- Simple, functional, huge inside
- Quiet cabin except under high power
- Best seat-folding mechanism
- Plenty of space for four adults
- More, better features
- Styling borders on ungainly
- Performance only adequate
- Handling just average
- NHTSA crash-test scores have fallen
The 2016 Honda CR-V has its priorities in the right place, with lots of space and features—but performance takes a back seat.
The Honda CR-V may not be the fastest, best-handling compact crossover SUV on the road, but it excels at the things that matter to families that own it.
Today's CR-V is one of the most spacious vehicles in its class, and one of the more fuel-efficient ones, too. Its safety scores and performance are more mixed, though.
The CR-V's rivals include vehicles such as the Chevy Equinox, the Ford Escape, the Hyundai Tucson, the Toyota RAV4, and the Kia Sportage.
For the 2015 model year, the CR-V was updated with a fresh interior and new front- and rear-end styling that cleaned up its jumbled look considerably. From the outside, the look is more closely tied to the small Fit and HR-V hatchbacks, and to the 2016 Civic sedan, too.
Its appearance is more tidy now, but the CR-V can look bulky, especially from the rear, where Honda masks the tall cargo bay with an upswept, triangular window. It's fine for family duty, but the overall shape lacks the flair and detail of, say, the new Hyundai Tucson.
Inside, the freshened-up cabin wears better plastics and finer graining than it did before the 2015 model year. The functional and simple dashboard serves it well, with climate controls just below audio controls, and an enlarged 7.0-inch touchscreen display for the audio system on all but the base model.
There's just a single powertrain offered on the 2016 CR-V, and straight-line performance is middling. The 2.4-liter inline-4 has direct injection and is coupled to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) for very good fuel economy—up to 33 miles per gallon highway. It's neither particularly fast nor sporty, but that's not what hundreds of thousands of buyers a year are looking for, according to Honda's sales stats.
Handling, too, is just average, but it hasn't held the CR-V back. The suspension is tuned for a softer ride over crisper responses, and steering is predictable and not at all aggressive. It's even-handed, not at all sporty—and even the optional all-wheel-drive system is more an all-weather component than a trail-riding companion, like the systems found in the Subaru Forester or the Jeep Renegade.
Where the CR-V puts its best and highest effort is into space and utility. Almost a mid-sizer by raw dimensions, the CR-V has excellent interior space for its overall size, and fits it with one of the most clever folding seats in its class, combined with impressive back-seat comfort and good ride comfort in general. Flipping and folding the back seats is simple: just 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 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, and after a re-test, federal authorities rated the CR-V at five stars overall. Honda recently redesigned the CR-V's front end to accommodate the new small-overlap test performed by the IIHS—which calls the SUV a Top Safety Pick+.
On the safety roster of equipment are the clever LaneWatch camera in the right door mirror; 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. It's standard on all but the base LX, while a rearview camera is standard across the board. A host of advanced electronic active-safety systems like adaptive cruise control are available—but only on the Touring edition.
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. 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—or to the new Touring trim for that safety package.
The EPA rates the CR-V with front-wheel drive at 26 mpg city, 33 highway, 29 combined. Adding all-wheel drive lowers the rating to 25/31/27 mpg, even though the vehicle's all-wheel-drive system fully disengages the rear wheels when cruising to help save fuel.
2016 Honda CR-V
The CR-V's shape is handsome and innocuous; the interior's a nicer place to be since its recent refresh.
The Honda CR-V has a handsome, if innocuous shape, and a nicely updated interior that cures it of some old, plasticky trim.
The basic shape hasn't changed since it was new in the 2012 model year. The CR-V remains a boxy, upright vehicle, but it cloaks that behind a tapered rear end that can make it look bulbous from the rear. A new grille with chrome accents was applied last year, and it links the CR-V more explicitly with the Fit hatchback and the upcoming 2016 Civic sedan. There's LED lighting front and rear, too. In all, the CR-V wears an efficient design that nets it valuable passenger space and cargo room, but it's not necessarily graceful. 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—but the CR-V can look bulky and unbalanced.
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.
Last year, Honda enlarged the optional display audio system as well to incorporate a 7.0-inch touchscreen, considerably larger than the previous 5.0-inch display. One jarring note remains in the dashboard, though: Honda's 3-D instrument faces under the clear glass cover over the cluster. In an age of crisp multi-color cluster display screens, the instruments manage to look both gimmicky and cheap at the same time.
The shift lever is housed in a fitting that protrudes from the lower center of the dashboard, but for 2015 Honda 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.
2016 Honda CR-V
It has predictable and reassuring handling, but the Honda CR-V's a sluggish performer.
Drivers who buy the Honda CR-V may not be looking for excitement in performance—and that's exactly what they get. The best-selling compact SUV delivers reassuring and predictable handling, but it's not at all engaging, and acceleration is downright sluggish when it's loaded with five passengers.
A 2.4-liter inline-4—no turbocharging, no V-6 option—is the sole source of power for the CR-V. With direct injection, it's rated at 185 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque. It's teamed with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which replaced the CR-V's former 5-speed automatic last year.
The combination of a CVT (which uses belts and pulleys to vary its ratios, unlike the usual defined gears of an automatic) and inline-4 deliver only adequate acceleration and responsiveness. Honda's CVTs are among the better-developed of their kind, if a bit below the standard set by Subaru CVTs and their paddle controls and simulated gears. 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 CR-V comes with an "Eco" 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 tepid. It's tolerable, however, unlike earlier Econ settings on other Honda models that felt almost dangerously slow.
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 CR-V at 1,500 pounds.
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.
2016 Honda CR-V
Comfort & Quality
A clever folding rear seat and a cavernous interior make the Honda CR-V one of the most useful compact SUVs.
For drivers that carry families and stuff on a regular basis, the Honda CR-V is a natural. It has very good interior space for its overall size, and its clever rear seat folds and flips with the pull of a single lever.
A hugely practical offering, the CR-V sports enough interior space to double as a small minivan. The five passengers on board sit high, while cargo rides low behind the rear seat—despite the packaging space needed for the optional all-wheel-drive system.
In front, the driver and passenger will be more than comfortable in the CR-V's comfortably soft chairs. They'd be better off with a little more side bolstering, we think. Two adults will also fit in the CR-V's back seat at the outboard positions, and they'll have ample head room and leg room; the five-passenger rating means three children, by our shoulder-rubbing measurements. One of the best features in back is the nearly flat floor, which makes longer trips more pleasant for passengers.
But where the CR-V comes into its own is in flexibility. Like the Fit subcompact with its "Magic Seat," the CR-V's rear seat-folding arrangement simply outshines 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.
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. The load floor is the lowest in the class, Honda says, at just under 24 inches above the ground. Between the low floor and the high ceiling, the cargo bay appears cavernous.
Honda updated the finishes and trims applied to the CR-V's cabin in the 2015 model year, and it's been a welcome change. The cabin no longer looks as sterile and grim as it once did. There's more fine graining on the plastics, and more soft-touch surfaces on the doors and the dash. Noise suppression has gotten better, too—the CR-V rides fairly quietly, thanks to better door sealing.
2016 Honda CR-V
The CR-V is back in the NHTSA's good graces, and the IIHS calls it a Top Safety Pick+.
The Honda CR-V was redesigned in 2015 in the hopes of getting near-perfect crash-test scores, but that wasn't the case, at least in its first attempt.
The insurance industry-funded IIHS has tested the latest version of the CR-V, and gives it "Good" scores across the board. Coupled with available forward-collision warnings and automatic braking, that's enough to give the CR-V a Top Safety Pick+ award.
However, last year, when the NHTSA tested the updated CR-V, its results were less than stellar. The CR-V earned just four stars for frontal impact, and an overall score of four stars. The NHTSA has since re-tested the CR-V and it's now rated at five stars overall, with excellent scores across the board.
Standard safety equipment in the CR-V includes six airbags and stability control. On all but the LX model, there's also 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.
On the top Touring trim level, there's a comprehensive suite of new safety technology. The new active-safety systems include adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist together with both lane-departure warnings and steering correction.
The lane-keep assist system attempts to not only keep the car from drifting out of the lane, but also to center the car within the lane too (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.
Visibility from inside the CR-V makes the standard rearview camera a necessity. 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 rearview 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.
2016 Honda CR-V
It took a while, but the Honda CR-V finally has a competitive set of convenience and luxury touches, from infotainment to navigation.
The 2016 Honda CR-V comes in one of five trims: base LX, a new Special Edition, EX, a slightly nicer EX-L, and a top-of-the-range Touring version.
All the basics are covered—a sensitive point, since in the past, the CR-V lacked for some power and convenience features found in rivals, especially rivals from South Korea. Today's CR-V LX has power windows, locks, and mirrors; cruise control; air conditioning; tilt/telescope steering with audio and phone controls; Bluetooth; and two 12-volt power outlets.
For the 2016 model year, a new Special Edition CR-V starts with the LX features and adds two-tone paint; privacy glass; a security system; and 17-inch wheels, for an $800 price bump.
Honda sells most CR-Vs in EX and EX-L trim levels. The EX takes the LX equipment and adds LaneWatch, which displays an image of the SUV's right side when the right-turn signal is selected. The EX also gets a 10-way power adjustable driver's seat; heated front seats; keyless ignition; a sunroof; and a second USB port.
The EX-L adds satellite radio; leather seat and steering-wheel trim; automatic climate control; and an upgraded audio system. An additional package adds HD radio and navigation.
To add the latest electronic safety systems, you have to step up to the top-level Touring model. Priced in the low $30,000s, the Touring adds a power tailgate; 18-inch alloy wheels; and memory for the driver's seat position. It also adds a package of safety technology including forward-collision warnings and automatic emergency braking; adaptive cruise control; lane-departure warnings; and lane-keeping assist.
2016 Honda CR-V
Gas mileage of up to 33 miles per gallon highway puts the Honda CR-V at the top of the compact-SUV game.
For the 2015 model year, Honda installed a new powertrain in the CR-V crossover SUV. With a continuously variable transmission and direct fuel injection, the CR-V posted higher gas mileage ratings—higher than its already efficient numbers.
Those ratings carry over for the 2016 model year. The EPA rates the CR-V with front-wheel drive at 26 mpg city, 33 highway, 29 combined. Adding all-wheel drive lowers the rating to 25/31/27 mpg, even though the vehicle's all-wheel-drive system fully disengages the rear wheels when cruising to help save fuel.
Those combined ratings are each 3 mpg higher than earlier iterations of the CR-V, putting it toward the top of the compact crossover segment in EPA ratings.
The drawback, however, is that the 2016 CR-V isn't particularly fast or sporty to drive—a trade-off 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 "Eco" button on the dash. With it, you engage a mode that softens throttle response and sets more frugal parameters for accessories.