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2019 Honda CR-V Test Drive Review
When people are ready to buy a small SUV, the 2019 Honda CR-V is usually on the consideration list, and for good reason.
Refined, roomy, and historically reliable, the Honda CR-V has earned its status as one of the best selling vehicles in America. This is a safe SUV, too, and it returns good fuel economy while delivering lively performance. There are few reasons to cross the 2019 Honda CR-V off of your shopping list, and numerous reasons to drive one home from the dealership.
Look and Feel
Honda makes it easy to pick out a new 2019 CR-V. Four trim levels are available—LX, EX, EX-L, Touring—each equipped with front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD). Prices start at $24,350 (plus $1,045 in destination charges) and rise to as high as $34,150 (plus destination). Dealers offer a wide range of accessories for the CR-V, some of which are more useful than others.
The CR-V LX doesn't necessarily look basic, thanks to an appealing set of standard 17-inch aluminum wheels. Upgrade to any other trim level, and the CR-V comes with body-color trim, bigger 18-inch wheels, and rear privacy glass.
In my opinion, except for its front styling, the CR-V is appealing. In fact, from the back, this SUV looks genuinely upscale. I hope the light refresh Honda is likely to bestow upon the CR-V for the 2020 model year will address its Robot Horseshoe Crab front-end design.
Inside, the CR-V exudes quality. From the materials and construction to the arrangement of the controls and my test vehicle’s 2-tone tan-over-black interior treatment, you'll definitely feel like you’re getting your money’s worth. While there is an abundance of hard plastic, it doesn’t look or feel cheap, and that makes all the difference in the world.
Get a CR-V LX, and a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine makes 184 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 180 pound-feet of torque at 3,900 rpm. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) delivers the power to the front or all four wheels.
Upgrade to EX, EX-L, or Touring trim, and Honda replaces the CR-V's 2.4-liter 4-cylinder with a turbocharged 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, also paired with a CVT and your choice between FWD and AWD. This engine produces 190 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 179 lb-ft of torque spread between 2,000 and 5,000 rpm.
Although each engine’s horsepower and torque specifications are comparable, the smaller turbocharged engine is more responsive and provides more satisfying acceleration. It's also rated to get better fuel economy. However, there are a couple of concerns to note regarding the turbocharged engine.
First, in very cold weather and when driven short distances, the engine can misfire or lose power. Apparently, Honda has found that these conditions can lead to the fuel mixing with engine oil, causing an issue in 2017 and 2018 model year CR-Vs. In 21 states across America, Honda is solving the problem with an oil change and software change.
Second, some CR-V owners have reported problems with their vehicle batteries—and shoulder-shrugs from their Honda dealers. I reached out to Honda for a comment about this issue, and a spokesperson for the company explained that they are aware of the battery problems and are investigating to identify a cause and solution.
Honda’s turbocharged 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine delivers satisfying performance, and the CVT doesn’t attract much attention to itself. I averaged 27.7 mpg on my testing loop, which came up short of the EPA’s expectation of 29 mpg in combined driving. I didn’t use the CR-V’s Economy driving mode, though, so perhaps that would have helped.
Versions of the SUV equipped with Real Time 4WD operate in FWD until those wheels slip. Then up to 40 percent of the engine’s power can flow to the rear wheels. This system does not offer torque vectoring or a way to lock it for an even split of power, so it’s designed for extra traction in slippery conditions, rather than off-roading. Honda does provide up to 8.2 inches of ground clearance, though.
Beyond the powertrain, the CR-V’s driving dynamics impress, too. A MacPherson strut front and multi-link double wishbone rear suspension form the foundation for this performance, and with 235/60 tires wrapped around 18-inch wheels, the CR-V Touring delivers a connected and composed ride combined with capable and confident handling.
Dual-pinion, variable-ratio electric steering feels terrific in your hands, light and effortless at lower speeds but gaining heft as velocity rises. It also has something called Straight Driving Assist to reduce driver fatigue on crowned roads.
Braking proved excellent. Pedal feel, response, and modulation were predictable, and the brakes held up well during mountain driving. Even with my whole family aboard and driving down a fairly long mountain grade, the brakes didn’t fade or shudder.
Form and Function
A Honda CR-V will keep a family very happy—unless the person sitting in the front passenger seat wants a height adjuster to improve visibility and add thigh support. You can’t get that on this SUV.
At my house, this omission is almost always a deal-breaker. My wife and I both hate sitting close to the floor. Sometimes vehicles without this feature position the seat high enough that it doesn’t matter. My significant other did not feel that way about the CR-V.
Meanwhile, the driver is quite comfortable. All CR-Vs except for the base LX get a terrific 12-way power adjustable driver’s seat. Heated front seats are also standard on all but the LX trim, and you can get an optional heated steering wheel if you want to spend the extra $500.
Our kids were happy with their backseat accommodations. Air vents and 2.5-amp USB ports kept complaints to a minimum. It helps that there’s plenty of space back there, easily enough to accommodate a couple of taller adults. Three kids fit across without trouble, too.
In addition to offering lots of room for people, the CR-V supplies plenty of storage space. The glove box is large, the center console bin is sizable, and cargo space is nearly as generous as what you’d get with the larger Honda Passport, let alone most other compact crossovers.
Behind the back seat, the CR-V provides 39.2 cubic feet of cargo space. You can lower the load floor to maximize room, and the result is a huge area that easily accommodates four full-size suitcases and a compact folding stroller underneath the cargo cover.
Fold the rear seats down, and the CR-V swallows 75.8 cu-ft of cargo, which is just a couple of cubes short of the bigger Passport.
Starting with the EX trim, the CR-V features a long list of infotainment upgrades, driver-assistance features, and collision-avoidance systems.
For instance, the LX improves the EX's infotainment system by adding Bluetooth connectivity and installing a 7-inch touchscreen display, SiriusXM satellite radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, text messaging capability, and HondaLink connected services. Navigation is optional with EX-L trim and standard with Touring trim. A premium sound system is also standard on the CR-V Touring.
Slowly but surely, Honda is improving its infotainment systems. The one in the CR-V has a power/volume knob, but it still lacks a tuning knob. Also, a 7-inch screen is officially too small, especially when there aren’t any menu shortcut buttons on either side of it.
Aside from basic stereo functions, this infotainment system is rather distracting. Voice activation is available, but using it requires specific prompts that show on the screen, which is antithetical to the notion that the voice recognition reduces distraction. Plus, it frequently didn’t understand me, causing even more distraction. And on one occasion the virtual buttons for the main menu shortcuts stopped working until I restarted the CR-V.
If Honda is planning a mid-life refresh for the 2020 Honda CR-V, a new infotainment system needs to be on the menu of upgrades.
Honda Sensing, the company's suite of advanced safety features, is standard on all CR-Vs except for the LX trim. It installs adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist, and a road-departure mitigation system. Additionally, EX trim and higher includes a blind-spot-monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert.
The technology works well enough but lacks a degree of refinement that is increasingly evident in similar technology from other car companies. I like the lane-departure warning system’s steering-wheel wobble better than an audible alert, but not as much as I prefer a vibration. The lane-keeping assist system allows the car to wander too much as it seeks to perform its mission. The driver is aware of subtle brake inputs as the adaptive cruise control tries to maintain the set speed.
Honestly, I could live without all of this stuff, except for the CR-V’s standard multi-angle reversing camera and both the blind-spot-monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems. But I’m glad Honda provides it on nearly all versions of its popular SUV.
In the event of a collision, know that the CR-V will keep you safe. It is a Top Safety Pick according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Only an Acceptable rather than Good rating for headlight performance prevents the SUV from earning the higher Top Safety Pick Plus accolade.
As I write this review in March of 2019, you can lease a Honda CR-V LX for $310 per month with nothing down and drive 12,000 miles per year. But if you upgrade to EX trim, which I recommend because it has all the infotainment and safety technologies you (or the next owner) will probably want, you’ll pay $142 more per month ($452). And if you get a Touring AWD like my test vehicle, that lease will run $567 per month.
That’s not terribly compelling, especially given that Honda is running something called the Dream Garage Spring Event, and a much larger Pilot Touring AWD can be yours for just $5 more per month, at $572.
At the same time, I suppose this lack of lease deals on the most popular versions of the CR-V simply reflects the demand for the compact crossover SUV. Plus, given its price tag when fully loaded, a CR-V represents good value in exchange for its quality and utility. Also, when you stack this Honda up to most of its competitors, it clearly offers an appealing combination of attributes that can make it irresistibly appealing.
Unless your co-pilot in life demands a front passenger’s seat height adjuster, of course.
Christian Wardlaw has nearly two decades of experience reviewing cars, and has served in editorial leadership roles with Edmunds, Autobytel, and J.D. Power and Associates. Chris prefers to focus on the cars people actually buy rather than the cars about which people dream, and emphasizes the importance of fuel economy and safety as much as how much fun a car is to drive. Chris is married to an automotive journalist, is the father of four daughters, and lives in Southern California.
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