AutomotiveEvents

2017 Honda CR-V First Drive – Upgrade Complete

by: Jag Dhatt

Victoria, BC: There’s something to be said when a manufacturer wears the crown in FOUR different segments, and Honda isn’t shy to share this information. The company’s winning titles include:

  • #1 Compact Car – Civic
  • #1 Midsize Car – Accord
  • # 1 Subcompact SUV – HR-V
  • #1 Premium Minivan – Honda Odyssey

Only the compact SUV segment title has evaded the manufacturer, with the Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape ahead by narrow margins. However, Honda wasn’t about to step away from this fight, so they sharpened their pencils and went to work. And for 2017, they just may have another title. We were invited to beautiful Oak Bay on Vancouver Island to be one of the first to drive the all-new, yes, we mean ALL-NEW, Honda CR-V and boy, were we in for a treat.

One of the first questions everyone asks is, “How did the RAV4 and Ford Escape beat Honda’s charm and engineering in the segment?” Well, if you’ve owned the CR-V (and we have), you probably already know; even Honda brass are the first to admit it was a combination of conservative styling, lack lustre performance, and a plain cabin. So, has the 2017 CR-V upped its game? In one word – YOU BET…well, it’s two words, but you get the point.

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Upgraded Looks

In all honesty, I was never a fan of most of the previous generations’ styling. As a guy, it just didn’t do it for me and took away any macho factor I had when driving our own 2005 model. My wife, however, never seemed to mind. One look at the new CR-V sends a clear message that Honda’s design team did some amazing work that is on par or better than RAV4, Mazda CX-5, or Hyundai Tucson. The bland exterior has been replaced with a toned and aggressive look that goes head-to-head with anything else in this category. New for 2017 are stronger fender flares that accentuate the larger, wider body. Standard 17” wheels nicely fill the fenders; the wheels, however, could have been nicer. All around, Honda has added LED lighting and this includes the signature LED daytime running lights, and LED brake, tail and turn signals. If you opt for the Touring model, you’ll get LED headlamps as well. Other improvements, that you probably won’t notice but are important for fuel economy, include the standard active grille shutters and a flatter underbody for better aerodynamics.

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Honda is using the word “beautility” to describe the interior of the 2017 CR-V. Although the word won’t make Webster’s dictionary just yet, it’s pretty darn accurate. This Honda model’s interior has typically been bland, but the moment I stepped inside the new CR-V, I was floored. I murmured something like, “This looks and feels like a premium vehicle – it doesn’t feel like a CR-V.” There’s a 3D aspect to the new interior and it works. The surface materials and decorative parts express dynamism and comfort. Our Touring test model came complete with “wood” inserts, leather stitching, and a great contrast of materials – soft, hard and lustrous. Honda vehicles have always had ample storage and this new CR-V only improves on something good. The center console has a nifty movable storage tray that can hold your cell phone or wallet. Under the storage is a massive bin that you can stuff your gloves, scarf, and even a handbag! All in all, the new interior is a huge upgrade and I, again, applaud the design team.

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Keeping with the inside, even though the outgoing models’ interior was quite roomy, the 2017 CR-V adds an additional 53mm of rear legroom, thanks to the wheelbase being stretched by 40mm. It might not seem like much, but trust me, two extra inches of rear legroom is a big deal, especially in the compact classes.

Upgraded Safety & Technology

In today’s modern, fast-moving world, you either keep up with the latest in technology and trends or get lost in the crowd, period. I’m surprised that some manufacturers are still making things like Bluetooth optional. But not to fret with the 2017 CR-V, as it’s poised to stay ahead.

Let’s start with the safety basics – ABS, lots of airbags, etc…they’re all there. But now, Honda Sensing is standard on all AWD variations. This will include the Collision Mitigation System (CMS), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Low-Speed Follow (LSF), Road Departure Mitigation (RDM) and Lane Keeping (LKAS) Assist System, all of which work quite well. We did have to, at times, turn off the LKAS on windy roads because it was too sensitive and kept going off. Now, throw in the Cross-Traffic Monitor Alert and Driver Attention Monitor and you’ve got a grocery-getter and take-the-kids-to-practice hauler that’s going to keep its occupants safe.

In keeping with the other new and refreshed Honda models, the new CR-V shares some pretty neat technology. All trims get a 7” touchscreen that is responsive but wait…what’s that on left of the screen? It can’t be! A volume control knob! Woo hoo! I know I may be making a big deal out of this small detail, but trust me, I was beginning to hate the finger slide volume control. Thanks Honda for listening to us and bringing back the knob. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are supported in the CR-V, but if you want the navigation system, you have to get the Touring trim. Some buyers may not like dishing out more cash for extras that come with the Touring trim, but I can attest that the add-ons are a tremendous value. Said Hayato Mori, Senior Manager of Product Planning and Business Development, “We believe that buyers of the Honda CR-V will get much more car for the value with many of the optional features now becoming standard on the various trims.” And I agree with Mr. Mori completely.

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For example, even on the base LX trim, you still get 17” alloy wheels, proximity key entry with push button start, remote engine start, walk-away door locks, front wiper de-icer, automatic climate control, heated front seats, multi-angle rear-view camera, and active noise cancellation. As mentioned before, some of these were options in previous generations. And yes, Bluetooth connectivity is also standard.

Upgraded Utility

Even though the 2017 CR-V looks and feels premium, it still has to be practical. No, Honda hasn’t brought back the picnic table, but now there’s other cool stuff. First of all, a height adjustable power tailgate is standard on the EX-L and Touring trims. We tried the new tailgate and it’s pretty handy for people of various heights. If you’re carrying groceries, you can even activate the tailgate with a swipe of your foot under the centre of the rear bumper. Second, the cargo bay is now more versatile thanks to flat fold rear seats and two floor modes: full flat mode and max capacity mode. By configuring the floor to max capacity mode, 4 large hard suitcases can easily fit under the tonneau cover. The CR-V now has bragging rights to Best-in-Class space efficiency.

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Upgraded Driving and Performance

It’s no secret that Vancouver Island boasts some of the best scenic driving routes in British Columbia and it’s here that we road tested the 2017 CR-V. From beautiful Oak Bay to Jordan River and then back through downtown Victoria, there was a great mix of highway, city, and twisty roads.

One of the most significant improvements of the driving experience had nothing to do with the drive, but rather how quiet the cabin was. Our test vehicle was equipped with snow tires, which generally are known to be loud. But thanks to the standard Active Noise Cancellation, floating rear sub-frame, a flatter windshield, liquid sealing, and sound-insulating materials, the new CR-V is one of the quietest vehicles in this segment. We easily carried on a conversation or enjoyed music without impeding road, vehicle, or engine noise.

Speaking of the engine, it’s smaller than the outgoing one; don’t frown just yet though. For Canada, the CR-V gets a tweaked version of the 1.5-liter turbocharged DOHC four-cylinder motor that powers the Civic. Unlike the Civic, the CR-V gets 190HP and 179 lb-ft of torque through a CVT. This is more than both the RAV4 and the Escape. For our drive, the engine proved to be capable in most conditions. I will admit that are low rpm’s there is some turbo lag, but nothing to be overly concerned about. Honda claims that this new CR-V also has class-leading fuel economy and we concur. After our drive route, we averaged about 7.4 L/100 km.

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Ride quality has also been upgraded thanks to a new chassis that has some key features. In order to accommodate the larger footprint for a better ride, Honda has included fluid-filled suspension bushings, Macpherson strut front suspension, multi-link rear suspension, a more powerful braking system and of course, the larger wheels. All this new technology makes the new CR-V quite agile and, wait for it…somewhat fun to drive. The Real Time automatic AWD drive system is quite good; no, we didn’t have the chance to test it completely, but it would be on par with Subaru’s Symmetrical all-wheel-drive system. When needed, 40% of maximum torque can be pushed to the rear wheels.

During our drive throughout the Southern parts of Vancouver Island, I was thoroughly impressed with the new CR-V. Seating position and height for me were good – it’s now a vehicle capable of long trips with the family. This is not an enthusiast’s vehicle, but it does everything you need it to and then some.

Final Thoughts

Honda has always built vehicles that offer great engineering, value, and reliability; the new 2017 CR-V is no different. This built-in-Canada for Canadians is sure to make a hit, more-so now that many extra features are now standard. Pricing ranges from $29, 490 for the LX to $38, 090 for the top-end Touring.

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