needs to say it—the CR-V looks like something out of a “Transformers” movie.

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The CR-V cabin is much less overdone, and, more importantly, Honda has managed to extract every last cubic inch from the doors, center consoles, and cubbies.

CUPHOLDERS RUNNETH OVER: The cabin area is attractive, spacious, and has tons of places to put your gear. —George Kennedy

The car’s cupholders are deep and large enough for the biggest of Big Gulps; right in front is a tray for your wallet, phone, or keys. The center console has a neat trick—the tray itself slides, so you either have a deep well right next to the cupholders, or if you slide the tray forward, a well that’s underneath the center console lid. This makes the space between the two front seats one of the more innovative parts of the car.

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That is not to discount tech advancements made elsewhere. The CR-V is available with the Hands Free Power Access Gate. You simply have to have the key fob in your pocket, and then swing one foot under the rear bumper and the hatch opens. It’s a great feature if your arms are full of groceries, laundry, or whatever else you’d need to toss in the 75.8 cubic feet of maximum cargo space with the rear seats folded.

That roominess is among the most in the compact SUV segment, and you gain access to it with incredibly easy, quick-release handles that drop the rear seats. The rear seat area itself is roomy for passengers, and there is enough space between the first and second rows that you don’t need to remove the headrests to drop the seats—that’s impressive and timesaving. The only downside to the cargo area is that the load floor is not completely flat. If you have a large item that you are trying to move, you’ll likely have to have help getting it over the lip caused by the folded rear seats. Competitors offer less cargo space, but the full-flat layout of those rivals is helpful.

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There are four trims on the CR-V: LX, EX, EX-L, and Touring, which we drove. The base LX comes well equipped, and includes a backup camera, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity, USB audio port, helpful 5-inch LCD screen, and a tire pressure monitoring system, all as standard features.

The EX trim adds remote start, dual-zone climate control, second-row USB charging ports, and a 7-inch center dash touch screen. This trim also comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, bringing the interface and many of the features of your favorite smartphone into the car.

The EX-L adds leather, a power tailgate, HD radio, and a 180-watt sound system with 8 speakers. The range-topping touring model adds some chrome bits on the exterior, dual chrome exhaust, LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, and a 330-watt premium sound system with 9 speakers and a subwoofer. It’s one of the more expensive trims in the entire compact SUV market, but it delivers on that promise of luxury with plenty of content.

The engine in the LX is a 2.0-liter inline-4 that makes 184 horsepower. Move up to any other trim, and you get a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that is turbocharged, allowing it to make 190 horsepower. It is routed through a continuously variable transmission to the front wheels or, in the case of our test model, all-wheel-drive.

With this combination, acceleration is a little slow on the uptake. Step on the gas and things happen eventually, but the CR-V makes a lot of fuss and noise in the process.

Steering is light, though not to the point where you lose positive steering feel. While there is not much body roll, the CR-V doesn’t feel extremely planted in high-speed turns such as on-ramps and off-ramps.

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Fuel economy is listed at 27 mpg city, 33 highway, 29 combined. In mixed driving, we returned fuel economy of 27.8 mpg. It should be noted that we left it in S, or Sport mode, a great deal of the time, improving acceleration, but impacting fuel economy.

The CR-V comes with a full boat of safety tech, as part of the HondaSensing suite of features. It includes forward collision warning and prevention with pedestrian detection, lane keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control. You can also get blind spot monitoring, rounding out a supremely comprehensive portfolio of safety technology. It should be noted that for 2017, Toyota offers many of these features as standard in the RAV4. If you’re going for value, that’s hard to argue.

Base MSRP for the 2017 Honda CR-V is $24,045. That’s pricey in a market where compact SUVs like the Subaru Forester routinely start at closer to $22,000, but as previously stated, the CR-V comes very well equipped in base form. Move up to the EX and you’ll have to pay $26,695, while the EX-L starts at $29,195. Our Touring test model starts at $32,395.

That’s a steep price, but consider what you get: the latest in style, comfort, and safety. Honda may not have made any quantum leaps in automotive innovation with the CR-V, but it did mange to streamline and perfect the many ways that a crossover can be a helpful daily driver.

2017 Honda CR-V

THE BASICS

Price: $24,045. As tested: $32,395. Fuel economy, EPA estimated: 27/33. Fuel economy, Globe observed: 27.8 mpg. 1.5L turbocharged I4 CVT, all-wheel drive. Body: Four-door compact SUV.

THE SPECIFICS

Horsepower: 190. Overall length: 180.6 in. Wheelbase 104.7 in. Height: 66.5 in. Width: 73.0 in. Curb weight: 3,207 to 3,512 lbs.

THE GOOD

Amazing cargo space, storage options everywhere, spacious front and rear seating.

THE BAD

Lackluster acceleration, dull steering and handling, frustrating touch screen layout.

THE BOTTOM LINE

It’s pricey, but from cargo space to creature comforts, this car justifies every penny.

ALSO CONSIDER

(Deep breath)…Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester, Mazda CX-5, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Jeep Cherokee, Ford Escape, Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain, Volkswagen Tiguan, Fiat 500X.

George Kennedy is a freelance automotive journalist and automotive expert. You can reach him at George.h.kennedy.iii@gmail.com and on twitter @GKenns101.