- Simple, functional, huge inside
- Quiet cabin except under high power
- Best seat-folding mechanism
- Plenty of space for four adults
- Richer feature mix this year
- 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.
2015 Honda CR-V
The 2015 Honda CR-V looks a bit more upscale inside and out, but it remains a tall, boxy utility vehicle.
The 2015 Honda CR-V has received a number of styling upgrades that give it a slightly more upscale look, eliminating some of the grey-plastic grimness of its predecessor--which had been designed during the depths of the recession. On the outside, there's a bit more chrome and the lights are more elegant; inside, the materials are better and Honda has entirely redesigned the console.
The basic shape of the current CR-V is the same as the model launched for 2012, an essentially boxy wagon-shaped vehicle with a fairly vertical rear end. The upswept triangular third window on each side adds a bit of flair (at the cost of rear three-quarter vision from inside) to a silhouette that can appear ungainly, even bulbous, from some angles. And the very tall tailgate underscores the CR-V's basic SUV shape, gaining families valuable cargo room as a result. It's a businesslike design, but not necessarily all that graceful or pretty.
The new grille incorporates the new Honda design first seen on the 2015 Fit, focused on a larger central horizontal bar in glossy black. There are more chrome accents, and the entire grille and headlight ensemble is now outlined with chrome. The daytime running lights are LEDs (on all but the base LX model), and the lower bumper and front fascia receive similar stylistic upgrades.
At the rear, the taillight shape remains the same, but the bulbs are now LEDs instead. A chrome "moustache" dips under the rear window for a dressier look, replacing the former black plastic panel. Honda has also entirely replaced its array of 17- and 18-inch alloy wheels, again working to provide designs that dress up the car and make it look more elegant and upscale.
Inside, the straightforward elements of the dash remain, but soft-touch materials are used on the dash surface and more touch points, including stitching on the edges. Those stitches are only stamped into the plastic, so they should look chintzy, but it actually succeeds in looking nicer--and we expect it to remain durable in the presence of kids or spilled drinks, too. Remaining hard plastics have high-quality graining, matching well with the soft-touch surfaces.
For a high-volume and essentially sensible vehicle, we appreciate Honda's restraint in avoiding "edgy" new styling cues that often fall short on functionality. It has either the cluttered and overwrought look of Honda's larger Pilot crossover, nor the strange multiple tiers and asymmetry of the Civic.
The shift lever is still housed in a fitting that protrudes from the lower center of the dashboard, but Honda has entirely redesigned the console between the seats. The side-mounted armrests on each front seat are gone, replaced by a padded cover over a storage bin and a forward section with a series of trays, slots, and cupholders. The previous bin had a plastic roller cover, so this is definitely an improvement. That bin now houses a pair of USB ports, an HDMI jack, and a 12-Volt outlet, with a second 12-Volt outlet at the very front of the console under the dash.
Honda has enlarged the optional display audio system as well to incorporate a seven-inch color touchscreen, considerably larger than the previous five-inch display. One jarring note remains in the dashboard, though: Honda's three-dimensional instrument faces under the clear glass cover over the cluster. In an age of crisp multicolor cluster display screens, the instruments manage to look both gimmicky and cheap at the same time.
2015 Honda CR-V
The 2015 Honda CR-V performs adequately, but heavily loaded, it can feel slow; handling is predictable and reassuring.
The 2015 Honda CR-V has a new and updated powertrain, largely to boost its fuel economy ratings. But like its predecessors, its performance largely fits its mission. It's perfectly adequate for families, without any fancy V-6 or turbocharged engine. If it has a flaw, it's that the entire driving experience is more than a little lacking in excitement.
The 2015 CR-V stays with the traditional 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, but it is an EarthDreams direct-injected unit, rated this year at an unchanged 185 horsepower and but a slightly higher 181 lb-ft of torque.
New this year, though, the engine drives the front wheels or all four wheels through a continuously-variable transmission (CVT). This new unit replaces Honda's old five-speed automatic. As CVTs go, it's in the middle of the pack--not as whiny and howly as some, but not truly best in class. (For 2015, we tend to think Subaru has the best mass-market CVTs, due to control software that actually mimics the behavior of an automatic under certain circumstances.)
Honda's throttle is now a "drive-by-wire" system that analyzes what the driver is asking for and controls the powertrain management software accordingly. You'd never know it, though: Press the pedal, and the CR-V accelerates on cue, with smooth power delivery. There's none of what the car magazines used to call "neck-snapping acceleration," but few family vehicles offer that and their drivers likely wouldn't use it anyway.
The quest for ever-rising fuel economy means that the 2015 CR-V comes with an "Econ" button like the rest of the Honda range, complete with green leaf outline. Press it, and everything gets slightly slower, and the ventilation gets a bit more sluggish. It's tolerable, however, unlike earlier Econ settings on other Honda models that felt almost dangerously slow.
The CR-V handles safely and predictably, but its soft suspension and tall tire sidewalls are there for the benefit of ride quality, not for hustling through winding canyon roads. The electric power steering is the only letdown; it's not quite as nicely weighted as other systems, and requires frequent small adjustments on some types of roads.
The all-wheel-drive (AWD) system is aimed more at all-weather security than any kind of real off-roading. It'll get you to a campsite or the head of a hiking trail, but its strength is on snow-covered roads and slippery mud. The so-called Real Time AWD system doesn't require the front wheels to spin before sending more power to the back.
AWD is an option at all trim levels, and Honda rates the towing capacity of the 2015 CR-V at 1500 pounds.
2015 Honda CR-V
Comfort & Quality
The 2015 Honda CR-V has a cavernous cabin and clever folding rear seat, but interior trims and materials have been improved.
The 2015 Honda CR-V scores big on interior room and cargo capacity, along with a clever folding rear seat that combines several operations into a single pull of a lever. For owners who carry kids and stuff routinely, it's hugely practical and one of the best picks on the market, assuming you don't need a third row of seats.
The interior could almost be that of a minivan, with high seating positions for five but a very low floor in the load bay, despite the need to accommodate optional all-wheel drive. The front bucket seats are soft but comfortable, lacking only a little side bolstering to hold riders in place on curvy roads. The rear seat is contoured for two adults in the outboard position, with adequate legroom and headroom, but three kids will fit in a pinch. The floor between the seats is almost flat as well, a pleasant surprise for the center-seat rider.
Like the Fit subcompact with its Magic Seat, the CR-V's rear seat-folding arrangement simply outshiens nearly any other compact crossover. A single-handed pull of one strap folds one side of the rear seat completely. The back seat's lower cushion tumbles forward into the footwell, the headrest angles forward, and the seatback flips over it--bringing the folded seat into a completely flat position, tucked into the footwell just behind the front seat.
The load floor is the lowest in the class, Honda says, at just under 24 inches above the ground. With the rear seatbacks up, the CR-V offers an impressive 37.2 cubic feet--but fold down the back seats, and you get 61.4 cubic feet. The cargo floor is lengthy, although it has a slight step. Between the low floor and the high ceiling, the cargo bay appears cavernous.
The quality of the interior materials has been elevated for 2015, and the CR-V no longer appears as grim and bargain-basement as it did in previous years. Soft-touch surfaces on the dash and the doors pair with fine graining on the hard plastics, and Honda has improved noise insulation this year as well. The result is a largely quiet ride, except under hard acceleration when engine revs can rise quickly to a much noisier level. From the outside, the engine's new direct-injection system also makes a steady ticking noise at idle. It's not unpleasant, but it's different.
Ride quality is impressive in the CR-V, with most road harshness filtered out--thanks to the last redesign's improvements in the body structure, door sealing, and noise insulation.
2015 Honda CR-V
Structural improvements and a top-rated active-safety system add up to major improvement for the 2015 CR-V -- although somehow the federal ratings have slipped.
The Honda CR-V has traditionally done well on safety tests, but a new type of crash test exposed a weak point in previous model years of CR-V. With safety a crucially important selling point, Honda expects the redesigned 2015 CR-V to earn top ratings from both the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration—and so far that's proven true on the IIHS side.
Previous CR-V model years scored the top rating of Good on all IIHS tests except the new small overlap front crash test, on which it received a rating of 'marginal'--only one grade above the lowest rating of Poor. But Honda redesigned the compact crossover's front crash structure, a major amount of work for what the industry considers a mid-cycle refresh of an existing model, and this year's model now gets a top 'good' rating for small overlap.
In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) testing, last year's CR-V has earned five-star results overall, as well as in frontal and side impact tests. Yet this year's model, in a retest, earned just four stars for frontal impact, and an overall score of four stars.
From inside the 2015 CR-V, visibility to the front and sides remains good, with carefully designed and very slim windshield pillars giving good forward vision over a low cowl. We also appreciate that the rear-seat headrests can fold down to open up the view in the rear-view mirror--a feature we think all vehicles should offer. Rear three-quarter vision, however, is a different story. Thick roof pillars, a high tailgate window, and small quarter windows badly limit over-the-shoulder visibility--making the standard rear-view camera a must-use.
Other safety equipment includes six airbags--front, front-seat side, and side-curtain--wide-angle side mirrors, and a suite of new electronic safety systems. Added this year is Honda LaneWatch, the clever camera mounted in the right door mirror that shows a video image of the right-hand blind spot on the center display whenever the driver signals for a right turn or lane change. It's included in all but the base LX model.
The new active-safety systems include adaptive cruise control and a Lane Keeping Assist that incorporates both lane-departure warning and steering correction. There's also forward-collision warning, and a collision-mitigation braking system that automatically applies the brakes if the vehicle senses a collision is imminent. Unfortunately, those features are available only on the top-level Touring trim; but there, they do allow the CR-V to achieve the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ nod.
The Lane Keeping Assist system includes not just keeping the car from drifting out of its lane, but an actual lane-centering function (Honda calls it "lane tracing"). But on a prototype vehicle we tested in October 2014, we found it somewhat unpredictable. The dashboard icon that indicated when it was off or on was hard to read at a glance--the former was outlines of lane markers, the latter simply filled in the markers--and the system turned itself off below 45 mph. Moreover, it only held the car in the lane on gentle sweeping curves, disengaging and beeping to alert the driver to take control on sharper turns. When it did keep the car in lane, a subtle but definite force could be felt through the wheel as the car corrected its course.
2015 Honda CR-V
The 2015 Honda CR-V has received some feature upgrades and a larger infotainment display screen, keeping it competitive.
The 2015 Honda CR-V is offered in four trim levels: the base LX, the mid-level EX, a slightly nicer EX-L, and a new top-of-the-range Touring version that's been added this year.
While it's not a trendsetter in feature offerings, Honda has put considerable effort into adding equipment at each trim level to improve its perceived value for money. None of the basics are missing, and mid-level trims this year offer more standard features than before, though to add the latest electronic safety systems, you have to step up to the top-level Touring model.
The base CR-V LX can be distinguished by its black door mirrors and door handles; it's the only model where those items aren't body color. It includes air conditioning, cruise control, a tilting and telescoping steering wheel with integrated controls, Bluetooth pairing, a pair of 12-Volt power outlets, and there are two new addition to all models for 2015: rear-seat heating and air-conditioning ducts, and extendable sun visors. Honda only expects 1 in 20 CR-Vs to be ordered with the base trim, however.
The popular mid-level EX and the slightly fancier EX-L will represent the bulk of sales, adding the most popular options in carefully calibrated packages. For 2015, the LaneWatch system that shows a video image of the car's right-hand blind spot when the driver uses the right turn signal is standard on the EX and above, as are LED daytime running lights in the headlamps. The EX also gets a 10-way power adjustable driver's seat, heated front seats, keyless entry and pushbutton start. Other EX upgrades include a sunroof, 17-inch alloy wheels, a second USB jack, a security system and cargo cover, and variable-speed wipers.
This year, the audio system sports a new, larger 7-inch touchscreen display. As before, it can handle SMS texting (reading and pre-set replying) and has a Pandora app, with the screen capable of displaying cover art, turn-by-turn directions, and trip computer data. You also have the option to display wallpaper (your personal pictures).
The EX-L adds leather on the seats and steering wheel, a dual-zone climate control system, satellite radio, a heated side mirror, an upgraded audio system, and new this year, an auto-dimming rear-view mirrors. Then the EX-L Navi model adds an in-dash navigation system, plus HD Radio.
The new top-of-the-line CR-V Touring trim starts at $33,600, almost $10,000 more than the base LX model. It adds larger 18-inch alloy wheels, a power tailgate, memory for the driver's seat position, and a suite of new active-safety systems: adaptive cruise control, Lane Departure Warning, Lane-Keeping Assist, Forward Collision Warning, and Collision Mitigation Braking. It also has turn-signal lights built into its door mirrors, the HomeLink system, and special badging. Oddly, even the highest-end Touring still has a manually adjustable front passenger seat.
2015 Honda CR-V
The 2015 Honda CR-V sports a new powertrain that boosts combined gas mileage to 29 mpg, or 28 mpg with AWD.
The 2015 Honda CR-V gets a substantial boost in its fuel economy ratings from its direct-injected engine and a new continuously-variable transmission (CVT). Its two combined ratings are each 3 mpg higher than the previous year's CR-V, putting it toward the top of the compact crossover segment in EPA ratings.
It was already one of the more fuel-efficient models in its class, but now the lighter front-wheel-drive model is rated at 29 mpg combined (27 mpg city, 34 mpg highway). Specifying all-wheel drive knocks all three ratings down by 1 mpg, for a 28-mpg combined figure, though so-called Real-Time AWD system fully disengage the rear wheels when cruising to help save fuel.
The drawback, however, is that the 2015 CR-V isn't particularly fast or sporty to drive--a tradeoff we see more and more as regulatory pressure to boost fuel economy bites harder with each model year.
Across the model line, there's a big green 'econ' button on the dash. With it, you engage a mode that softens throttle response and allows more frugal parameters for accessories.
We haven't yet tested a 2015 CR-V to see how well its real-world gas mileage matches up to its ratings, although if the 2015 Honda Fit (also now fitted with a CVT) is any indication, it should be fairly close.