- Simple, functional, huge inside
- Quiet cabin except under high power
- Best seat-folding mechanism
- Styling borders on ungainly
- Performance only adequate
- Handling just average
The 2015 Honda CR-V is neither sporty nor particularly quick, but fuel efficiency is excellent and it prioritizes interior space, earnest practicality, and cleverly chosen features in a way that buyers appear to crave.
The 2015 Honda CR-V isn't one of the sportiest entries in its class of compact crossovers, but it's decidedly ahead of the norm in just about every other way—especially catering to families with excellent safety features and ratings, and impressive interior room and cargo capacity that rivals vehicles a size larger.
The CR-V gets some significant updates for 2015, which should add to the appeal of a vehicle that's been one of the top compact crossovers in America for most of the past decade.
Its interior volume, in fact, ventures close to mid-size territory. That helps the CR-V deliver on the "utility" part of "crossover utility vehicle," with more interior space and hauling capability for people and their goods even than the mid-size Accord sedan. It remains the epitome of compact crossover versatility and space efficiency, with newly calibrated features and options--and it's what buyers seem to crave.
For 2015, Honda has restyled the front and rear to make the CR-V slightly less grim and utilitarian, adding new and more stylish wheels and a touch of chrome trim. Inside, there are more soft-touch plastics, the console has been entirely redesigned, and Honda has repackaged its trim levels to improve the perceived value of each CR-V model against tough competition.
Despite the styling tweaks, the CR-V lacks design pizazz. It's fine for a family vehicle, but it's a tall, bulky compact crossover with a relatively vertical rear end. The front end is car-like, but the rest of it--despite the visual interest of an upswept triangular third window on either side--says SUV through and through. While the CR-V can appear homely from the outside against stylish, rakish (and space-compromised) entries like the Ford Escape, Kia Sportage, or Mazda CX-5, buyers largely seem not to mind.
The CR-V still offers just a single drivetrain, but it is now a direct-injected 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with a new continuously variable transmission (CVT). It's all in the interest of boosting fuel economy figures, which rise 3 mpg over last year's model to an impressive 29 mpg combined with front-wheel drive, or 28 mpg combined if you add the Real Time AWD system. The CR-V is neither particularly fast nor terribly sporty, but that's not what hundreds of thousands of buyers a year are looking for.
Unlike Hondas of the past, the 2015 CR-V isn't any more rewarding to drive than competitors--but, again, that doesn't matter. The suspension prioritizes ride over roadholding, Honda has improved the insulation this year to quiet the interior, and the CR-V isn't about excitement as much as it is about safe choice and reliable transportation. What you get for performance is smooth and even--just not all that quick. The CR-V isn't the trail vehicle that some of the hardier crossovers like a Subaru Forester or Jeep Patriot are, but its available Real Time all-wheel drive handles snow-covered roads, even mud, with aplomb.
Interior space, easy reconfigurability, and great ride comfort are what shoppers are looking for in the CR-V. Inside, the raw space is laid out efficiently, and Honda fits it with the best rear seat-folding arrangement of any vehicle in the segment. And that's combined with impressive back-seat comfort and good ride comfort in general. Open one of the back doors, and with one arm and a simple pull of a strap, in a very fluid motion the lower cushion tumbles forward into the footwell, the headrest angles forward, and the rear seatback flips forward, all tucking nearly behind the front seat, to a completely flat position. Cargo loading is also a snap, as the liftover height is less than 24 inches. And up front, there's a minivan-like selection of cupholders, cubbies, and cargo trays in the redesigned console, including a new storage bin stuffed with USB ports, a 12-Volt charger, even an HDMI jack.
Safety has always been a selling point for the CR-V. In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), last year's CR-V earned five-star results overall, as well as in frontal and side impact testing. For 2015, Honda redesigned its front crash structures, after last year's CR-V received a Marginal rating on the new and tougher Small-Overlap front crash test—and this year it's on the Top Safety Pick+ list. This year, the clever LaneWatch camera in the right door mirror is standard on all but the base CR-V; it shows an image of the car's blind spot on the center dash display when the driver signals for a right turn or lane change. There's also a new suite of advanced electronic active-safety systems this year, though they're included only on the top-of-the-line CR-V Limited trim, a new addition to the lineup.
The CR-V keeps pace with the market in terms of connectivity, and it includes a well-rounded feature set. The base LX is a low-volume vehicle, and most buyers will choose the mid-level EX or EX-L models, A new Touring model tops off the range. Inside, the functional and simple dashboard serves it well, with climate controls just below audio controls, and an enlarged seven-inch touchscreen display for the audio system on all but the base model. But if you want extras like a navigation system or satellite radio, you may have to move up two steps beyond the most popular EX model to the EX-L Navi trim.