Last year when I attended the press introduction of the fourth generation Honda CR-V
, a Honda official privately told me the brand’s aim was to climb to the top of the compact crossover segment.
And now that hope has been realized, with year-to-date August sales putting it ahead of all SUVs, according to independent sales tracking service Good Car Bad Car.
Not bad for a vehicle I first came across back in the fall of 2000, when I was gingerly driving a little tin box from Japan with right-hand drive and four-speed manual transmission around Toronto.
It was called a Honda CR-V and the reason I was testing it was Honda heard that Toyota was going to bring its own little tin box called the RAV4
Just so Toyota couldn’t get all the headlines, Honda imported 12 right-hand drive CR-Vs for in-house testing and evaluation and to hand out to the press as some kind of preemptive strike.
I recall being more amused than anything else.
But little did I know I was driving on the leading edge of the compact crossover that is now sweeping all before it in North America.
And it was at the same media launch last year when Honda, who had seen the CR-V trail the Toyota RAV4
and Ford Escape
, identified four problem areas they said were lacking in the last generation - conservative styling, basic performance, plain cabin experience and moderate value.
The first thing to address was power, but with economy.
Like the Civic, the CR-V is powered by a 1.5-litre turbo inline four-cylinder producing 190 hp and 179 lb/ft of torque on regular fuel with a CVT transmission.
All of the four trim levels come with all-wheel-drive, the exception being the base model, which also offers front-wheel-drive.
By reducing the number of blades inside the turbo from 11 to nine, Honda has been able to improve fuel consumption which is 8.4/7.0L/100 km city/highway for the FWD and 8.7/7.2L/100 km for the AWD.
“Real Time AWD” is what Honda calls its system and it relies on a centre transfer case that can route up to 40 per cent of torque to the rear wheels.
On the outside, the daring styling seen on the current Civic has found its way to the CR-V with aggressive fenders sticking out from the body, big wheels to fill the intentionally large wheel wells and liberal use of LED running and taillights with full LED headlights available on the top trim Touring as tested here.
Probably the biggest change is in the interior, where all the brittle and hard plastic trim is gone. On the topline Touring model tested here there was supple leather seating and wood trim.
And it is big, and I mean big, on the inside when it comes to cargo. With 2,146 litres with the second row seat folded, you can stow a bicycle standing upright.
Behind the rear seat is a two-level storage area divided by a shelf. In the top slot it makes for a flat cargo floor with a load capacity of 100 kg.
Lower the shelf and you can pack four large suitcases behind the upright rear seat and still be able to hide them under the cargo tonneau cover.
To address the perceived value issue, Honda ladled in the standard content such as remote start, dual zone climate control and walk-away door locks.
Another example is every AWD model comes with Honda Safety Sense included and it features: Collision Mitigation Braking, Adaptive Cruise Control with Low Speed Follow, Road Departure Mitigation and Lane Keeping Assist.
Get inside and the CR-V feels more like a mid-size, not compact, CUV with easy accommodation for five adults without crowding. To my eyes, I could see a third row being possible.
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The seating position is perfect, with typical Honda instrument placing putting everything within a hand or arm’s reach. Some AWD systems make parallel parking a multi-point exercise, but that’s not the case here.
But with its size and AWD comes weight, in this case 1,615 kg (3,560 lb), which meant power was fine for most instances, but the engine and CVT had their work cut out for them when climbing.
Other than that one issue, the CRV was very smart looking and, in the Touring trim with its upscale leather and wood accents, it was more like being in an Acura RDX.
Canadian love their Hondas and a test drive in the 2018 CR-V regardless of trim why may tell you why.
2018 Honda CR-V Touring
Compact five-door crossover.
Front-engine, all-wheel-drive with CVT transmission
1.5-litre turbocharged, direction injection four-cylinder engine (190 hp, 179 lb/ft)
(Regular) 8.7/7.2/8.0L/100 km city/highway/combined
2,146 litres behind rear 60/40 seat, 1,065 litres, seat folded
WEB SITE: Honda CRV