Of all the mid-generation updates done to the Honda CR-V over the last two decades, the 2015 refresh is definitely the most pronounced. In addition to adding a new grille and a few other aesthetic tweaks, Honda has equipped its compact SUV with the direct-injected Earth Dreams engine (taken from the Honda Accord), a change that also prompted the company to replace the automatic transmission with a CVT. Plus, they’ve added a barrage of technology and (finally) connected the vehicle with the road.
As always, the Honda CR-V continues to be a practical, conventional and reasonable choice. It’s practical in that it offers more cargo space than most other compact SUVs (2,007 litres with the rear bench folded down), as well as more leg room because of the flat floor. It’s conventional and reasonable thanks to its legendary reliability and outstanding resale value. It’s not surprising that the vehicle built in Alliston, Ontario has for years been a best-seller in Canada, with more than 35,000 units sold last year in our country—despite being one of the most expensive in the segment.
And yet, it sure was boring to drive! The CR-V’s ride was truly yawn-inspiring compared to the Mazda CX-5, Ford Escape, Kia Sportage and Volkswagen Tiguan. Behind the wheel of the CR-V, we found the steering so light that we sometimes forgot we were driving.
And now, drumroll please: The 2015 CR-V offers much more precise steering, 11% more torque (now 181 lbs.-ft.), a more rigid chassis (improved at 60 different spots) and a totally revised suspension. As a result, it stands firm and finally communicates with the road.
Its ride is predictable and self-assured. You can still hear the shocks yelp when you pass over potholes, but you hear them, you don’t feel them. That’s thanks to the front seats, which are as comfortable as ever and help dampen any bumps in the road. The soundproofing, however, could be better. Even though they say it’s better, it still doesn’t manage to block out road noise, the sound of gravel rattling through the wheel wells or the none-too-exotic whirr of the engine during acceleration.
The price to pay
Yes, you read it right: there’s a CVT. The most conventional of all utility vehicles has made a bold move by retiring its outmoded yet very efficient five-speed automatic transmission and replacing it with a new continually variable transmission. They had no choice. It’s the “transmissional” option that bests suits the new direct-injected Earth Dreams 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine taken from the most recent generation of the Honda Accord. Between you and me, no CVT will ever be sexy. In this vehicle, and in all others, stepping on the gas pedal results in acceleration that is linear and perseverant, but noisier than it should be when upshifting. More attentive drivers will definitely notice.
As a saving grace, Honda added a torque converter to help reduce the transmission’s rubbery feel. As a result, this is one of the least offensive CVTs on the market. That said, we would have liked wheel-mounted paddle shifters or at least a manual mode so that the driver could personally control the power (which is still 185 horsepower, one of the best in the category). But that’s not the case. There is, however, an S mode that helps compensate when you want to drive a little more enthusiastically. Note that we said “a little.”
But, hey, that’s the price you’ve got to pay for better fuel economy. The Honda CR-V was already among the less fuel-hungry in the group, and now it’s promising to show even more restraint. According to the new 5-cycle tests, its rates are 14% lower on the LX with front-wheel drive and 16% lower for the AWD trims.
SE: Canada’s new trim
The 2015 Honda CR-V’s exterior has been enhanced with a new, more striking grille, as well as new wheels (18 inches on the Touring) and restyled sideview mirrors and bumpers.
But the big difference is in the passenger compartment. Already so carefully assembled that it didn’t allow for the slightest rattle, the interior now boasts more sophisticated materials and a 7-inch touchscreen on all trims. As before, there are generous storage cubbies (the center console is configurable) but the controls are still mind-boggingly confusing, forcing the driver to constantly have to hunt for the right button to display the information they want, whether it’s on the centre display or in front of the driver.
The Honda CR-V has always sold for more than the category average and that continues to be the case for 2015. The base model starts at $25,990 or $28,350 with AWD. But this includes a rear back-up camera and heated seats and mirrors.
The EX with front-wheel drive has been axed for 2015. It’s now just available with all-wheel drive. But for approximately the same price as before ($31,790), you get a few extras that were previously reserved for the EX-L, such as a power-adjustable driver seat and dual-zone climate control. The terrific Lane Watch system (also stolen from the Accord) is displayed on the screen and lets you see whatever is in the right-side blind spot. It’s very practical and helps enhance the vehicle’s safety; it’s the sort of thing we’d like to see on all vehicles.
A new trim has been released exclusively for the CR-V family: the SE. With AWD it costs $29,790 and should be the best-seller thanks to its windshield wiper defroster, Honda Link device (which reads text messages) and keyless ignition (at last!). Can you believe that this Japanese utility vehicle went so long without it?
But what trim of the 2015 Honda CR-V has come away with the most changes? The high-end Touring. Despite a start price of just $35,790, it comes with a comprehensive list of new equipment that adds $3,000 in value to the vehicle. This includes a power liftgate and some driver assistance systems not previously available on a CR-V: lane departure warning, collision mitigation braking and adaptive cruise control. Oh, yes! The only things missing are back-up collision warning and a panoramic roof, whose absence is glaring in the CR-V offer. It will almost certainly be included in the next generation, expected in the next two or three years.