It’s not easy being one of Canada’s top three best selling crossover/SUVs — even harder is maintaining that position year-over-year — ask Honda, it’s something the Japanese manufacturer is quite familiar with as the CR-V finishes off 2016 behind the Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4.
To stay competitive, a fifth-generation version has just been launched featuring all-new styling, more cabin space, upgraded comfort and convenience technologies and the model’s first turbocharged engine.
Dave Gardner, Honda Canada senior vice president of operations, reminisced about the segment’s humble beginnings.
“Who in their right mind would have thought a small four-cylinder utility vehicle would appeal to anybody? There was no consensus at Honda that it would succeed,” said Gardner.
“It’s sold over 450,000 units in the first four generations,” he said, adding compact SUV sales surpassed those of compact cars last year and the gap continues to widen.
The new exterior design of the CR-V was called “aggressive” by the company, which might sound like an odd way to describe a crossover, especially given the somewhat conservative look of the vehicle over the years. The most noticeable areas of change are the fenders, now bulgier, and the front and rear lighting.
All trims receive an upgrade to full LEDs, minus the low/high beams requiring a step up to Touring. The daytime running lights are now arranged in a wing shape, and the taillights have taken on a more classic horizontal form housing stacked LED bars that lend a 3-D effect when lit.
The entire car has grown in nearly every direction. Total length and height each gain 15 millimetres, and the width, 35 mm. This translates to an extra 53 mm of extra rear legroom for passengers and an additional 249 mm in cargo space behind the front seats, meaning an area of more than 1.8 metres to store stuff.
A few more highlights of the interior: there’s a three-mode centre console that can accommodate everything from a cellphone to a laptop, a seven-inch colour TFT driver information interface display in the middle of the instrument cluster and a Honda-first height-adjustable hands free power tailgate.
The inside overall feels bigger and classier than before. Every grade is bundled with a different sound system setup — our Touring sported a fantastic sounding nine-speaker including subwoofer 331-watt stereo.
Already happening in other products across the lineup, Honda is moving to smaller displacement and more efficient powertrains. The CR-V undergoes the same transformation, utilizing a “one-flavour” engine and transmission offering: a 1.5 litre turbo four cylinder mated to a CVT with G-Shift control logic.
Although a 1.5 sounds like an awfully small size to put in a 1,500-plus kilogram crossover, output is rated at 190 horsepower. I didn’t get any sensation of sluggishness or turbo lag during the test drive, and 179 lb-ft of torque comes on at a low 2,000 rpm so acceleration is brisk.
The 2017 Honda CR-V is built in Ontario and offered in six levels, all equipped with all-wheel drive except the base: LX FWD ($26,290), LX ($28,590), SE ($30,290), EX ($32,290), EX-L ($34,290), and Touring ($37,090).