Words by: Adam Allen
What is it?
Unless you live in Yelapa, Mexico- or anywhere else in the world where cars do not ply the streets whatsoever- you know what this is. That’s because the Honda CR-V is exceedingly popular all over North America and has become a best seller for Honda. In the fall of 2019, the 5 millionth CR-V was delivered to an expectant customer and the torrid pace of sales seems to show no signs of letting up. While Honda clearly has a winner on its hands, they’re acutely aware that familiarity can breed contempt amongst shoppers. To that end, Honda has gifted the CR-V with some upgrades to keep it fresh, although these are of the incremental variety- only those interested in an LX-trimmed model will be privy to any major changes, as that trim says goodbye to its naturally aspirated inline-four engine and welcomes the 1.5 turbocharged version (now standard across the lineup). Honda Sensing’s comprehensive suite of driver assistance tech is now part of the plan as well regardless of which one you spec. And as we continue to be captivated by various bits of automotive minutiae, we noticed the wheel design and exhaust finishers are discreetly snazzier, and the asymmetrically placed ‘Turbo’ badge on the rear liftgate is gone. Apart from all that, it’s business as usual for the CR-V.
What’s it like inside?
Roomy! The CR-V is, on paper, within spitting distance dimensionally amongst its rivals. Thanks to Honda’s perennially brilliant packaging know-how it doesn’t feel that way, and the CR-V feels like a better place to spend a long road trip or to be put to work moving a friend than the others. It would feel even airier if the color patterns inside weren’t so dour- a swath here and there of fake wood doesn’t do enough to brighten up the proceedings, but at least you get the sense that everything was screwed together with care. Our Touring-trimmed tester had lots of stuff but we were surprised by the lack of cooled seats, which we quickly forgot about as the heated driver and passenger (including the outboard seats out back) kept our keisters warm during a mid-winter deep freeze. The heated steering wheel and remote start were two other cold weather features we were grateful for. We do have some gripes and the first one will sound familiar because we’ve kvetched about it previously: Honda, you have an excellent infotainment system on hand that can be plucked from the Accord and Odyssey, please make this standard across your entire lineup! To a lesser degree, some of us grumbled about too much wind and road noise which cast a slight shadow on otherwise serene highway excursions.
What’s it like to drive?
The Honda CR-V is meant to be pleasant to drive and not call attention to itself. On this mandate it admirably succeeds. While we were slightly let down by this one-dimensional personality, its legions of buyers find that appealing so we can say for certain that the CR-V will not offend the vast majority of those who are shopping it. It may not have the honed edge of a Civic Si or the under-the-radar engagement of the Accord, but there’s goodness to be had here. The engine churns out a stream of refined torque and while the CVT is an excellent match, we have yet to warm up to this technology. Curiously, the small displacement engine and CVT are meant to be as efficient as possible, but the CR-V’s mill is spinning at a somewhat busy 3,000 rpm when you maintain the speed necessary to keep pace with your fellow motorists. If the engine’s highway rpm feels over-caffeinated, the ride does not. It has that deft balance of silky and buttoned downed feeling that Honda has been so good at nailing over the years. This seems like a good time to come clean and tell you that during our road test, we found ourselves inadvertently putting the all-wheel drive through its paces. Despite being warned, we left it parked over one snowy night in an area prone to huge drifts and the next morning, we wondered if we’d bitten off more that we could chew visiting such a location in the peak of winter. The CR-V didn’t so much as flinch, and it’s four winter tire-shod wheels clawed at the snow easily and had us back onto cleared blacktop much faster than we could have imagined.
Why you should care:
If you’re reading this, it’ll be hard to deny that you’re not captivated by the idea of driving an SUV like everyone else, and that you haven’t searched online for ‘best compact SUV’ and saw that the CR-V is always flirting with the top of those lists. We understand. The fact is that if you insist on putting an SUV in your driveway, and if you put any stock into what some of our colleagues are saying, giving Honda’s CR-V a thorough once-over is a must. You could do much worse in the segment, but it is hard to do better.
2020 Honda CR-V Touring- Specifications
- Price as tested: $42,536
- Body Type: 5-door, 5 passenger SUV
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/All-wheel drive
- Transmission: Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
- Engine: 1.5-litre turbocharged inline four, DOHC, 16 valves
- Horsepower: 190 @ 5,600 rpm
- Torque (lbs-ft.): 179 @ 2,000-5,000 rpm
- Curb weight: 1,641 kg (3,618 lbs)
- Observed Fuel Consumption: 11.6L/100km (20 mpg)