Honda's CR-V is already known for its efficiency and utility and the 2015 CR-V enhances those qualities. The refreshed 2015 Honda CR-V gets a new engine and transmission aimed at further improving efficiency plus new safety, comfort and convenience features. If you're shopping for a top-shelf compact SUV, the CR-V remains one of your best bets.
What Is It?
The 2015 Honda CR-V is a five-passenger compact SUV. It was all-new in 2012, but is significantly refreshed for the 2015 model year.
Only one engine and transmission combination is available. It consists of a new 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine combined with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The engine features direct injection for increased efficiency. It still puts out 185 horsepower, but torque increases 18 pound-feet to 181 lb-ft. Power is routed to the front wheels on standard models with all-wheel drive as an option.
There are now four trim levels available starting with the base LX. From there you step up to the midlevel EX and then the EX-L. New for 2015 is the top-of-the-line CR-V Touring, which features 18-inch wheels and a power rear lift gate among its many features.
How Does It Drive?
You'll need to drive the 2014 and 2015 model CR-Vs back-to-back to observe any significant dynamic difference between the two. Response to throttle inputs is marginally better in the 2015 model, but it comes at the expense of any direct connection between engine and wheel speed thanks to the new CVT. Even so, this is probably the best CVT in the class. Honda has done a remarkable job of minimizing the engine drone common to this style of transmission.
From a driver's perspective the biggest advantage the CVT offers is a Sport mode, which enables snappier reactions to throttle inputs. Engine braking is available in the "L" setting, but this transmission still lacks the feel and control of a traditional automatic like you'll find in the Toyota RAV4 or Mazda CX-5.
Still, most drivers won't complain about the CR-V's abilities. Acceleration to 60 mph, at 8.8 seconds, is better than last year's model but still a bit slower than the 2.5-liter Mazda CX-5. Steering weight is relatively light but presents predictable and intuitive feedback.
Retuned spring and damper settings do little to change the CR-V's family-friendly character on the road. Few will find its ride disagreeable — even when fitted with the Touring trim's 18-inch wheels.
What Kind of Fuel Economy Does It Deliver?
Overall fuel economy increases significantly over last year's CR-V. And since Honda was already near the top of the segment, a few more mpg lets it make the claim to lead the class in this category.
EX AWD models (the volume leader) increase from 25 mpg combined (22 city/30 highway) to an estimated 28 combined (26 city/33 highway). All front-drive models should earn 29 mpg combined. Our tester, in AWD Touring trim, delivered 25.5 mpg during 711 miles of combined driving.
How Safe Is It?
Significant structural changes were made to the 2015 Honda CR-V's chassis to enhance performance in small overlap frontal collisions — the only test where the 2014 model didn't get a "Good" rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
The federal government gives the 2014 model a five-star overall rating for crash performance. Honda anticipates that the 2015 CR-V will earn another five-star rating from NHTSA and is aiming for a Top Safety Pick Plus ranking from the IIHS.
Stopping from 60 mph required 119 feet, which is good for the class. However, multiple stops produced brake fade, which is indicative of a weak braking system. Prolonged descents will require care in the CR-V.
A rearview camera is standard on all trims, but the advanced safety features — Forward Collision Warning, Collision Mitigation Braking and Lane Departure Warning are only available on the Touring trim. Lane Watch, which displays the rear-quarter view of the passenger side on the dash-mounted screen, is standard on EX and higher trims. Though it's been around the Honda line for a few years, this feature is new to the CR-V. It's activated by the right turn signal.
Other new safety/convenience features include a lane-keeping assist with active correction and adaptive cruise control.
What's New Inside?
Short of a redesigned center console, little is changed inside the CR-V. An armrest is now incorporated into the design and the sliding lid covering the cupholders is eliminated in favor of a shape which just happens to perfectly hold an iPad. Underneath the hinged armrest is an HDMI port and two USB outlets (EX trims and higher). Two 12-volt outlets are also available.
Otherwise, interior space remains essentially the same. Honda does a superb job giving passengers a genuinely roomy interior with an airy feel. Pillars are pushed out, headroom is ample and even big folks fit in the back.
The CR-V remains near the top of the segment for cargo space and adds convenient features like the ability to drop its split-folding second-row seatbacks via handles in the cargo area. The seatbacks don't fold completely flat, however.
How Much Does Pricing Change?
Overall pricing remains relatively stable with a front-drive LX model starting about $24,000. Small increases are justified by additional equipment, however.
For an extra $200 the volume-selling EX trim adds the most value: a power driver seat, keyless entry and start, display audio, lane watch, heated seats, rear vents and a sliding sun visor. A similar value increase exists at the EX-L level though the same money gets you only rear vents and a sliding sun visor over the LX trim. The newly available Touring trim (in front-wheel drive) starts at $32,400. The AWD Touring version tested here stickers at $33,600.
What Are Its Closest Competitors?
There are an abundance of solid choices in the small SUV segment and Toyota's RAV4 is among them. It's available with a 6-speed automatic transmission in front or all-wheel drive and supplies nearly the same cargo space as the CR-V. It's also available with a locking center differential to enhance off-road capability.
Nissan's Rogue was redesigned for 2014 and offers either a third row or a flexible cargo area with movable shelving. It offers the same combined mpg rating as the CR-V and also comes only with a continuously variable transmission in front- or all-wheel drive.
If you're looking for more engine options Ford's Escape offers three. And Mazda's CX-5 is undeniably the most enjoyable of the group when comes to driving reward.
Why Should You Consider This SUV?
The Honda CR-V delivers all the elements compact SUV shoppers are looking for: efficiency, flexibility, value and comfort. The upgrades to the 2015 model further enhance those traits while giving it a more modern look on the outside. The 2014 model earned an "A" rating in our testing and the 2015 model will score equally well.
Why Should You Think Twice About this SUV?
Some shoppers don't like the feel of continuously variable transmissions. Now that it's the only choice in the CR-V you should take a test-drive to see for yourself. Also, if you prefer to have power to spare, the standard four-cylinder in the CR-V might come up short.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.