Huge makeover. Many firsts. Passionate buyers.


Test Drive acknowledges and salutes the remarkable features and technology that Honda’s put into the 2015 CR-V, a compact crossover that is the best-selling SUV of any kind in the U.S.

But, we remain unenthusiastic about the 2015.

In that, we are alone. Dealers literally were selling them as fast they arrived last month, boosting the model’s October sales 30% in a new-car market up 6%.

In summary, the new CR-V works fine, mostly. Looks interesting. Is roomy for its size. And the back seat folds as if it’s reading your mind — one latch and done.

But also, the vehicle feels a bit cheap, still has Honda’s baffling infotainment/telematics system, and drinks more gasoline than we expected, despite much-improved federal ratings.

It isn’t a dog, but neither is it much fun to drive, though likely that’s not a priority for CR-V buyers.

In Honda’s view, the 2015 CR-V is a milestone. The automaker says it never has given a vehicle such an extensive package of updates. Such festooning usually takes place at a full redesign every six to eight years, not at a midcycle freshening such as this.

The interior’s new, too, and is both more attractive and more useful, thanks to the console design and storage cubbies.

Cargo space is generous, so CR-V makes sense for people who need serious tote room inside tight parking dimensions.

Big news is the new high-end version, called Touring. Buyers of all kinds can’t seem to get enough fancy stuff on compact vehicles, and there’s no sense leaving money on the table.

Touring includes driver-assist features that no other CR-V models offer at any price. Packaged as Honda Sensing: forward-collision warning, collision-mitigation braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, lane-departure warning.

All but the base LX, however, have Honda LaneWatch. That’s the camera view along the right side when the turn signal’s on, so you don’t mow down a cyclist. Cheaper solution, believe it or not, than the blind-spot monitors that are common.

Honda’s goal with all those, and a couple more systems coming soon: cut fatalities in half by 2020, vs. 2010, and eliminate them entirely by 2030. By 2040, Honda hopes to eliminate all collisions in its vehicles with the Sensing suite and additional safety and self-driving systems.

It’s the mantra of a number of automakers, though the specifics vary a bit — such as just when they expect zero fatalities.

It’s understandable why CR-V would be first of the Honda brand to get the array of features. The target buyer is parent of a kid younger than 2, a college grad active in all facets of his or her life, about 32 years old and very likely a small-business owner with a $90,000 annual household income living in a wealthy suburb of an urban center.

That’s a person who needs all the help a vehicle can give for a busy, stressful life.

The CR-V’s engine’s still a 2.4-liter four-cylinder, and horsepower remains at 185, but delivered several hundred rpm lower than in the 2014 vehicle. Torque, the low-speed power for traffic, rises to 181 pounds-feet, from last year’s 163, and it, too, comes at lower engine speed.

Result is a vehicle easier and more pleasant in the suburban cut-and-thrust.

A CVT (continuously variable-ratio automatic transmission) replaces last year’s five-speed auto, normally something to dread. But Honda’s tuned the CVT a bit like the latest Subaru CVTs, hoping to avoid the slipping-clutch/over-rev personality that makes CVTs so wretched to drive.

It also contributes to federal mpg ratings 3 or 4 mpg higher. But in our real-world city and suburban scooting, mostly short trips conducted with some enthusiasm, the test CR-V — rated 26 mpg city, 33 highway and 28 combined — clocked a sad 17.6 mpg. It was a loaded Touring with all-wheel drive, so was the heaviest of all versions, and that always hurts fuel economy.

Tires are bigger, wider, which improves handling, braking, but still doesn’t result in a sporty feel.

To us, the CR-V has a brittle, almost cheap, feel about it. Doors open and close with tinniness we haven’t experienced in awhile.

More door seals, another reinforcement here or there, additional sound-deadening — or perhaps sound tuning — and, Bob’s your uncle, a Mercedes-Benz bank vault feel. We know because we’ve seen bargain cars do that.

Honda says it uses more and better door seals and additional sound-masking throughout the car. A mystery, then, why CR-V doesn’t covey premium vibes. It is, as Honda notes, quiet, though.

Somewhere in that update-the-technology extravaganza, you’d think, Honda would have made the infotainment/telematics system easy, intuitive, friendly. Nope.

Best description we’ve heard comes from Joe Wiesenfelder, a high-ranking editor at He was describing the setup in Honda’s premium Acura MDX, but the shoe fits CR-V, too. He said using it “is like having a meeting with three people who don’t get along.”

Yes, we’re predictably cranky about Honda’s system, and no, we’re not going to quit griping until the Honda electronic whiz-bangs are as simple, friendly and useful as the best from General Motors and, until lately, Chrysler.

So what to make of this muddle of wow and woe?

The attributes that make CR-V so appealing to so many SUV buyers are insufficient for Test Drive. Unless Honda gets logical in its approach to infotainment and telematics, and puts premium and sporty touches into the CR-V’s personality — as we know Honda can do — there’d be no CR-V on our shopping list.

2015 Honda CR-V details:

•What? Four-door, five-passenger compact SUV, updated with light styling changes, new powertrain, major tech and feature updates. Front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel (AWD).

•When? On sale since Oct. 1.

•Where? Made at East Liberty, Ohio.

•How much? Starts at $24,180 with shipping for base LX FWD to $33,650 for new, high-end Touring AWD.

•What makes it go? 2.4-liter four-cylinder rated 185 horsepower at 6,400 rpm, 181 pounds-feet at 3,900 rpm. CVT replaces last year’s five-speed automatic.

•How big? Same as Ford Escape outside, roomier inside. Passenger space, 104.1 cubic feet. Cargo space behind second row, 35.2 cu. ft.; 70.9 cu. ft. with second row folded. Weighs 3,358 – 3,624 lbs.

•How thirsty? FWD rated 27 miles per gallon in the city, 34 highway, 29 combined city/highway. AWD: 26/33/28.

Touring AWD test vehicle registered 17.6 mpg (5.68 gallons per 100 miles) in city/suburban mix driven less enthusiastically than usual because CR-V’s not that much fun to flog.

Burns regular unleaded, tank holds 15.3 gal.

•Overall: Useful, handy but lacks premium feel and retains Honda’s maddening infotainment logic.