The simple and likable Honda CR-V has been a handy helpmate since 1997. And, my, how it has grown in confidence and sophistication from that first spindly model that had a nifty cargo floor that converted to a card table, with folding legs, for tailgating.
The table is gone now, but there are many more functional features layered into this compact crossover that make it an ideal family or active-lifestyle getaway car.
The 2015 CR-V is technically a “midcycle refresh,” but the upgrades are significant and make it seem new. Honda says it is the most significant mid-model cycle redesign in the model’s 17-year history.
On the to-do list were a new “Earth Dreams” four-cylinder engine and continuously variable transmission. There is freshened styling inside and out, more new standard and available features and more than 60 changes to the body to increase safety performance. And there’s a new top-of-the-line Touring trim (today’s test car), which includes Honda’s first application of collision mitigation braking and lane keeping assist, and the first CR-V adoption of adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning.
As before, the CR-V is sold in front- or all-wheel-drive models with one engine and transmission choice in three time levels. Starting prices range from $24,325 to $33,775 for the Touring AWD; pricing includes the $880 freight charge from East Liberty, Ohio.
The two-wheel-drive Touring tester was a quality piece at $32,350, without any options. About all it lacked among its entry-lux conveniences were ventilated front seats (in addition to the seat heaters) and a 10-way power adjustable front passenger seat, just as the driver gets. It felt second-class that the passenger seat has NO adjustments other than fore and aft.
Standard Touring equipment includes smart-key entry/locking with push-button ignition, power moonroof, power tailgate, multiangle rearview camera with guidance lines, heated front seats, seven-speaker audio system, Bluetooth phone and audio, satellite and Pandora radio, 7-inch touchscreen display audio with navigation system.
Standard safety features include six air bags, collision mitigating braking, forward collision warning, lane departure warning and traction and stability controls.
The ride height is just enough to enhance sightlines in traffic, with no obstructions over the shoulder. The gauge layout is simple and bold, but the audio system has a few too many touchscreen controls and too few buttons, such as for volume.
There’s an excellent multiangle review camera with guidance lines displayed on the touchscreen. And the coolest camera of this century is Honda’s Lane Watch in the passenger side mirror, which activates when using the turn signal. Once you’ve seen it work, you’ll agree that every car should have this.
The interior assembly is precise and appealing with an engaging mix of textures, colors and materials. The perforated leather front seats are fully supportive and have a rich leather aura. There are an abundance of storage areas carved throughout to make good use of all available space.
The back doors open to almost a right angle for easy entry and exit. And the second row has a flat floor more footroom. There is a wide fold-down armrest with cup holders, storage in the doors, rear heat/AC vents and grab handles. There is a comfortable seatback angle but a slightly short seat bottom for adult comfort, which may benefit the generous legroom of 38.3 inches.
The power tailgate is a sweet convenience. The cargo area has a wide opening and low liftover, both of which maximize capacity. There’s a deep 35.2 cubic feet behind the second row that doubles to 70.9 cubic feet with the easy fold of the back seat. And the mechanical release to fold the seat is a synchronized engineering feat that first flips forward the second-row seat bottom and then folds the seatback and headrests.
The 185-horseower has plenty of launch force and the CVT is right there to wring out the power with a good kickdown and rapid gain of passing power. Fuel economy ratings are 27 mpg city, 34 highway and 29 mpg combined for 2WD models and 26/33/28 for AWD. I was consistently averaging 29.6 mpg and not sparing the throttle.
Braking is confident from four-wheel discs with 11.7-inch vented front rotors and 12-inch solid rotors rear. The Touring gets robust 18-inch Dunlop Grandtrek AT20 all-season tires (P225/60) on alloy wheels.
The suspension is steady but firm, almost more firm than expected on a “touring” model but not harsh. And the ride quality can be squirmy on sections of grooved concrete Interstate. At speed, there is more wind noise than seems necessary, but CR-V styling may not be as slick (wind cheating) as it appears. The turning circle of 37.5 feet is nimble, and it’s a half-foot shorter than on the AWD models.
Some owners of the 2015 Honda CR-V have complained about a vibration in the driver’s seat and steering wheel at low idle. I did not experience this vibration in my 300 miles of driving. Honda’s official stance is that is has acknowledged the vibration as a concern for some customers and is working on a solution. “The vibration is not a detriment to safety, reliability or any other performance aspect of the vehicle,” a spokesman said. “It can be annoying when you’re idling in gear under certain circumstances, and for that we’re sorry for any annoyance it causes until we come up with the best solution.”
There are more than a dozen choices in this compact crossover segment. Among them, the Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4, Chevy Equinox, Nissan Rogue, Jeep Cherokee, Subaru Forester, Mazda CX-5 and Hyundai Tucson.
But the CR-V has been the all-star, beating them all with 335,000 sales last year. With the improvements for 2015, Honda will keep the top spot.
Mark Maynard is online at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find photo galleries and more news at Facebook.com/MaynardsGarage