The Honda CR-V has come a long way since its humble beginnings to become one of the best family cars out there. But is it an ideal weekend crossover?
Engine: 1.5L Turbocharged I4
Output: 190 hp, 179 lb-ft
Transmission: CVT, AWD
US fuel economy (MPG): 27/32/29
CAN fuel economy (L/100KM): 8.7/7.4/8.1
Starting Price (USD): $26,270 (inc. dest.)
Starting Price (CAD): $30,126 (inc. dest.)
As-Tested Price (CAD): $37,476 (inc. dest.)
Which is the ideal crossover for a long weekend getaway when you have a toddler and a few friends’ worths of food to carry for a lofty plan that also includes ferrying one of the said friends along? We at AutoGuide certainly know how to ask the right questions. Now, if you’re pondering the same question as I was, the 2020 Honda CR-V ought to be hovering near the top of the options list.
So it was only natural that we choose a crossover that thousands of families swear by and give it the good old fashioned family test. Among the passengers would be the woman of the house, a rather temperamental toddler, and an unsuspecting uncle. Then let the tests begin.
The Lounging Area
For starters, the Honda CR-V seems huge, especially from the inside. And it seems like its the biggest one among the competition, and it is, even if not by much. It is a little over an inch longer than the Toyota RAV4 but makes much better use of it’s dimensions, especially on the inside. The cabin feels roomy with plenty of space to move around. The large windows meant our little troublemaker could stare out of it without craning his neck, an issue we usually face in the current crop of crossovers. Plus, the rounded roofline only adds to the feeling of space despite a narrow moonroof and even taller passengers can take in the airiness of the rear bench.
It has a wheelbase measuring 104.7 inches which is a little over an inch shorter compared to its chief rival but yet, it manages to offer 40.4 inches of rear legroom which is almost three inches more than the competition. The extra space is especially helpful if the aforementioned toddler has a penchant for kicking the back of your seat. The CR-V also offers a massive 39.2 cu-ft trunk which comes in handy when you are going away for the weekend with enough supplies to feed a small village. And the trunk swallows it all without batting an eyelid.
The rear bench is quite spacious too and the large rear windows add to the overall feeling of space. There is plenty of storage space all over the car as well. But what impressed me the most was how much stuff could fit in the center console alone. At the front under the center dash you have a cubby hole then two cup holders, then a two-tiered storage space along with an armrest with more space in it. We didn’t realize how much space there was until it was time to empty it. The door pockets on all four doors can swallow even more edibles.
The seats are supportive and comfortable, especially on the rear bench. Even taller passengers will find no dearth of headroom. This is a nitpick but the seat back contour of the rear seat could have been slightly more pronounced. Having said that, the rear bench is by no means uncomfortable. They are also quite accommodating for adults even on long road trips, as the uncle testified. The front seats too, hold you well. The seatback bolstering is good and the squab too, wide enough for a comfortable seating position for drivers of all sizes. The under-thigh support is especially delightful and ensures you don’t tire out even after hours of driving.
Heart of the Matter
Our tester was the Sport (Canadian spec) trim and was equipped with AWD. The 1.5-liter turbocharged four-banger makes 190 hp and 179 lb-ft of peak torque, which is adequate. While it is no sprinter, the CR-V moves fairly quickly despite its size. An output of 190 hp translates well to the real world, despite seeming a bit inadequate on paper.
At idle right after startup, it sounds a bit clattery and quite un-Honda-like. But it settles down rather quickly once you are on the move. It rarely runs out of breath and with most of the torque firmly in the mid-range, the CR-V makes short work of getting away from the traffic and overtakes. But it works best at sedate speeds because as responsive as the engine is, it is let down by the gearbox.
While the CVT gearbox is adequate in city and sedate situations, it feels out of its element on the highway. It feels strained and you can feel it struggling with the weight of the vehicle especially when you are trying to overtake. Hence, you really need to plan your overtakes lest you attract the scorn of your wife because you had to give up halfway through overtaking a semi.
The CVT also struggles to maintain higher than average cruising speeds which eats into the overall fuel efficiency though not by much. For our round-trip of 250km, the CR-V averaged 28 mpg which is only 1 mpg less than Honda’s claimed figure.
Wafting Along The Curves
But what the CR-V lacks in transmission it redeems in spades with its ride. The suspension setup is impeccable and seems like it belongs on a more expensive offering. The red compact crossover tends to waft over most undulations with ease. We only felt the particularly nasty ones while it dispensed even the bigger ones with nothing more than an audible thud. The AWD system, though an on-demand one, works quite well. We did take to a couple of dirt roads and I deliberately tried to upset the car and the AWD system kicked in almost instantaneously and always in time. Although, there is still a bit of a lag before you feel the rear slip and the AWD corrects it but, it is barely noticeable.
To be fair, Honda is known to make the best handling FWD car on the planet, but yet, you don’t expect a large-ish crossover like the CR-V to handle the way that it does. My little venture off the freeway was quite rewarding despite the cries of my passengers imploring me to make good time. The CR-V is no corner carver but is perfectly set up to carry on undaunted when we got off the freeway and headed to a small section of twisties in the name of science and journalism.
A set of tight corners, especially switchbacks can upset the balance of the car but the usual twists found along the general North American B-roads will never pose a problem. And the happy cries of our toddler every time I took a corner are a testament to that. The brakes though progressive lack in feel. In the sense that, you’re never sure of the pressure you need to apply when coming to a dead stop, especially from higher speeds.
Tech for Buck
Our CR-V tester was incidentally, a Canadian spec Sport trim which is essentially the EX-L trim in the US but with a couple of differences. The Sport trim doesn’t get an auto-dimming rearview mirror, the 8-speaker system, memory function for the driver’s perch, and wood accents inside the cabin. All of which are available on the EX-L trim in the US.
The EX-L retails for $31,270 (incl. destination) and offers features like one-touch moon-roof, a good sound system, a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a 12-way electrically adjustable driver’s perch, and a 4-way adjustable passenger seat. Pretty neat for the price. The trim in question also comes with blind-spot detection, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, and auto high-beam headlamps. Stress levels tend to rise when you’re driving on an unknown country road at night. But the auto high-beam lamps work well to keep the visibility at optimum levels without blinding the oncoming traffic and helps you concentrate on the navigation rather than play with the headlamp stalk.
The touchscreen infotainment system however, has its caveats. It’s an aging system and is far from a smooth operator (yes, sade was on the radio). The screen lags quite a bit and even if you do go for the higher trims, you’re better off going with Google Maps for navigation. Also, Apple CarPlay seems to work smoother on the Honda Infotainment compared to Android Auto. Also, the LaneWatch system takes time to get used to. It throws the feed from the blind-spot camera onto the center screen the moment you flick the indicator stalk to the right.
It can be unnerving to a new driver because then you lose the navigation until you turn the indicator off. You can switch it off temporarily via a button on the top of the indicator stalk after you indicate. It can also be deactivated via the touchscreen; settings menu, camera, lane watch, first option, off (in case you find the need to google it). If you do leave LaneWatch On, you can have navigation directions on the all-digital instrument cluster.
Verdict: 2020 Honda CR-V Review
Honda knows how to package a car and the CR-V is no exception. There is a reason it sells as well as it does and the balance of the package is its strongest suit. Sure it isn’t the perfect crossover, such a thing doesn’t exist. The infotainment system can be better and the CVT just about manages to do the job but the comfort levels, space (storage and passenger), and the ride quality are compelling enough to ignore the shortcomings.
Though better suited to city driving, so long as you be gentle with it and time your overtakes, highways will not be a problem either. As for the trims, it starts $26,270 for the LX 2WD and the one we tested was the Sport trim which will set one back by CAD $37,476. We, however, recommend the EX-L trim which will set you back by USD $31,270 for the 2WD model and all it skips on is the navigation, 9-speaker system, and wireless charging. If you can live without those you end up saving over $3,000 and yet get a well-equipped crossover with most feature boxes ticked. All AWD trims are $1,500 over the FWD ones.
If you are looking for a family crossover that will do the daily drives and manage the sporadic weekend getaways, the CR-V is as close as it comes to the ideal choice.
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