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2015 Honda CR-V Test Drive Review

The 2015 Honda CR-V is like a valedictorian and an athletic all-star rolled into one.

8.5 /10
Overall Score

It’s no wonder that Honda’s CR-V has been the best-selling SUV for the past 10 years and keeps getting more popular. With a long history of providing practicality, reliability, and efficiency in a roomy package, the CR-V pushes all the right buttons for the average car buyer. Now, thanks to a number of changes for 2015, the CR-V is better than ever.

Look and Feel

9/ 10

Sure, call them adorable. Go ahead, give them genial nicknames like “cute-ute.” But do not, by any means, underestimate this formidable class of vehicles.

In many ways, compact crossover SUVs represent one of the most powerful forces in the car market today. Thanks to their burgeoning popularity, almost every carmaker, including luxury marques, offers one in its lineup. You can understand the appeal; compact crossovers have tidy dimensions, a higher ride height for better visibility, impressive cargo capability, and respectable fuel economy, all wrapped up in a package that offers blizzard-beating all-wheel drive.

Among these so-called cute-utes, the 2015 Honda CR-V may just be king of them all.

When it debuted for the 1997 model year, the CR-V was one of the first compact crossovers available. It, along with the Toyota RAV4, proved instrumental in hooking drivers on the advantages of owning such an affordable and practical form of transportation. Today, the CR-V is the best selling SUV in America, as it has been for the entire past decade, and its popularity is growing.

That’s understandable, because there’s lots to love. With a thoughtfully designed interior, plenty of features, a near-sterling record for dependability and safety, and an appealing driving demeanor, the latest version of the CR-V is like a valedictorian and an athletic all-star rolled into one.

For 2015, Honda refreshes the CR-V with revised exterior styling, a wider range of features, updated suspension tuning, and a more fuel-efficient engine paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Prices start at $23,445 for the LX model and rise to $33,650 for the CR-V Touring. The Touring trim is also new for 2015, building on the leather-lined EX-L model with a power rear liftgate, adaptive cruise control, a forward-collision mitigation system, a navigation system, and snazzy 18-inch aluminum wheels.

In my opinion, this year’s makeover results in the handsomest CR-V in history. Less cute and cuddly, the new CR-V is more rakish and appealing, as if the pup it has been for almost two decades has finally grown into an attractive hound. The cabin is improved as well, and my top-of-the-line test vehicle’s dual-tone interior looked and felt a lot more upscale than any previous version of the CR-V.


8/ 10

For the 2015 model year, Honda has introduced a new engine to the CR-V. The direct-injected, 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine makes the same 185 hp as the previous engine, but offers more torque, and the engine is now paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

While it would be nice to see an optional turbocharger for this engine, or even the V6 that Acura uses in the similar RDX model, I nevertheless found this motor to deliver plenty of smooth, peppy performance. Honda’s CVT is sophisticated, too, doing an admirable job of filtering drone while at the same time responding to driver inputs in snappy fashion.

Honda also stiffens the CR-V’s underlying structure to improve safety and contribute to better ride and handling characteristics. This, combined with the retuned suspension, makes the CR-V even more athletic than it was and even more a pleasure to drive.

While any crossover SUV will have a higher center of gravity and weigh more than a correspondingly sized sedan, Honda has done a terrific job making the CR-V as stable and responsive as possible. In my experience, it is easy to forget that you’re driving a taller utility-style vehicle.

Exhibiting plenty of liveliness and spirit, the CR-V was as at home snapping out of tight mountain switchback corners as it was zipping around a city. Comfortable around town while retaining good feel for the road, and adept at cruising down the freeway at extra-legal speeds, this Honda is genuinely fun to drive at almost all times.

Speaking of the highway, that’s where I covered the most miles during my time in a CR-V Touring with the optional all-wheel-drive system. I averaged 24.8 mpg, missing the EPA rating of 28 mpg in combined driving by a full 3.2 mpg.

Maybe I should have pushed that little green “Econ” button on the dashboard, eh?

Form and Function

9/ 10

Practicality, thy name is CR-V. Organization freaks, prepare to salivate.

Starting with discussion of the CR-V’s thoughtfully designed center console, this large storage area is big enough to hide valuable belongings out of sight, and in my Touring model included dual USB ports, HDMI connections, and a 12-volt power outlet. The plush padded top even slides fore and aft to create the perfect place to rest an elbow.

Despite a sprinkling of soft-touch surfaces, interior materials are generally not plush. Given the CR-V’s starting price point, though, this is not surprising. Honda upgrades the more expensive models with leather upholstery, and thanks to a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat I easily found an ideal driving position. Outward visibility is terrific, and I appreciated the parabolic conversation mirror that let me keep an eye on the kids.

Two rear-seat passengers will find plenty of leg and foot space in a CR-V, but fitting three across is not easy. I was able to fit a forward-facing child safety seat, a child’s booster seat and a petite adult back there, but it was a tight squeeze.

Let’s not forget, of course, that one major reason for getting a crossover utility vehicle in the first place is for greater cargo flexibility. In this regard, the CR-V excels, offering a low load floor, a deep cargo area, and a tall cargo cover to help maximize usable space. The result is 35.2 cubic feet with the rear seat in use and 70.9 with the rear seat folded down. Either way, the CR-V effortlessly handles runs to the big-box store for bulky items.

While it may be a compact crossover, the CR-V performs more like a midsize model in most respects.

Tech Level

7/ 10

In many respects, Honda’s touchscreen infotainment system mirrors the technology offered in other small crossover SUVs, including Bluetooth pairing with audio streaming capability, text-messaging support, a USB port and auxiliary audio input jack, and smartphone mobile app integration via HondaLink technology. There aren’t many exclusive features here, but I find it appealing that nearly every version of the CR-V comes with all of these features.

In practice, using the 7-inch touchscreen display in my CR-V Touring test vehicle, it was easy to pair my iPhone to the system, to stream music, and to pinch, spread, and swipe the touchscreen in similar fashion to the iPad I use at home.

However, when it came to audio controls, the CR-V’s fussy little buttons along the left side of the screen get unsatisfactory marks. I would much prefer two large knobs for primary functions like power, volume, and tuning. The reason is simple: No other approach is as easy or as intuitive to use.


9/ 10

Critically, Honda has upgraded the 2015 CR-V's underlying structure to adhere to the company’s Advanced Compatibility Engineering II (ACE II) standards, and the result is a Top Safety Pick rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Take a look at NHTSA crash test ratings, and the CR-V gets an overall score of 4 stars despite the fact that it achieves a 5-star rating in every assessment except for rollover resistance (4 stars) and front passenger protection in a frontal-impact collision (4 stars).

In addition to structural upgrades, Honda introduces a number of new safety systems to this popular crossover SUV. They include LaneWatch camera technology for the right side of the CR-V, a lane-departure warning system, a lane-keeping assist system, a forward-collision warning system, and a collision-mitigation braking system. SmartVent airbags are new, too, and the available HondaLink smartphone connectivity system offers automatic collision notification once you’ve opted in to the service.

My CR-V Touring test vehicle had all of the CR-V’s available safety features, but I’ve always found Honda’s LaneWatch to be overly complicated and counter-intuitive. Instead, a simple blind-spot monitoring system with audible alerts and warning lights on both side mirrors works so much better than a parabolic mirror on the driver’s side and camera-based video that springs up on the touchscreen display for checking the passenger’s side of the vehicle. LaneWatch simply is not easy to use.

Furthermore, I’m no fan of the CR-V’s lane-departure warning system. It is intrusive and makes enough inaccurate calls that I want to disengage the system altogether. I'm grateful Honda makes that easy to do.

Aside from these complaints, the CR-V’s new forward-collision warning system works well and grabs your attention when it determines that you’re braking too slowly compared to the car in front of you. I never engaged the collision-mitigation braking system, which will automatically apply the brakes if it decides a crash is likely to occur, but it sure was nice to know that it was standing sentry, just in case.


9/ 10

According to Kelley Blue Book, Americans spent an average of nearly $34,000 for a new vehicle in January of 2015.

That puts my loaded CR-V Touring right in the current bulls-eye in terms of its sticker price, and considering that it gets a top rating from ALG for its ability to retain its value over time, combined with a favorable cost of ownership rating from Consumer Reports, it sure seems like buying a CR-V is a smart move. Plus, Honda now provides free roadside assistance for the first 3 years or 36,000 miles of ownership.

As far as quality and dependability go, both J.D. Power and Consumer Reports highly rate the CR-V. In fact, over the years, this vehicle has won multiple awards from J.D. Power for quality.

That leaves me to discount the CR-V to some degree, because during my week of driving this excellent little crossover SUV, it missed its official EPA fuel-economy ratings by a mile. But when gasoline is selling for 2 bucks a gallon in many parts of the country, that’s not much of deal-breaker, now is it?

I knew I should have pushed that green “Econ” button on the dashboard.

Updated by Liz Kim

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2015 Honda CR-V Top Comparisons

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