February 24, 2017

Honda CR-V, Civic Elevate Style And Panache

Honda CR-V, Civic Elevate Style And Panache

I remember seeing the Honda CR-V during its Detroit Auto Show debut nearly 20 years ago.  There, in the middle of this grand hall, was a tiny little crossover amongst a sea of large full-framed SUVs.  I, and many others, laughed until our stomachs cramped.  Nobody laughs now as the CR-V has become America’s best-selling SUV.  Turbo power and a fashion makeover ignite this rocket’s fire.

Evolution Over Revolution

Honda almost never tosses out its cookies with the serving plate, so styling is evolution over revolution.  Themes from the last generation, including an arching roofline, upturned rear windowline, and taillamps that extend in to the pillars identify the CR-V, but our Touring edition blinged out with a glitzy chrome grille, LED headlamps, LED foglamps, and 18-inch alloy wheels.  Body forms are more deeply sculpted and looking at the bulging hood through the windshield provides a glimpse of Corvette.  Chrome strips along the rocker panels adds flair. 

An extra helping of panache continues inside.  Almost nothing feels cheap as the dash and doors are swathed in soft padding, woodgrain, and piano black trim.  A thick leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear selector feel solid.  Our Touring edition sported flatscreen instruments, navigation, swipe-sensitive touchscreen, voice controls, and yaaaaaas, a proper volume knob.  Swipe-sensitive volume control on the steering wheel is still pretty cool.  It all feels high tech, but intuitive.

Comforts abound with heated leather seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a power sunroof.  The stereo sounds pretty good too.  Five passengers and their luggage fit aboard – made easier with a foot-activated power rear hatch.  Adaptive cruise, rain-sensing wipers, forward crash mitigation, lane centering assist, and rearview camera enhance safety.  Pretty much anything you expect on a compact luxury crossover is available.

Turbocharged Driving Experience

The financially challenged will select the standard 184 horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, but those able and willing to flip out a few more sheckles get a new 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers 190 horsepower and 27/33-MPG city/hwy.  That’s partially due to the continuously-variable automatic transmission and despite all-wheel-drive.

Driving the CR-V is a vastly more enjoyable experience.  The base four-cylinder engine is fine, but the turbo-four provides just enough extra smooth torque to wisp through traffic and put a little more steam down on the highway when passing or accelerating around semi-trucks.  The left lane is much friendlier to this powertrain.  I will never fall in love with CVTs because they tend to rev up noise, but combining one with a turbo seems to be magic in the CR-V.  As in all Hondas, the chassis just rumbles over rough pavement with not a squeak, creak, nor rattle from the cabin.

So, what splashes this frosty cake?  Well, not much.  I wish Honda would quit being cute with the touchscreen.  First we had to beg for a volume knob, and to also get a tuning knob, I suppose we’ll have to send roses.  While door coverings in the rear look good, they are hard plastic instead of soft touch.  And, if Honda is looking for another hybrid candidate, I’d recommend the CR-V.  Why not a plug-in version that goes 30 miles on a charge?  Better fuel economy could only make it better.

Spend a long date with the new CR-V to know it better be taken seriously.  Honda is coming for blood -- it’s just doing so with a very lovable crossover that will spoil you rotten with suave style and a posh interior.  A base price of $24,045, or $33,695 as-tested, puts it straight against the Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Tucson, Nissan Rogue, Chevy Equinox, Ford Escape, and Subaru Forester.


Honda Civic Coupe Is Sporty, Sublime

The CR-V is not the only compact Honda gaining rave reviews.  The equally-sublime Civic Coupe has taken style and sportiness off the compact car chart and beyond the competence that has made it a best seller for over 40 years. 

Unpack it in Touring trim and it greets with a wide chrome bar grille prow, squinty LED headlamps, aggressive lower facial with hulking air intakes, and a short sculpted hood that rises between flared fenders.  Strong wheel arches, chiseled bodysides, and curt fastback roofline plants this little party.  LED taillamps wrap the back like futuristic bat wings. 

A couple of Acuras would do well to crib the Civic’s interior.   Soft-touch surfaces, faux turned aluminum expanses on the dash/doors, and layered effect are pretty fancy.  Replacing the two-tier instrument cluster is a large flatscreen display focused on a tachometer encircling a digital speedometer.  The center stack contains a floating touchscreen and dual-zone automatic climate control.  Deep storage cubbies under the armrest and additional space behind the console pack the presents.  Heated leather seats, thick leather-wrapped steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, sunroof, and USBs add luxury. 

My fingers couldn’t help mistaking the dual zone automatic climate control knobs for volume and tuning, and I really wish Honda would just give us proper knobs for volume and tuning, but the touchscreen scrolls like an iPad and the swipe-sensitive volume control on the steering wheel is cool.  Honda has struggled to develop an intuitive infotainment system for years, and while this one is not stellar, it’s livable.  Navigation, 450 watts of premium audio, Apple CarPlay®, and Android Auto™ compatibility took me off the whining.

Tossable Touring

Base Civics come with a 158 horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, but our upscale Touring edition came with a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that churns out 174 horsepower and delivers 31/41-MPG city/hwy.  Both engines pair continuously-variable transmissions.

Toss it wherever you want because the suspension and steering are up to your antics.  Honda’s always feel like they were engineered by people who actually like driving.  The Civic rumbles over rough pavement without drama, seems to anticipate the next apex, and keeps everybody comfortable over long expanses of pavement.

The Civic has progressed at a feverish pace, but the excellence of performance and build quality I’ve experienced for years are immediately recognizable.  A base price of $19,150 – $27,321 as-tested – serves serious warning to the Chevy Cruze, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra, Toyota Corolla, Mazda3, and Nissan Sentra.

Storm Forward!

Follow Casey on YouTube and Twitter: @AutoCasey.


2017 Honda CR-V

  • Five-passenger, AWD crossover
  • Powertrain: 190 hp 1.5-liter Turbo-4, CVT
  • Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
  • Wheels f/r: 18”/18” alloy
  • Brakes f/r: disc/disc
  • Must-have features: Style, Handling
  • Fuel economy: 27/33 mpg city/hwy
  • Assembly: Greensburg, IN
  • Base/as-tested price: $24,045/33,695

2017 Honda Civic Coupe

  • Five-passenger, FWD coupe
  • Powertrain: 174 hp 1.5-liter Turbo-4, CVT
  • Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
  • Wheels f/r: 17”/17” alloy
  • Brakes f/r: disc/disc
  • Must-have features: Style, Handling
  • Fuel economy: 31/41 mpg city/hwy
  • Assembly: Canada
  • Base/as-tested price: $19,150/27,321
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