Nearly 39,000 Honda CR-V compact crossovers found Canadian homes in 2015.

Nearly 39,000 Honda CR-V compact crossovers found Canadian homes in 2015. Sure, that’s 3,285 units behind the Toyota RAV4 and 8,765 shy of the Ford Escape, but in the big picture, the Alliston Ontario-built CR-V is a sales powerhouse.

“Easy” describes the driving part as well. The 2.4L might not have the shove of some turbo-charged competitors, but it’s a smooth and efficient engine in true Honda fashion.

Pricing starts at $26,290 for the CR-V LX 2WD that gets 16-inch steel wheels, heated front seats and back-up camera.  This is the only front-drive model for Canada.

Traditionally, the volume seller has been the all-wheel-drive $32,290 EX that rolls on 17-inch alloys and includes HondaLink Next Generation smartphone integration with Emergency Response System, LaneWatch right-side blind spot camera, dual-zone climate control, 10-way driver’s seat, six-speaker audio, proximity key with push-button start, guidelines for the rear-view camera, heated/powered door mirrors, fog lights, auto halogen headlamps and wiper de-icer.

Our tester comes to us as the all-singing, all-dancing (and sometimes self-driving) $37,090 Touring that includes perforated leather, moonroof, LaneWatch, navigation, auto-dimming interior mirror, 10-way driver’s seat with memory, 328-watt seven-speaker audio, projector-beam headlights, rain-sensing wipers, dual zone climate control and power tailgate. The Touring’s safety suite includes adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist and forward collision auto braking. You’ll spot the Touring by its five-blade 18-inch alloys, roof rails and chrome door handles.

As of late, we Canadians are liking our Honda crossovers loaded. So far this year the top-rung Touring is the bestselling CR-V, followed very closely by the EX.

Whichever 2016 Honda CR-V you choose, power comes from a 185 hp, 181 lb-ft 2.4L direct-injection four-cylinder mated to a CVT (continuously variable transmission). This pair was part and parcel of a makeover the CR-V underwent for the 2015 model year that also included a restyled snout and some interior trim upgrades.

The CR-V is all about functionality and ease of use. The doors open wide for easy ingress and egress, and once inside there is plenty of space for four adults and their luggage. The back seats recline, and should a fifth want to ride along, there’s no intrusive driveshaft tunnel to straddle. Head room is generous and outward visibility is good. Opening the liftgate reveals another treat – one of the biggest cargo areas in the segment with a low load floor.

City runabout: 2016 Honda HR-V Test Drive

The 60/40 split second row is spring-loaded and quickly folds flat with the flick of a lever or tug on a strap if operating from the trunk. Dead easy, and no fiddling with headrests. This Touring swallowed a whole whack of musical gear with room to spare.

“Easy” describes the driving part as well. The 2.4L might not have the shove of some turbo-charged competitors, but it’s a smooth and efficient engine in true Honda fashion. No complaints with the CVT either – it is one of the better behaved units on the market, and it certainly contributes to the CR-V’s reluctance to chug fuel.

Under normal driving you’d be hard pressed to know this was a continuously variable transmission as it keeps the engine revs in check most of the time. As with the Honda Accord sedan that shares this drivetrain, there is a torque converter wedged in between the engine and tranny, giving the CR-V smooth step off.  Acceleration is adequate around town, and it’s only when the throttle meets the floor that the CVT-induced engine moan comes into play.

Canada Transport numbers for the 2016 all-wheel-drive Honda CR-V are 9.5 L/100 km city, 7.5 L/100 km highway and 8.6 L/100 km combined. I undercut that, coming at an impressive 8.1 L/100 km for the week.

The leather front seats are comfortable but a bit flat, lacking lateral support. Not that compact crossover shoppers care about such things. The seats make sliding in and out easy, which will be the main concern. Inside we are presented with a clear central gauge cluster dominated by a large speedometer flanked by a tachometer on the left and temp and fuel readouts to the right. A digital display within the speedo shows outside temp and trip info.

The CR-V has logical HVAC controls with a pair of rotary dials, and unlike Honda’s latest offerings (Civic and Pilot) there is a vertical row of albeit tiny buttons flanking the 7.0-inch touchscreen for power on/off, volume, menu, eject, day/night and “back”. So you fingers have at least some place to land other than a featureless glass screen.

LaneWatch is a useful feature that shoots up an image from a dedicated right-side rear-facing camera when the right turn signal is activated. Good for highway lane changes and inner city maneuvering where cyclists might zoom up on the inside.

All the Touring’s other safety systems work as expected, and if you want to impress your passengers with a few seconds of semi-autonomous progress, well, there’s that too. With the adaptive cruise control in play, press the button showing a steering wheel icon on the right spoke of the wheel and your CR-V will give you a few seconds of feet- and hands-off driving if the conditions allow (clear lane markings and very gentle curves). Try to contain your excitement.

Now, according to my completely unscientific observations, your average Joe and Jane couldn’t give a fiddler’s fart in a hoe-down for all this autonomous driving broo-hah. Considering all the billions of dollars auto manufacturers are throwing at this dystopian dream, are they the only ones who care? Yeah, I know it’s not for old guys like me with developed left-leg clutch muscles and callouses on my shifter hand older that most of these new-frontier engineers. But hey, I have two kids in college who have about as much interest in autonomous driving as I do in getting another colonoscopy.

“Honey, the old fart’s rambling again…”

Ahem, back to work.

On the road, the CR-V shows good cabin isolation, a decently compliant ride and secure handling. It finds a nice balance between sport and comfort, which for this segment is a fine strategy. No surprises, no annoyances.

The only real gripe would be the CR-V’s cabin that is awash in cheap-looking hard plastics. This might fly with the base model, but it’s too low-rent if you’re shelling out 40 grand for the Touring. And this is with a swath of okay-looking fake timber that sweeps along the lower dash and doors. In comparison, the Mazda CX-5, Ford Escape, Nissan Rogue and Hyundai Tuscon have considerably richer digs.

Other competitors might be more entertaining to drive too – the Mazda and Ford come to mind – but as an all-round offering the Honda CR-V shines. Its combination of comfort, fuel economy, capacious cargo capacity and built-in Honda reliability make it hard to beat.

Warranty:
3 years/60,000 km; 5 years/100,000 km powertrain; 5 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 3 years/unlimited distance roadside assistance

Competitors:
Chevrolet Equinox
Ford Escape
Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
Jeep Cherokee
Kia Sportage
Mazda CX-5
Nissan Rogue
Subaru Forester
Toyota RAV4
Volkswagen Tiguan

Specifications

Model Tested 2016 Honda CR-V Touring   Destination Fee $1,725
Base Price $37,090   Price as Tested $38,915
A/C Tax $100  
Optional Equipment
None