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Compact SUV Comparison: 2015 Honda CR-V

By Jack R. Nerad, KBB.com on May 8, 2015 8:13 AM

The Honda CR-V is like that fantastic friend who is terrific almost all the time but has one character trait that makes him or her a bit harder to like every now and then. In our recent comparison drive, the 2015 CR-V came up at or near the top of the class in a wide variety of categories as is befitting a vehicle that has been the sales leader in the segment for umpteen years in a row. Highway driving, city driving, interior appeal, rear-seat roominess and cargo room/utility -- the CR-V either led or was a close second in all these important facets, and we said to ourselves (again) no wonder the public likes it. (We like it too, as evidenced by the fact we named it a 2015 Kelley Blue Book Best Buy and one of the 15 Best Family Cars of 2015.)

Then there was the one character flaw -- infotainment -- that caused a couple of us on the review panel to question if we could live with a system that is so difficult to operate. To say this is out of character is an understatement. Honda is world-renowned for its stellar ergonomics, which made us wonder how a radio with such tiny buttons that was so hard to use while in motion made it into production. That single gripe out of the way, we found everything else about the Honda CR-V utterly competent and at times even endearing.

2015 Honda CR-V at a Glance
2015 Honda CR-V Bar Graph

If you want an example, take the CR-V's drivetrain -- the direct-injected, 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) offering a sport mode. We are typically unimpressed with most CVTs because of their unconventional characteristics that often include engine noise at odd and inappropriate times. But in the CR-V we encountered virtually none of that. The CVT made the most of the revised engine's 185 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque, delivering acceleration and all-around performance so good that the vehicle topped our highway and city driving charts. With fuel economy of 27/34 mpg with front-wheel drive and 26/33 with all-wheel drive, the CR-V is bested only by the Mazda CX-5 in its segment, while feeling strong and satisfying both in town and on the open road.

Since SUVs have "utility" as their middle name, we should also point out the CR-V's stellar abilities in that area. Not only is the rear seating area extra commodious, but the rear seats also fold in 60/40 fashion to enable additional cargo space while maintaining one or two rear seating positions.

Here's how the Honda CR-V stacks up against the competition:

Honda CR-V vs. Jeep Cherokee

Off-roaders (and those who aspire to look like off-roaders) will choose the Jeep Cherokee, one of the hottest new entrants in the segment. The Cherokee is smallish in both rear-seat room and cargo space, but its compact size makes it maneuverable in both off-road and urban driving. Our testers also felt that the Cherokee offers the best infotainment among the vehicles we tested, while the CR-V's was well down the list. More 2015 Jeep Cherokee

Honda CR-V vs. Kia Sportage

It strikes us that the Kia Sportage is trying to check all the same boxes as the Honda CR-V: good road manners, attractive interior and flexible accommodations. Our tester was the 260-horsepower turbocharged hot rod of the segment, but most buyers opt for the 182-horsepower non-turbo, which mimics the CR-V's performance but lags a bit in steering feel and in fuel economy. It could be a good choice for those who like the CR-V but are looking for a slightly lower-priced alternative. More 2015 Kia Sportage

Honda CR-V vs. Mazda CX-5

This is a battle among our favorites in the segment. The CR-V offers the well-rounded goodness befitting the segment leader, while the Mazda CX-5 is the segment's acknowledged sporty driving champ. But just because the CX-5 is fun to drive, don't discount its good overall utility, easy-to-use infotainment system and its class-leading fuel economy. The CX-5 isn't a one-trick pony, and you might prefer it to the CR-V. More 2016 Mazda CX-5

Honda CR-V vs. Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

We found the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport a worthy competitor in this red-hot segment of the marketplace, but when compared to the best-selling CR-V, one can see its shortcomings. Its rear-seat roominess and cargo area were at or near the bottom of our lists, and it offered the only infotainment system that we deemed harder to use than the Honda's. Still, as a bargain buy the Outlander Sport is worth a look. More 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Honda CR-V vs. Toyota RAV4

In this scenario the Honda CR-V is the established crowd favorite, and the Toyota RAV4 is the up-and-coming contender, rapidly gaining on its arch-rival in terms of features and value. Although the CR-V has a great rear seat and roomy cargo hold, we rated the RAV4 slightly higher. And though we rated the RAV4 infotainment system as middle of the pack, most of us preferred it by a wide margin over the CR-V's system. On the other hand, we preferred the CR-V's all-around driving prowess over the RAV4's. More 2015 Toyota RAV4

More Compact SUVs

Build and price your own 2015 Honda CR-V, read our full review or check out our Compact SUV Buyer's Guide to see even more options in the segment.

 

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