by Roger Biermann
A compact crossover from the brand that knows a thing or two about practicality, refinement, and reliability, the CR-V leaps right to the front of the segment. Two four-cylinder offerings are available on the engine front, with a base 2.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline derivative outputting 184 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque and a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with an extra six hp with one lb-ft less, driving the choice between front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. A CVT is the only available gearbox. With rivals such as the Toyota RAV4 and Mazda CX-5, the MSRP of $24,350 on the base LX derivative is a big plus. Three more derivatives, EX, EX-L, and Touring are available, with the latter offering a nine-speaker premium audio system, power adjustable heated leather seats, and a range of safety features.
After a substantial redesign last year, the CR-V remains practically unchanged for 2019, with significant updates only expected for the 2020 MY. The only change is a minor update to the color palette for the 2019 model, adding Platinum White Pearl as a new exterior option.
With proportions par for the segment, the CR-V relies on Honda’s design DNA to set it apart from its rivals. 18-inch alloy wheels are standard on all but the base trim – the LX gets 17s – and fill the arches substantially without being overly flashy. Black body surrounds complement the chrome trimmings, while roof rails and dual tailpipes on the Touring trim give the CR-V a beefy design for broad-spectrum appeal. LED daytime running lights are standard on all, though only the top-trim Touring gets LED headlights.
As far as compact crossovers go, the CR-V’s dimensions are fairly average. The CR-V measures 180.6 inches in length and rides on a 104.7-inch wheelbase, while it measures 73 inches wide. Height varies, as does the ground clearance, depending on the drivetrain, with front-wheel drive derivatives bearing 7.8 inches of ground clearance and measuring 66.1 inches in height, while the AWD derivatives have 8.2 inches of ground clearance and measure 66.5 inches tall. With the increased ride height, AWD models also boast greater approach and departure angles, 20.8 and 24.8 degrees respectively, than the FWD models which get 19.3 and 23.5 degrees. Curb weight ranges from 3,307 lbs to 3,512 lbs depending on trim and drivetrain.
For 2019, Honda offers the CR-V with a color palette of ten hues, with only one change from last year’s offering. The change is the addition of Platinum White Pearl in place of the previously available White Diamond Pearl. In addition to Platinum White, five other hues are available across all model derivatives, including Lunar Silver, Crystal Black Pearl, and Obsidian Blue Pearl. Not available on the LX are four color options, Gunmetal Metallic, Sandstorm Metallic, and the striking duo of Dark Olive Metallic and Molten Lava Pearl.
The Honda CR-V is one of the keenest performers in its class, but there are trims that perform better than others, primarily the EX trim. It’s the lightest of all the trims to be equipped with a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine, plating up 190 hp and 179 lb-ft and sending it to either the front wheels or all four corners via a continuously variable transmission. Despite being down on torque by a single lb-ft compared to the base engine, it’s up by six horsepower. Crucially, the torque arrives much sooner in the rev-range, making more effective use of the CVT transmission and enabling a 7.6-second 0-60 mph time, with similar performance on offer from both the FWD and AWD equipped models comparable to many in the segment. Only the turbocharged Honda CX-5 is truly quicker.
Towing capacity remains the same across the range, with a class-average 1,500 lbs for both front- and all-wheel drive models.
Honda equips the CR-V range with a choice of two engines. On the base LX derivative, you’ll find a 2.4-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder carried over from Honda’s historic offerings. It generates 184 horsepower and 180 lb-f of torque, giving it similar outputs to the remaining engine alternative. From EX through to Touring trims, a smaller, 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine does duty, but with the addition of a turbocharger is beats the base engine’s power output with 190 hp, while marginally down on torque at just 179 lb-ft. Regardless of engine choice, a continuously variable transmission does duty.
The turbocharged engine is the better of the two, with a broader spread of torque it feels stronger from right down low, even if responses aren’t quite up to the standards of a naturally aspirated motor. However, while the base motor doesn’t work as well with the CVT transmission, the turbo motor gets the most out of it, shuffling about its duties without much droning or rubberiness commonly associated with the transmission. The turbo engine does have a downfall though, and that’s at the top of the rev range where it feels asthmatic while the 2.4 feels stronger. Neither has much trouble cruising at highway speeds or overtaking, but the 1.5-liter engine is stronger in this regard.
The CR-V is more than just a practical family crossover with a strong engine line-up, as it also offers some of the best driving dynamics around. Though the figures of the turbo motor are on par with the base 2.4, the broad spread of torque and the responsiveness of the turbo mill make it impressive, with ample acceleration that won’t set your hair alight.
Braking performance is impressive, too, stopping consistently and with good feel and feedback through the pedal. But it’s the handling that leads the class by some margin, with a natural steering feel, precision responses, and suspension that strikes a fine balance between comfort and handling. All but the largest of road abnormalities are absorbed easily, and even then, those are dealt with without any harsh jolting through the cabin. Threading the CR-V through a series of twists and turns also proves fruitful, with body roll kept to a fair minimum and steering inputs yielding swift changes of direction and an eagerness to please.
In this segment, only the Mazda CX-5 offers anything comparably exciting and involving as a driver, with the CR-V offering more comfort than the Mazda at the expense of outright athleticism.
The base 2.4-liter engine, despite being of larger displacement and without a turbo, still offers impressive fuel economy. The EPA rates it at 26/32/28 mpg for city, highway, and combined cycles respectively in front-wheel driven guise. The turbo engine, however, adds two mpg to each of those figures at 28/34/30 mpg, besting rivals like the Mazda CX-5 and Toyota RAV4, though the Subaru Forester is on fairly even pegging with the Honda. All-wheel drive models yield almost identical figures, losing just one mpg from each cycle. With a 14-gallon fuel tank and all models relying on regular unleaded gasoline, the turbocharged engine with front-wheel drive will yield a driving range of up to 420 miles on a single tank with mixed driving situations.
The interior is a major plus point for the Honda CR-V, offering refinement and quality across all trims. While the base setup might seem a little cheap with cloth interior and a five-inch screen, the build still feels solid. Higher trims with the larger touchscreen infotainment system, heated front seats, and leather upholstery take the CR-V to truly premium territory. Seating for five is the most generous in class, with split folding rear seats allowing for versatile cargo storage, while the second row of seats is littered with LATCH anchors for child seats. A commanding driving position and solid ergonomics seal the deal, with the only true weak point being Honda’s infotainment system which still lags behind what others offer.
Seating for five is standard in the segment, and while the figures might show front space to be on par with other compact crossover SUVs, front occupants are seated more comfortably than what they are in many rivals. A broad range of seating adjustment suits drivers of all sizes, while seating surfaces are comfortable and supportive. The rear passengers enjoy the most generous accommodation of any compact crossover available, with ample head and legroom for taller adults and a comfortable seating position suited to long-distance travel. Only the driver’s seat boasts height adjustment, in addition to the array of other adjustments, including lumbar, that contribute to one of the most comfortable driver’s perches around. Visibility is great, with a commanding view, while a rearview camera defeats rearward blind spots.
On base LX and EX trims, cloth upholstery is the standard offering, available in either black, gray, or ivory depending on the chosen exterior hue. Interior trim pieces are made of all manner of faux wood, chromed plastic, and brushed satin finishes – classy for a fairly price-oriented segment. EX-L and Touring trims get you leather upholstery for the sculpted seats and the steering wheel, available in black, gray, or ivory. Door trim panels are matched to the color of the upholstery, while the dash remains soft-touch black.
The Honda CR-V boasts some of the best packaging in this segment, against stiff competition from the RAV4 and Subaru Forester. The center console can be reconfigured and has a deep storage well and a rubberized sliding tray, while door pockets are deep and cupholders are large. Trunk volume is most impressive, however, with 39.2 cubic feet on offer behind the rear seats. They fold flat, unveiling up to 75.8 cu ft. A height adjustable cargo floor allows the choice between a flat loading bay and a stepped one with maximum volume. For loading in tightly roofed parking areas, the tailgate offers adjustable opening height.
Small item storage in the cabin is among the best around, with a reconfigurable center console offering both a deep storage bin as well as a rubberized tray. Cupholders and door pockets throughout are large in size, while the glove box is decently sized, and the center console also hosts a shelf perfectly sized for most smartphones.
Though the base trim might offer few interior features, moving up the levels gets you dual-zone climate control, push-button start, power windows with auto-up/down, and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror. Cruise control is standard on all CR-V models, as is tilt and telescoping steering wheel adjustment. Heated front seats are equipped from the EX trim, as is 12-way power driver’s seat adjustment, while memory functions are equipped from the EX-L model along with four-way power front passenger adjustment. Driver assistance features are equipped from the EX model with Honda Sensing incorporating lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, collision mitigation braking, road departure mitigation, blind spot monitoring, and auto high-beam assist.
The Honda CR-V offers an updated infotainment system for 2019, marking the return of the volume knob for the Japanese brand. On all trims above LX, a seven-inch touchscreen setup features Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality, along with Sirius XM Radio and two USB charging ports. The physical controls are alright, but the touchscreen prompts are clunky and require some forcefulness. Voice commands are available but work better when a smartphone is paired to enable Siri or Google Voice. The base EX trim makes do with a five-inch color screen without touch functionality and with only four speakers, while the EX gets six speakers, the EX-L eight, and the Touring sports a premium audio system with nine speakers.
Honda has a penchant for reliability and the warranties show its belief in its own products with a limited warranty of three-years/36,000 miles and a powertrain warranty of five-years/60,000 miles. Only the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage offer better with a powertrain warranty of ten-years/100,000 miles. The only reliability concern over the CR-V is the announcement that 54 2017-18 Civic hatchbacks and CR-Vs have been recalled for incorrectly manufactured torque sensors in the gearbox providing incorrect steering-torque information at full steering lock – which may have an effect on the power steering’s responses. A recently reported issue is of excess gas making its way into the oil system, though Honda has yet to release any information on this.
Both the IIHS and NHTSA have scored the Honda CR-V highly, with the IIHS appointing it a 2019 Top Safety Pick with Superior crash prevention, and top scores all around, and the NHTSA awarding five out of five stars on the CR-V’s overall score.
Key to the CR-V’s safety is the modular platform it shares with the Honda Civic. It houses front, side, and curtain airbags, taking the tally to six, as well as stability assist with traction control, ABS brakes with EBD and brake assist, tire pressure monitoring, and a multi-angle rear-view camera across the range. From the EX trim upwards, Honda Sensing is standard and encompasses forward collision warning, lane departure warning, collision mitigating brake system, and a road departure mitigation system. Higher trims also receive blind spot monitoring and lane keeping assist.
If you’re worried that compact crossovers might not be big enough for your family, but can’t afford something in a larger segment, the Honda CR-V gives you the best of both worlds. It carries an affordable price tag while boasting the most spacious interior for front and rear occupants of any vehicle this size. Build quality is solid, while the range of available creature comforts represents true value for money.
The responsive turbocharged engine offering is a potent performer without compromising gas mileage, while the chassis provides truly impressive dynamics, both for spirited driving as well as cross-country family holidays. Only the Mazda CX-5 is more athletic, but the CR-V’s ace up its sleeve is how it manages to be all things to all people, providing everything a family needs including class-leading storage volume.
There’s a good reason the CR-V has dominated the compact crossover realm, and it doesn’t look to be relinquishing its title as class-leader any time soon.
The 2019 Honda CR-V has a base MSRP of $24,350 in its base front-wheel drive LX trim, excluding tax, license, registration, and a $995 destination charge applicable on all models. The front-wheel drive EX has a suggested price of $27,250, while the EX-L costs a little more at $29,750. The fully-loaded, range-topping Touring derivative carries a base price of $32,750. All-wheel drive is available on all trims for $1,400 extra.
The Honda CR-V range comprises four trims: LX, EX, EX-L, and Touring.
The base LX is the only model powered by a 184-hp 2.4-liter engine with the choice between front- and all-wheel drive, and features 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, a rearview camera, automatic climate control, cruise control, and cloth upholstery. Infotainment is by means of a five-inch display with four speakers.
The EX upgrades to a 190-hp turbocharged 1.5-liter engine and receives 18-inch alloy wheels, a power sunroof, dual-zone climate control, push-button start, and heated front seats with a 12-way power adjustable driver’s seat. A seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with six speakers and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto functionality is also included, while Honda Sensing assistance features are standard.
Upgrading to the EX-L model adds a power tailgate, leather-wrapped steering wheel, auto-dimming rearview mirror, and leather-trimmed seats with four-way front passenger power adjustment. Infotainment is upgraded with eight speakers.
The range-topping Touring gets roof rails, LED headlights, dual chrome exhausts, and hands-free tailgate access, along with satellite navigation, and a nine-speaker premium sound system.
|LX||2.4-liter Inline-4 Gas||Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)||Front Wheel Drive, All Wheel Drive||$22,869||$24,350|
|EX||1.5-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas||Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)||Front Wheel Drive, All Wheel Drive||$25,584||$27,250|
|EX-L||1.5-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas||Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)||Front Wheel Drive, All Wheel Drive||$27,924||$29,750|
|Touring||1.5-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas||Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)||Front Wheel Drive, All Wheel Drive||$30,732||$32,750|
There aren’t too many standalone packages or options for the CR-V, as it’s mostly trim dependent. Across the range, the $528 back-up sensors are sure to come in handy. The Honda Sensing package is included from EX trims upwards – not optional on EL – and comprises collision mitigating brake systems, road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control, and lane keeping assist. If it’s leather you’re looking for, that’s a built-in option only and comes standard with the EX-L trim, where a heated steering wheel is an available option. But, if premium audio is something you prioritize, then you’ll need to fork out for the EX-L at the very least, with its 180-watt, eight-speaker audio system. If money is less of an issue, the Touring trim bags you a 330-watt, nine-speaker audio system, including a subwoofer, that isn’t available as an option on any other trim.
Of the four trims available, the EX represents exceptional value for money, equipping the must-have turbocharged engine and seven-inch infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, while you also get a power adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, a power tilt-and-slide sunroof, and the entire range of Honda Sensing safety features, all for an acceptable price. If leather is a must-have item, then the EX-L is as far as you should go, as anything more just gets pricey with limited improvements that you really can do without.
Toyota’s new RAV4 has taken great strides in a segment that has been dominated by the CR-V for some time. With the redesign, it’s now more attractive, but at the compromise of outright practicality and spaciousness, both aspects in which the CR-V dominates. The RAV4 is comfortable but less athletic than the CR-V, while the CR-V is also more frugal than the standard RAV4 offering. However, Toyota offers a hybrid RAV4 which is impressive. While both vehicles offer high-class interiors, the Toyota offers an easier to use infotainment system, but the CR-V packs more tech and safety features into a more comprehensive package, retaining its status as the best in the compact crossover battle.
In a world where crossovers are rapidly replacing sedans and hatchbacks, only the Mazda CX-5 can match the CR-V for its fun-to-drive factor, actually besting the Honda in this regard. It’s an enthusiasts SUV, made apparent by the involving, capable chassis, as well as the new turbocharged 2.5-liter turbocharged engine that leaves the CR-V for dead in the performance stakes. The CR-V is, however, more frugal, while also being more practical, both from a rear passenger perspective as well as available storage volumes. Both vehicles play host to truly premium interiors, but higher CX-5 trims feel more special than the CR-V does, while the Mazda’s infotainment system is more intuitive. Do you prefer practicality or driver enjoyment? If it’s the latter, then the CX-5 is your pick, while the CR-V strikes a fine balance between both attributes.