For more than 20 years, the Honda CR-V has ideally defined the Japanese manufacturer’s reputation. It makes vehicles with a rare combination of style, efficiency, practicality and versatility.

It was hard to complain about previous Honda CR-V editions. It’s been the country’s best-selling compact SUV for many years.

The 2017 Honda CR-V has new interior and exterior designs.
The 2017 Honda CR-V has new interior and exterior designs. Image courtesy of Honda.

But with the sport utility segment increasingly competitive, even industry leaders can’t become complacent.

The 2017 Honda CR-V is the debut of the SUV’s fifth generation and it celebrates the vehicle’s 23rd birthday. Its exterior and interior designs are new. New safety features abound, and the CR-V is larger inside and outside. Its description as a compact SV is questionable with its expanded spaciousness.

The CR-V is only slightly longer, wider and taller than its predecessor. But it looks substantially larger because of its new stocky appearance, embellished by its less-than-attractive protruding taillights. Ground clearance has also increased nearly two inches in some models.

A five-passenger crossover, the CR-V is available with two engines and in LX, EX, EX-L and Touring trims. The least expensive LX model features a carryover 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder engine. The remaining trims, including my Touring Edition review vehicle, include a 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder.

It’s a new offering for the Honda CR-V, slightly boosting the SUV’s acceleration and gas mileage. Fuel economy for the turbo-charged trims is 27 miles per gallon in city driving, 33 miles per gallon during highway treks.

Continuously variable transmissions with front-wheel drive are standard and an all-wheel drive is an option on all CR-Vs. All trims have 184 horsepower.

For RVers, the new Honda CR-V continues Honda’s changed towing status updated with the 2015 edition. With its new engine matched with a continuously variable transmission, the CR-V has improved gas mileage averages. But the new transmission doesn’t allow the vehicle to be towed behind a recreational vehicle.

The new CR-V joins an increasing corps of vehicles that immediately feel like a favorite chair or couch. Seating is well-made, supportive and appropriately positioned. Entry and exit don’t require body contortions and the driver’s overall vision is superior.

The CR-V advances steadily and without fanfare. It maneuvers well in city driving and progresses at highway speeds quietly and with confidence.

Instrumentation is intuitive, except for one component of the navigation system. Every time the vehicle starts, instructions appear on the screen. They’re unnecessary.

Like all of its family, the CR-V has a healthy list of standard features. The Touring trim, just under $36,000, adds a hands-free tailgate, navigation (optional in EX-L models), LED headlights and rain-sensing windshield wipers. Roof rails, dual chrome exhaust outlets and a 330-watt/9-speaker premium audio system are also in the mix.

Interior space has always been a Honda CR-V strong point. The Honda Fit is defined as a sub-compact, but it’s surprisingly cavernous for its segment. The Fit’s 10 windows and seat configuration help give it a bigger presence. The same spaciousness applies to the Honda Civic and Honda Accord, top-selling cars whose interiors seem larger than their exteriors.

The new CR-V further adds to the brand’s open-space reputation. Rear legroom has expanded to 40.4 inches. Cargo space behind the rear seat is now nearly 40 cubic feet. It expands to about 76 cubic feet with the seats folded.

Safety remains a top concern, and the new CR-V has received top industry marks. The newly named Safety Sensing Suite incorporates four key elements: blind-spot monitoring, collision-mitigation braking, lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control. The suite is standard on EX, EX-L and Touring trims, optional on the LX model.

Like many other choices in the carmaker’s lineup, the Honda CR-V is as versatile, well-made, spacious and economic as any SUV in its class. No wonder it remains a perennial top-seller.

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