The completely redesigned 2017 Honda CR-V could easily have been a case of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." After all, the outgoing CR-V was still selling at a class-leading clip, so there was no pressing reason to change course. We would have understood if Honda made some superficial design tweaks and called it a day.
But instead we have the 2017 CR-V, a redo from the ground up that decisively parts ways with its competent but conservative predecessor. The styling has gone from anonymous to awesome, led by an aggressive new front fascia, reshaped rear windows and sculpted haunches that convey a surprising muscularity. For all trims except the base LX, that's backed up under the hood by Honda's excellent 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, first seen in the Civic and a natural fit in the CR-V given its ample low-end torque and fuel-sipping ways — up to 34 mpg highway, according to the EPA.
Inside, the CR-V again follows the latest Civic's lead with a modernized dashboard, a digitally enhanced instrument cluster and an updated touchscreen that thankfully includes a volume knob. There's also even more rear legroom than before — not that anyone was clamoring for it — and an exceptional 75.8 cubic feet of maximum cargo space that positions the "compact" CR-V as a legitimate alternative to midsize SUVs.
The 2017 Honda CR-V further benefits from thoroughly overhauled underpinnings that reduce body roll in corners without compromising the historically compliant ride. The wheelbase is longer, the front and rear tracks are wider, and there's even an extra 1.5 inches of ground clearance for those who found that the previous CR-V scraped its stomach too often in light-duty off-roading. Add it all up and you've got a strong contender for best-in-class honors. The CR-V has long been a champ in the sales and sensibility columns, but now it's poised to be a winner on the merits, too.
- Turbocharged engine delivers a rare combination of thrift and zest
- Roomy interior with cavernous cargo capacity for this class
- Rides comfortably yet handles corners athletically
- Plentiful and thoughtful storage areas
- Touchscreen can be finicky to use and lacks a separate tuning knob
- Base LX's engine is both weaker and thirstier than the turbo
- Optional navigation system isn't as reliable as we expected