Honda is by no means a volume leader in the global automotive scene — far from, actually. But in North America, shoppers have a particular affinity for a handful of the company’s models, namely the Civic and Accord sedans, and the CR-V crossover. In the immense popularity that the latter segment, Honda’s cute ute is second to nearly none, routinely outselling other popular entries like the Toyota RAV4 or the Ford Escape.
Given the heated competitive nature of the crossover segment these days, Honda is going the extra mile to keep its best-selling utility fresh and appealing. For 2015, the CR-V has received a rather substantial refresh, which is more than just skin deep. In addition to exterior tweaks and changes, there’s a new powertrain to match its new face, and CR-V buyers around the world will be better for it.
Starting with the outside, it’s easy to see that the new CR-V is very much a derivative of the 2014 model. This is by no means a complete redesign, but rather a substantial refresh to carry it through the next couple of years. The shape, dimensions, and cues are all very much the same or similar. Most of the styling changes occur in the front, where some new headlights and a new grille now exist more harmoniously than before. There’s also a new front fascia, which offers more chrome and gives the front end a different demeanor.
The sides are now punctuated with new 17-inch and 18-inch wheel packages, but it’s otherwise business as usual; the limited plastic body cladding insinuates that the CR-V is up for some rough-and-tumble driving, but it’s minimal enough that it doesn’t choke the overall styling or design; this was present on the earlier generation, though.
Inside, careful consideration has been paid to the materials and textures around the cabin, which now feels far more premium and upscale than previous, more utilitarian generations. Autoblog, which was able to take the new CR-V for a spin, noted that the “center console armrest is now standard, as are telescoping sun visors that slide to cover the length of the side windows and rear-console ventilation ducts.”
There’s a new 7-inch touchscreen and Display Audio telematics interface, which Autoblog notes can be tethered to the “next-generation of Honda Link, the automaker’s web-based infotainment interface.” While more tech and toys are always good for attracting younger demographics, the key to the CR-V’s success — its generous cargo real estate, especially with the seats down — remains intact. The high-swinging trunk also allows for easier ingress and egress of larger objects, as well.
The most notable bit of news, however, is what happened underneath the hood. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine has been replaced with a … well, a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. Only now, this one is branded with Honda’s Earth Dreams moniker, which means it’s more efficient and more potent. Though it has the same 185-horsepower rating, torque is up from 163 to 181, and the whole unit is lighter than its outgoing predecessor.
This is mated to a new CVT transmission, which in turn yields fuel economy figures of 27 miles per gallon in the city, 34 on the highway, and 29 on the combined cycle — not bad for a small SUV, by any measure. For all-wheel drive models (an option available for every trim level), those figures decrease by a single mile per gallon each. “In addition to offering unsurpassed smoothness, [the new CVT] has a 33-percent wider overall ratio spread than the outgoing five-speed to improve efficiency and drivability,” Autoblog said.
Honda took the refresh/redesign of the CR-V one step further and used wider front and rear track dimensions to accommodate wider wheels. The suspension has been tinkered with to offer a smoother ride, and the chassis has been firmed up to improve handling. Safety has also been paid attention to, and the 2015 model is expected to receive the sought-after Top Safety Pick+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The base CR-V starts at a hair over $23,000, though well-appointed models — including the new Touring Premium trim — can handily surpass $30,000 once loaded up with features.
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