Once a strong favorite in the category, the CR-V continues to do battle in this fiercely competitive crossover SUV category with some timely updates both inside and out.
First of all, the CR-V refreshes its look with subtle improvements to what was initially a controversial design. The front features the new "solid wing face", adding some dimension to its tall grille and daytime running lamps to its headlights. Below is a more sleek bumper design with faux overriders and a silver skid plate around the lower intake and foglight housings.
Towards the side, it features new 17-inch wheels, black plastic inserts in the wheel wells and scratch-proof plastic along the lower body.
Behind, the trademark tall tail lights remain. So too does the true handle for the tailgate (on the bumper, instead of under the plate garnish). The lower bumper mirrors the front with rocker panels and a silver skid plate.
Inside, the CR-V provides a plush cabin, with a narrow strip of wood running across the dash and leather seats. It retains a lot of the quirky Honda trademarks, like the dash-mounted gear selector, large center storage area, and circular steering-mounted controls. Unfortunately, the driver's side center arm rest has been replaced with the sliding forward variety. On the door cards are some of the largest cupholders around, with slots for very large bottles or bulky items.
Those that have driven Hondas before will feel right at home with the cluster, sporting a large central spedometer, flanked by eco-coaching lights. The tachometer and fuel and temp gauges are situated on either side. What's clever is how the gear indicator and warning lights are positioned on either side of the speedo. The multi-info display is also squarely in the center of the speedo.
Towards the center is the i-MID display (Intelligent Multi-Information Display) which can cycle through climate, entertainment, fuel consumption, navigation, a clock, or nothing at all (blank screen). When off, it appears as a solid black sruface. Lower on the dash is the larger infotainment system. When turned on, the capacitive touch screen only requires a soft touch to navigate through. A few buttons on the side help you cycle through menus.
Like all Honda's, the entertainment system is well equipped to handle a variety of connections from USB, Bluetooth, to even screen mirroring iPhones via the HMDI cable. There's also four USB ports in the center compartment to charge gadgets.
Behind, there's generous space for the rear passengers with their own fold-down armrest. The rear seats can even be reclined to some degree for those that want to catch up on some sleep during a road trip. They also get their own aircon vents, at the back of the center divider.
At the very back is the large and flat cargo area. It comes with a retractable tonneau cover to hide cargo, or can be removed completely for more space. Open up the cargo floor and you'll find several compartments to store smaller items. Of course, the rear seats can also be folded to carry more equipment. There are tie-down latches that fold flat into the floor, as well as hooks on the sides.
Hauling all of this along is a 2.4-liter i-VTEC engine, paired with a 5-speed automatic. There's some 185 horsepower and 220 Nm of torque on tap. And while this is an AWD, the ECU takes care of all the torque distribution. Unfortunately, there are no options to manually split the torque or lock any axles, popping any ambitions of going off-road.
Nonetheless, the CR-V remains comfortable and easy to drive. The steering feel is incredibly light and begins to gain some weight once speeds increase. Nearly all Honda's these days come with the Econ button which adjusts throttle response and even climate controls to improve fuel efficiency. Thankfully, with the larger 2.4-liter, it doesn't feel as sluggish and unresponsive as the other models. Still, we found ourselves turning the feature off completely most of the time. In spite of all the Eco-coaching and fuel economy tech, we only managed 7 km/L in the city in heavy traffic.
Where the CR-V did shine was on a long drive out of town to Baguio and Sagada at the peak of the New Year rains. Here, the CR-V returned much better fuel consumption at 12 km/L with a full load of five passengers and their bags, cruising at a comfortable 100 km/h.
The highways were the perfect opportunity to use the blindspot camera (mounted on the right side mirror) to check for vehicles before changing lanes. It activates the moment you turn on your right turn signal, but can also be turned on manually if desired. It's a very handy feature for highways, and would be better with one on the left side too.
The i-MID display was a great way to keep tabs on tunes and the fuel consumption. However, using the navigation proved to be somewhat tricky, with some of the controls being rather counterintuitive.
With Econ mode off, there was more responsive and usable power to overtake slow vehicles on the rural roads. The tighter steering feel at speed and rather taut suspension also made it a capable handler come the winding mountain roads, taking on turns faster than most would expect. Thankfully, the full load of passengers and cargo made the ride rather comfortable.
Halsema Highway's treacherous twisties also put the all-wheel drive system to the test. In spite of the lack of any manual controls, the CR-V's front biased torque distribution seemed adequate for the roads. We've only encountered wheel slippage for a brief moment over a stretch where a landslide had recently been cleared. Even then, the traction control system had already applied the brakes to the appropriate wheels and cut out the throttle to quickly straiten the car out before I could even react.
It proved to be a very comfortable and ideal car for long drives, ticking all the boxes with the right amount of space, comfort, power, and fuel efficiency. As we took shifts driving, it was very easy for other drivers to acclimate to the car. The only trouble was figuring out how to set the navigation system to some more uncommon destinations.
Those hoping for some off-road fun with the CR-V might be disappointed, what with a system that still feels like a front-wheel drive, and with ground clearance no better than your average sedan. However, with features like a potent engine, leather seats, Lane Assist, cruise control, i-MID, and quick reaction from the traction control system, it's easy to see this car racking up miles on out of town trips.