For a company that builds some very quick cars, Honda sometimes moves with glacial slowness.
The 2017 CR-V compact SUV (I give it four out of four stars) is a prime example. After years of complaints about its over-reliance on touchscreen controls, Honda gave the new SUV’s audio system a volume dial but inexplicably retained the annoying touchscreen for functions like tuning and switching from audio to navigation and among audio sources.
That’s one of the new CR-V’s few faults. It’s likely to remain America’s best-selling SUV despite Honda’s aversion to simple controls.
The CR-V is roomy, fuel-efficient, comfortable and loaded with useful features. It’s also a terrific value.
It competes with small five-seat SUVs like the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, GMC Terrain, Hyundai Santa Fe, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4 and VW Tiguan. New versions of the CX-5, Equinox, Terrain and Tiguan go on sale shortly but are not available for evaluation. This review does not compare the CR-V to them.
These compact SUVs are among America’s most-popular vehicles. Sales have skyrocketed as their sophistication and fuel economy improved and buyers deserted compact and midsize cars for the SUVs’ height, look and four-wheel drive.
CR-V prices start at $24,045 for front-wheel drive and a 184-horsepower 2.4-liter engine. An all-wheel drive model with the same engine costs $25,345. All CR-Vs have a continuously variable automatic transmission.
A turbocharged 190-horsepower 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine powers all other CR-Vs, starting at $26,695 for FWD and $27,995 for AWD. All prices exclude destination charges.
I tested a top of the line AWD CR-V Touring with voice recognition, navigation, blind-spot alert, lane-departure alert and assist, forward collision warning, heated front seats, a 7-inch touchscreen, adaptive cruise control, backup camera, Bluetooth compatibility, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
It stickered at $33,695. That’s less than some competitors that have lower fuel economy, fewer features and less interior room.
Honda builds the CR-V at three plants in North America — East Liberty, Ohio; Greenburg, Ind., and Alliston, Ontario.
The 2017 model’s wheelbase grew two inches to improve rear legroom and cargo space. The result is an accommodating cabin with plenty of passenger and cargo room.
The interior of my test vehicle had leather upholstery, soft plastic covering the dash and door uppers and attractive faux-wood trim. The front seat has loads of storage space, including a deep and accommodating bin in the center console. The seats are comfortable for long drives. Big windows deliver good sight lines that are complemented by blind-spot and cross-traffic alerts.
There’s noticeable wind noise at highway speeds, however.
The gauges are big and clear, but the controls for audio, navigation and other systems are cumbersome. The touchscreen is too slow and many of the touch points are too small for easy use in a moving vehicle. The result is too much time with the driver looking at the touchscreen rather than the road. It’s hard to understand why an outstanding automaker like Honda repeated mistakes the whole auto industry should have learned from Ford’s problems with its over-reliance on touchscreens and flat panel controls years ago.
The CR-V is pleasant to drive, with a suspension that absorbs bumps and good steering. Honda’s CVT is unobtrusive, effectively mimicking the feeling of a fixed ratio automatic, but delivering outstanding fuel economy.
The AWD CR-V’s EPA rating of 27 mpg in the city, 33 on the highway and 29 combined tops all competitors.
The 1.5-liter engine provides plenty of power for driving around town and highway cruising. It’s noisy under acceleration.
Keep an eye open when pricing and fuel economy are announced shortly for the new The 2018 Equinox, Terrain and Tiguan, but until further notice, the 2017 Honda CR-V is the best in its class.
Behind the Wheel
2017 Honda CR-V Touring AWD
All-wheel drive five-passenger compact SUV
Price as tested: $33,695 (excluding destination charge)
Rating: Four out of four stars
Reasons to buy: Value, features, fuel economy, interior room
Shortcomings: Controls, wind noise, engine noise
Competitive EPA fuel-economy ratings
(All-wheel drive, automatic transmission models)
Honda CR-V 1.5-liter AWD Touring: 27 mpg city/33 highway/29 combined. Regular gasoline.
Ford Escape Titanium 1.5-liter AWD: 22/28/24. Regular gasoline.
Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate AWD: 19/24/21. Regular gasoline.
Nissan Rogue SL AWD: 25/32/27. Regular gasoline.
Subaru Forester 2.5 Touring: 26/32/28. Regular gasoline.
Toyota RAV4 Platinum AWD: 22/28/25. Regular gasoline.
Comparative base prices (excluding destination charges)
(All-wheel drive, automatic transmission models)
Honda CR-V 1.5-liter AWD Touring: $33,695
Ford Escape Titanium 1.5-liter AWD: $31,000
Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate AWD: $33,450
Nissan Rogue SL AWD: $31,310
Subaru Forester 2.5 Touring: $31,295
Toyota RAV4 Platinum AWD: $36,150
Specifications as tested
Engine: 1.5-liter 16-valve turbocharged 4-cylinder
Power: 190 horsepower
Transmission: Continuously variable automatic
Wheelbase: 104.7 inches
Length: 180.6 inches
Width: 73.0 inches
Height: 66.5 inches
Curb weight: 3,512 lbs.
Where assembled: East Liberty, Ohio
Key features on vehicle tested
Standard equipment: Anti-lock brakes; stability control; brake assist; electronic brake distribution; LED daytime running lights; curtain air bags; front seat side air bags; push button start; rear vision camera; lane change alert; blind spot and cross traffic alert; lane keep assist; forward collision alert; collision mitigating automatic braking; ; 7-inch touchscreen; voice recognition; Apple CarPlay; Android Auto; XM satellite radio; navigation; leather trimmed seats; power front seats, mirrors, windows and locks; memory for driver settings; AM/FM/HD radio; nine-speaker audio; USB port; Bluetooth compatible; heated front seats; 60/40 split folding rear seat; dual-zone climate control; auto dimming rearview mirror; power tailgate; floor mats; cargo cover; sunroof; 18-inch alloy wheels; LED head and tail lights; fog lights; remote start; walk-away lock; capless fuel filler.