If the Honda Civic's dominance of the compact-sedan segment is any indication, the CR-V is set to dominate the compact-crossover space. Because it's built on the same modular chassis as the redesigned Civic, it offers similarly refined handling with more interior space: Rear legroom is up 2 inches and total interior volume rises 1.8 cubic feet. The turbo engine on EX trims and above (which Honda expects to account for 75 percent of CR-V sales) offers more power and efficiency at the same time -- 2 mpg improvements for both city and highway driving. This makes it the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid model in the segment, a key selling point for consumers who aren't keen on paying a premium for a hybrid. Honda says the new CR-V won't replace the Civic or Accord as its most important model, but given the strength of this fifth-generation crossover, it's likely to be the de facto volume leader and profit engine for the brand.
- Powertrain: On EX models and above,turbocharged and direct-injected 1.5-liter, 4-cylinder, with continuously variable automatic transmission
- Technology: Optional 7-inch color touch screen for infotainment system, color screen in instrument panel, Garmin-based navigation system and Apple CarPlay and AndroidAuto connectivity
- Safety: 6 airbags and rear-vision camera standard on all models; EX and above have standard pre-collision braking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring and road-departure mitigation
- Target: 300,000 to 350,000 units a year
- Competitors: Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue, Ford Escape, Chevy Equinox, Subaru Forester
- Strengths: Well-tuned engine for ample power; CVT has excellent programming and artificial shift points; comfortable, well-bolstered seats; responsive steering; cabin design and quality
- Weaknesses: Tire and wind noise seeps into the cabin; ride is on the firm side; engine can drone a bit when pushed hard.
- Bottom line: A day of driving a loaded Touring model in Northern California makes clear this will be the compact crossover to beat in 2017 for mainstream consumers. It elevates the previous CR-V experience by adding a dash of style and comfort inside and out. Bonus points for the fake matte wood trim, the return of the radio volume knob and the buttons for fan speed.