2015 Honda CR-V SE
The plans said facelift, but the result was major surgery.
We came away with a better understanding of why Honda’s CR-V is the best-selling vehicle in its class when we Road Tested the 2014 model about a year ago. It was comfortable, spacious and well-built yet still engaging to drive. The basic recipe contained a fundamental goodness any small CUV shopper would appreciate, and we wouldn’t have opined that major changes were needed to keep it at the top of sales charts. Honda brass may have slightly disagreed and decided when it became time for a facelift, instead of the usual suspects like different wheel styles and minor trim upgrades the CR-V got a whole lot more than that. It looks richer than the model it replaces, and even our mid-level SE tester had stuff like aluminum wheels and dazzling LED daytime running lamps.
How ‘bout a whole new powertrain? Again, not an area we thought needed addressing, but who are we to argue with progress? The outgoing 2.4 was a sweet engine, making 185 horsepower and happily signing to the redline in delightful Honda fashion. It was paired with a 5–speed automatic gearbox that made the most of the engines output, but we still clamoured for more power and maybe an extra gear in the transmission to relax highway cruising a bit. Honda was listening (mostly) because our 2015 tester in SE trim had the same 2.4 litre engine from the Accord making…185 horsepower. OK, so horsepower numbers doesn’t budge, but torque swells to 181 lbs/ft, an increase of 11%. It may not seem like much, but it is a marked improvement. You feel it shove you off the line and getting you up to speed nicely. The difference is most pronounced when dashing from light to light; the new engine ensures the CR-V effortlessly keeps up with traffic. The extra gear for the automatic was traded for no gears at all, meaning Honda’s CVT handles transmission duties.
PROS: Engine donated from the Accord is a terrific fit, one of the best CVT units out there, spoiled for room inside.
CONS: Low-speed buzzing from the CVT, more wind and road noise than we’d like.
THE VERDICT: Significant-for-a-facelift changes should help the CR-V keep its perch at the top of the sales charts, at least for now.
We haven’t yet acquired the taste for this technology, but Honda’s unit is pretty good. What sets it apart from other similar applications is that it’s combined with a torque converter, designed to give step-off and idle creep a more natural feel. It works. Not only that, but because the transmission’s brain is always finding the optimal ratio for whatever situation you have to be in, you’ll never catch it by surprise or send it juggling gears to find the ideal one. The only thing we would ding the CVT for is the low speed vibration you can feel in the seats and steering wheel, kind of like a low frequency haptic touch feedback. This buzz disappears as speed rises but still feels a bit odd. And try as we might to ignore it, oddness persists when you mat the throttle and have the revs pegged at 6,800 rpm while the speedometer slowly catches up. This may be the more efficient way forward, but not having any gears to climb through feels off. The new engine, although stingier with fuel and more powerful than the old 4-cylinder, it never felt at ease when the tach needle approached the redzone.
The steering still has the same relative level of playfulness. Many cars in this class give you a vague approximation of what’s happening at the front wheels, however the CR-V makes a concerted effort to involve the driver through its helm. It also has excellent path control, settling into a solid highway cruising demeanor. The relationship the driver has with the controls is spot on, and the cloth seats are very comfortable and supportive.
Whenever an automaker has to revise a bestselling model, they are only too aware that it’s an exercise in extreme caution. Undeniably, there’s room for improvement but if you get to radical with changes, you turn off the buyers whose loyalty has made it best-in-class sales leader. On the flip side if you don’t do enough, folks accuse you of too much laurel-resting and the pace of change passes you by. We think Honda has done a good job of keeping the core recipe for the CR-V intact but adding just enough new ingredients to deepen the flavor. Now that we’ve got a good understanding of the CR-V’s facelift, we look forward to seeing what Honda can come up with when a clean-sheet redesign is in order.
2015 Honda CR-V SE – Specifications
- Price as tested: $31,718
- Body Type: 5-door, 5-passenger crossover
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
- Engine: 2.4L inline-4, DOHC 16 valve with i-VTEC
- Horsepower: 185 @ 7,000 rpm
- Torque: 181 lbs/ft. @ 3,900 rpm
- Transmission: Continuously Variable automatic
- Curb Weight: 1,619 kg (3,569 lbs.)
- Observed combined fuel consumption: 11.8 L/100 km (20 mpg)