Compact SUV Comparison: 2016 Honda CR-V

By Jack R. Nerad, Executive Editorial Director, KBB.com on June 6, 2016 10:05 PM

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Still the practical champ.

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Starting MSRP: $24,645

Above Average: Hits highest notes in every rational category

Below Average: Instruments, infotainment and controls

Consensus: Class leader again but others are catching up

450 Miles in 209 Words

Kelley Blue Book has honored the Honda CR-V many times through the years, and we’re not alone. The model’s sales leadership points out that the public likes it as much -- or more -- than the critics do. Similar to good husband material, the CR-V is solid and excels in rational virtues. You want great fuel economy, great reliability and great resale value? Well, check, check and check. Its all-wheel-drive version is a winner in inclement weather, and if it’s not quite ready for heavy-duty off-roading…well we guess you’re not ready for it either.

There’s not much new on the CR-V for 2016 after a comprehensive upgrade in 2015, but we’d say that’s another thing that’s not an issue. Aside from the more elevated driving position, the CR-V feels very carlike. Its ride is smooth and its cabin isolates its occupants from wind and road noise with aplomb. The CR-V is powered by a capable 2.4-liter engine with 185 horsepower on tap, but the more important part of the powertrain story is the continuously variable transmission (CVT), which Honda engineers have got right when so many others have got it wrong. The very capable CVT is directly responsible for the CR-V’s stellar fuel economy and its good overall drivability.

A Closer Look

When it came to the expert evaluations of our experienced road testers, the CR-V nailed it in several important categories. It literally topped our charts in cargo area versatility and in rear seat room and comfort. It turned in the best fuel-economy numbers. And it’s a big winner in the resale value sweepstakes. 

In areas where the CR-V was weaker, it still turned in creditable scores in this high-quality pack, but it didn’t reach the pinnacle. Several of our testers thought the CR-V’s interior, especially its dash and controls, was overly complicated. For example, it offers two information screens, but that actually confuses data delivery rather than helping it. And its lack of a volume knob continues to be a source of irritation for many editors.

Still, in the overall compact SUV segment, the CR-V does what customers want. It is handy, reliable and inexpensive to own. For a vehicle in its class it offers a significant amount of versatile interior and cargo space. And while it is no sports car, it delivers a pleasant driving experience.

Here's a look at its relative performance across a variety of categories, followed by a closer look at the insights behind each rating:

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Highway Driving

The Honda CR-V finished mid-pack in this comparison on the Highway Driving evaluation, but we think many of its owners find it just fine for all their highway driving needs. For them comfort, quiet and good fuel economy trump acceleration and CVT quibbles. Indeed, one of our testers wrote, “The CR-V sets the segment standard with a comfortable ride even on uneven surfaces. It seems more softly suspended than many small SUVs, yet there is not much body roll, so SUV buyers should approve.” Acceleration is about class average with just a driver aboard and little cargo, which implies a judicious mindset when preparing to pass on a two-lane. Interior noise levels weren’t obtrusive but a couple of our testers complained about whine from the CVT in hard acceleration. Our guess is in normal driving you’ll never experience that.

City Driving

The CR-V is really in its element in the city. It features easy-to-handle dimensions and delivers the ability to park with a high degree of confidence. The rear-view camera system with dynamic guide markers is a welcome aid to both around-town driving and, importantly, the parking process. While the vehicle’s steering might feel a bit over-assisted in sporty driving, the light steering feel is a boon in urban situations.

Sporty Driving

The CR-V is definitely not a canyon-carver but we doubt that its buyers desire sharp handling in the performance idiom. One big virtue of the 2.4-liter engine is its linear delivery of power. A couple of the CR-V’s competitors in this test forced their drivers to deal with varying degrees of turbo lag, which diminished their sporty-driving potential. The CR-V’s overall handling is competent but it doesn’t inspire you to pull on driving gloves and wring it out. Emphasis went instead to comfort, interior space, and cargo volume, and that seems like an intelligent tradeoff. 

Interior Appeal

The Honda CR-V’s interior is a pleasant place to be, but many of our testers believed that Honda designers and engineers tried too hard to make the interior “creative” at the expense of usability. As one evaluator wrote, “Dash is overly complicated for no benefit; the second center screen is a long way away and, at times, complicates information delivery rather than enhancing it.” There were also complaints about the “acres of plastic” and “not enough tilt and weak thigh support” from the front seat. Still there were a lot of big pluses, like the great overall visibility, the commodious rear seat room and the large cargo hold. USB outlets are well-marked and readily accessible, while the heating/air conditioning controls are very straightforward and easy to use.

Infotainment

The infotainment system in the CR-V came in for more than its share of negatives. While offering good sound quality and largely intuitive operation, the lack of a volume knob was deemed inexcusable by many. You can readily adjust the volume from a secondary control on the steering wheel, but it doesn’t replace the good, old volume knob to a few of our Luddite testers. The seven-inch main display is easy to see and the information delivery is good, but the esthetics of the map function leave a bit to be desired. Much better is the Sirius/XM Radio, availability of a dedicated Pandora interface and SMS text messaging. 

Rear Seat

The rear seat in the CR-V is one of the best in the segment. Both rear legroom and rear seat comfort are excellent, and the rear seatback reclines as well as folds in 60/40 fashion. No one will like the center position in the rear seat, except a baby in a child-safety seat, but that’s the case in every vehicle in this segment. Vents at the rear of the console are there to cool or heat your legs as needed.

Cargo Utility

The CR-V is a big winner in the cargo-carrying measure. Not only is its cargo hold extremely large for its class, but it is also accessible across a very low liftover. We also applaud the mechanism to enable the rear seatback to fold, which is accessible from the cargo area. That cargo area can be concealed with a retracting cover that is removable. With seats and seatbacks folded, the CR-V offers a whopping 70.9 cubic feet of cargo space.

Fuel Economy

The direct-injection 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine delivers excellent fuel economy, while at the same time offering good drivability. Some drivers might be troubled by the on-off nature of the power from some turbocharged engines in competitive vehicles, not so with the non-turbo CR-V. In front-wheel-drive models, the CR-V’s engine delivers an EPA-estimated 26 mpg city and 33 mpg highway for a 29 mpg combined figure.

Resale Value

The Honda CR-V is the market leader in sales, and one of its calling cards is excellent resale value. In comparison with other models in its segment the CR-V holds its value extremely well, based in no small part on its stellar reputation for quality and reliability. You have a right to expect good service from your CR-V, followed by class-leading results when it is time to sell.

Inside and Out: 2016 Honda CR-V Touring AWD


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