Competition is fierce in the increasingly popular small SUV category, with leading contenders routinely freshening their models with an emphasis on fuel efficiency and safety. Engaging in this sales battle, Honda is launching its latest salvo against the Ford Escape, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4, and others with an all-new CR-V, on sale starting in December. In an attempt to keep its sales crown, the 2017 Honda CR-V adds convenience, technology, and refinement; expands advanced safety feature offerings; and, for the first time, offers an uplevel turbocharged engine.

Slightly larger than the outgoing version, the fifth-generation CR-V is 1.4 inches wider and taller, and a smidge longer. Despite the growth spurt, the CR-V weighs about 58 pounds less than before.

Based on a Touring model rented from Honda for an early preview, this CR-V feels substantial in scale and substance. The size gains translate to a commodious cabin over the already roomy previous generation. 

2017 Honda CR-V SUV front

The top-of-the-line Touring’s interior is decidedly upscale, with premium trim well-executed throughout. There are soft-touch materials for the dash and door trim, attractive matte wood trim, and the seats and steering wheel feature tasteful stitching. The front seats are very comfortable, with welcoming contours, soft-yet-supportive cushioning, and a four-way lumbar adjustment—a feature some models from Honda's upscale Acura division lack. Rear-seat room is generous and easily accessed through doors that swing out almost 90 degrees.

An available 7-inch touch-screen infotainment system offers Android Auto/Apple CarPlay compatibility and Garmin navigation. We are enthused to see a real knob is used with the infotainment system for volume controls, but it is just a halfway measure. We would have preferred a tuning knob instead—the volume can be readily controlled via the steering wheel. Despite the update, our frustrations with Honda infotainment systems continue. Some common functions require multiple distracting steps, and the trip info is tedious to scroll through. Phone interaction through steering wheel controls and the instrument cluster is a big improvement, however.

A convenient power hatch adds luxury on this high-level trim, with handy hands-free operation—just wave a foot beneath the rear bumper to open the liftgate. The cargo area itself is generously proportioned. For hauling large payloads, the seats can be folded flat from the rear and the headrests flipped down.  

2017 Honda CR-V SUV interior

The base CR-V LX is fitted with a 184-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that’s carried over from the 2016 model. But the EX, EX-L, and Touring trim levels sport a 1.5-liter turbo engine with 190 hp. Both engines have similar horsepower ratings, but the turbo delivers more low-end punch, making it feel more effortless.

The combination of the turbo's low end swell of power and continuously variable transmission (CVT) works well, masking the droney, rubber-band tendencies typically experienced with a CVT.

Thanks to standard active grille shutters to improve aerodynamics, the turbo engine is EPA-rated at 30 mpg overall in front-wheel drive and 29 mpg overall in all-wheel drive. That combo bests the base engine, which is rated at 28 mpg overall in FWD and 27 mpg overall in AWD.

During our time with the 2017 CR-V, we observed 26 mpg in mixed driving, according to the onboard display. We’ll see whether the new CR-V matches the 26 mpg overall we measured with our Subaru Forester when we buy our own.

Handling has improved, with better contained body roll and quicker steering, though it’s not as sporty as a Ford Escape. The ride has also improved, particularly over the 2015-2016 CR-V. Though the suspension skews firm, the ride is compliant and composed.

Crucially, noise is much better managed. The CR-V’s notoriously loud road noise is almost eradicated, contributing to the car’s more substantial and premium feel.

All CR-Vs include a rearview camera. Advanced safety gear such as forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and blind-spot warning come with the EX and higher trims. Thankfully, LaneWatch is gone. That unique Honda feature showed a video feed on the center display every time the right directional signal was on. But LaneWatch was no substitute for an actual blind-spot monitoring system that covers both sides. In addition, the EX, EX-L, and Touring will include adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, lane-departure warning, and lane-keep assist.

As before, the base LX will come with an appealing starting price, but most buyers are likely to opt for the EX and higher for the added convenience and safety features.

Overall, the 2017 Honda CR-V boasts notable improvements throughout that make it very competitive. Plus, the incremental size increase makes the CR-V a viable option for shoppers considering a midsized SUV.

We will be buying our own soon to test, then we’ll know how it truly stacks up. 

2017 Honda CR-V SUV rear