2017 Honda CR-V: Honda's Back On Top

Strong points
  • Excellent style
  • Refined passenger compartment
  • Impeccable powertrain
  • Good fuel economy
Weak points
  • High price
  • Engine is noisy during acceleration
  • Soundproofing needs work
Full report

I was really jonesing to test drive this CR-V. I viewed it as the same sort of giant leap forward as the new-generation Civic. The reason is simple enough: the old-gen CR-V, which you'll find at a discounted price very soon, was basically the result of Honda’s frenzied attempt to imitate Toyota by building a bland vehicle that lacks daring—and then try to make everyone accept it.

Thus, when they announced the arrival of a turbo engine to replace the aging four-cylinder, naturally aspirated engines, I greeted the news with enthusiasm. We were promised an entirely new experience and, since the manufacturer did such a great job with the Civic, everything seemed to point to a successful transformation with the 2017 Honda CR-V as well.

Photo: Marc-André Gauthier

Is Canada a big market?

With a population of 35 million, Canada is minor player compared to our neighbour to the south, which boasts ten times the population. However, more than 35,000 units of the CR-V are sold in Canada annually and so far for 2016, this figure is nearing 40,000.

But the Toyota RAV4 sells the most units. With the old-generation CR-V, Honda tried to imitate and surpass the RAV4. Now though, they’re proposing something unique.

So, Honda has designed a special version of the CR-V just for Canadians. Unlike the U.S. version, there will be just one engine available, the turbo, which we'll discuss later. The Yanks will still get the naturally aspirated, 2.4-litre four cylinder on the basic front-wheel-drive variants. What's more, the Canadian CR-V can be equipped with a panoramic sunroof, heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel.

Apparently, Americans don't care much for panoramic sunroofs and since their winters are more manageable than ours, they feel less of a need to warm their hands and backsides, at least in the back seats.

In any case, the CR-V proudly features a new style that’s aligned with other recently updated Honda products, like the Pilot and the Ridgeline. (Check out the photos for proof!) The overall package is spruced up by wheels that look like they’re an alien puzzle, but a rather nice alien puzzle.

The passenger compartment is definitely where the biggest improvements were made. More comfortable seats are now available and the dashboard is worthy of the twenty-first century. The infotainment system is controlled via the steering wheel or the on-screen touch controls. However, one thing that’s truly noteworthy is the return of the physical button to adjust the volume. When they eliminated it on past models, Honda heard a lot of backlash from customers who didn't like the volume touch controls.

Depending on the options you select, you can add a good sound system and an electronic safety system that detects potential dangers long before you do. The smart cruise control can even completely immobilize the car if the need arises.

What buyers will like best, however, is the new, roomier—especially in back—passenger compartment.

Photo: Marc-André Gauthier

An updated ride

This time, Honda paid special attention to this new CR-V’s ride. You’ll be immediately struck by the new steering. Without going into detail, they completely updated the rack and pinion and power assistance to offer one of the most impressive new steering systems in the class. It’s light and manoeuvres effortlessly—gone is the feeling that you’re fighting a web of elastics. It reads the road and sends just the right amount of feedback.

In fact, when it comes to steering, Honda comes close to rivalling German products. Close, but not quite, of course.

What about the engine? It’s a small masterpiece. It’s the same 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo found in some versions of the Civic. Here, though, it features 190 horsepower with 179 lb.-ft. of torque. And it doesn’t require premium gasoline!

Paired with one of the industry’s finest automatic CVT gearboxes, this engine does a remarkable job in all conditions. And the best part is that it performs this well on barely more than 7.5 L/100 km, which is well below what you’d get from a Mazda CX-5.

Other updates have made the 2017 Honda CR-V more fun to drive and more dynamic. However, they’re still focussed on comfort, and it shows. This means the CR-V can’t really be characterized as a “sporty SUV” as some of Honda’s literature would have you believe.

More fun to drive, more fuel efficient and more refined, this new CR-V is a success straight across the board. Unless you get the deal of the century on a 2016, wait for the 2017, which will be available in Canadian dealerships before the end of December.

We can safely say that that the 2017 Honda CR-V is the best in its category. Sure, it isn’t as sporty as the CX-5, but it’s a better product overall. That being said, Mazda is coming out with a new CX-5, offered with a diesel engine to boot. The battle will be fierce, but no matter which vehicle comes out ahead, we can all agree that it’s nice to see Honda back at the top of its game!

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