AUTO REVIEW: Disappear Into Sensibility With the 2017 Honda CR-V

(Tribune News Service/TNS) -
(Honda/TNS)
(Honda/TNS)

Have you ever done something so reprehensible you’d rather not talk about it?

After it happened, did you want to be noticed? Of course you didn’t. Suddenly, becoming a member of the federal witness protection program seemed like a good idea.

Disappearing, though, doesn’t have to involve meeting with agents or moving to Arizona.

If you don’t want to be seen, wear jeans and T-shirt. And while you’re at it, leave that sports car or luxury vehicle at home and opt for the 2017 Honda CR-V instead. No one will look at you twice — unless they want to surmise how sensible you are.

You might not believe it, especially in the aftermath of the recent election, but most Americans are fairly sensible. If you need proof, consider that last year, more than 300,000 sensible sorts opted for a Honda CR-V rather than, say, a Mazda Miata. In fact, it’s among America’s best-selling SUVs, with Honda having sold nearly 4 million over the past two decades. So buying the redesigned CR-V won’t raise any suspicions, although it might raise a few envious eyebrows.

Why? Simple: The new CR-V addresses the previous model’s rear seat, which seemed tight. Climb in the back of the 2017 CR-V, and you’ll find it’s 1.2 inches longer and 1.4 inches wider than the previous model. There’s enough space to sit behind yourself without your knees touching the front seats. Fold down the rear seat and you’ll find more than 5 feet of flat cargo space ready for any manner of lifestyle debris. And check out the cargo floor; its height is adjustable. How sensible.

Up front, you’ll discover that the driver’s seat is the best seat in the house. It’s far more accommodating than the flat-front passenger seat and its widely placed side bolsters, whose position is too low and has a cushion that doesn’t tilt or adjust for height, even on the top trim level. So while you can adjust the cargo floor height so that your groceries can ride comfortably, you can’t do that for a front seat passenger.

But that’s a minor quibble on a car that’s eminently sensible.

(Honda/TNS)
(Honda/TNS)

Consider safety. Twenty years ago, when the CR-V debuted, just having air bags was noteworthy. Today, that honor falls to Honda Sensing, a suite of electronic safety aids that are standard on all models except for the LX, which is clearly the model to choose if you’re unthinking. After all, why wouldn’t you want collision mitigation braking, road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control or lane keeping assist? All models get blind spot information and a driver attention monitor that detects if it’s time for you to take a break from behind the wheel.

Even if it is, though, there’s no doubt your judgmental spouse told you long before the car did.

The new CR-V comes with one of two engines. For the careless, there’s the LX, which gets last year’s 2.4-liter four-cylinder rated at 184 horsepower and 180 foot-pounds of torque. The rest of us will opt for the EX, EX-L, and Touring models with a new 1.5-liter double-overhead cam turbocharged four rated at 190 horsepower and 179 foot-pounds of torque. As before, both front- and all-wheel-drive models are available.

While the engine generates more power than it does in the Civic, one wonders what this vehicle would be like when fully loaded with people and stuff. There’s sufficient muscle to get the job done, and requests for more power are promptly answered. Nevertheless, the continuously variable automatic transmission occasionally hangs up in a ratio when you need it to change gears.

This is unfortunate, as the 2017 CR-V is a big improvement dynamically over its predecessor.

It’s clearly more fun to drive than others of this ilk, with a ride that’s never punishing, with little of the body motions you’d expect in exchange. Steering is nicely weighted and quick, with better-than-expected road feel considering its electric power steering. It’s nimble, although you won’t confuse it with a sports sedan. Besides, the CR-V is all about sensibility, which is why it returns 34 mpg in highway driving, according to the EPA.

So don’t tell anyone that electronics, not a cable, connect the accelerator pedal to the engine. Sensibly, it reduces weight and allows for quicker steering response.

That said, there’s a fair amount of road noise, and the audio system’s sound quality proved disappointing; not only for sound quality, but in ability to mask the noise. On the bright side, it does have a volume knob, something conspicuously absent from recent Hondas.

Aesthetically, the exterior wears a familiar look, albeit with more sophisticated details. And the interior is significantly more pleasant, with materials that impart a more luxurious feel, even if some details are deceptively so.

Dynamically and aesthetically, the 2017 CR-V is a noticeable improvement. But when you take into consideration its roomier cabin, it makes for a sensibly upgraded package that’s hard for any sensible person to resist.

(Honda/TNS)
(Honda/TNS)

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Base prices: $24,045

Engine: Turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder

Horsepower: 190

Torque: 179 pound-feet

Fuel type: Regular

EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 27-28 mpg/33-24 mpg

Wheelbase: 104.7 inches

Length: 180.6 inches

Cargo capacity: 39.2-75.8 cubic feet

Curb weight: 3,307-3,512 pounds

NHTSA rating: Not rated