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REVIEW
From Edmunds.com
2016 Honda  CR-V Picture
PROS
  • Exceptional fuel economy compared to other crossovers
  • Plenty of adult-sized room in both seating rows
  • More cargo capacity than most rivals
  • Rear seatbacks fold flat at the tug of a lever
  • Appealing roster of tech and safety features
CONS
  • No available engine upgrade
  • Touchscreen interface can be unintuitive and lacks separate volume and tuning knobs
  • Some interior materials look and feel cheap

While not the most thrilling vehicles on the planet, small crossovers offer a lot of functionality at an attractive price. They give a commanding view of the road thanks to their elevated ride height and easily accommodate four occupants and their luggage. Their engines are typically small and modestly powered, but fuel-efficient. As long as you're not looking for a spirited driving experience, few vehicles are as well-rounded and practical. Among this group, the 2016 Honda CR-V is one of the best.

Everyday usability is the driving force behind the CR-V's interior design. The wide doors allow for easy ingress and egress, and head- and legroom are ample for front and outboard rear passengers. A passenger sitting in the rear middle seat will also appreciate the lack of a protruding transmission tunnel that would otherwise necessitate an uncomfortable seating position. Farther back, the CR-V's cargo area is vast, with 37.2 cubic feet of space ready to swallow just about anything you want throw back there. Pull the trunk-mounted levers and the spring-loaded rear seats fold down immediately, nearly doubling the CR-V's cargo capacity.

Honda also offers a long list of available safety and comfort features for shoppers wanting a little extra. A sunroof, keyless ignition and entry and heated front seats are standard equipment about halfway up the CR-V's hierarchy of trim levels. Also included on that trim (EX) is a trick passenger-side-mounted camera that reduces the blind spot by displaying a wide-angle picture on the central touchscreen when the right blinker is turned on. Those looking for additional safety features may want to consider the top-tier CR-V Touring, which adds lane-keeping assist and automatic braking when the CR-V senses an impending forward collision.

As much as we like the 2016 Honda CR-V, we still suggest checking out at least a few of the other top models in this segment. The popular 2016 Toyota RAV4 gets a face-lift this year to counter the CR-V's redesign in 2015. Both can come off as a little bland, though, so if you're looking for a crossover with a bit more personality, the 2016 Ford Escape and 2016 Mazda CX-5 are more athletic and fun to drive, while the Escape, 2016 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, 2016 Jeep Cherokee and 2016 Subaru Forester all offer more powerful optional engines. But when you factor in the stuff that most people desire most — practicality, fuel economy, usability, interior space and safety — the 2016 CR-V is tough to beat.

WHAT'S NEW FOR 2016

A new Special Edition (SE) trim debuts, adding 17-inch alloy wheels, rear privacy glass and a security system to the base LX. Otherwise, the 2016 CR-V is unchanged.

2016 Honda  CR-V Picture

TRIMS & EQUIPMENT

The 2016 Honda CR-V is a five-passenger crossover SUV offered in five trim levels: LX, SE, EX, EX-L and Touring.

The LX comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, full power accessories, a rearview camera, cruise control, air-conditioning, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a conversation mirror, a 60/40-split-folding and reclining rear seat, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player, a USB port, an auxiliary audio jack and Pandora Internet radio compatibility.

The SE includes equipment from the LX, along with 17-inch alloy wheels, rear privacy glass and a security system.

The EX adds automatic headlights with LED daytime running lights, a sunroof, foglights, a retractable cargo cover, keyless entry and ignition, an eight-way power driver seat (with two-way power lumbar), heated front seats, a blind spot monitoring system with a camera that shows your passenger-side blind spot (Honda's LaneWatch), a 7-inch touchscreen with HondaLink smartphone app integration, dynamic guidelines for the rearview camera and a six-speaker sound system with an extra USB port.

The EX-L adds roof rails, heated side mirrors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, satellite radio and a seven-speaker sound system.

The Touring tacks on 18-inch wheels, projector beam headlights, a power liftgate, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, a forward collision mitigation system with automatic braking, a lane departure warning system, driver seat memory settings, a navigation system and HD radio.

The navigation system (with HD radio) is optional on the EX-L trim, but there are otherwise no factory options on any CR-V.

2016 Honda  CR-V Picture

INTERIOR & SAFETY

The 2016 CR-V provides one of the most practical cabins in the segment. There's an abundance of space for rear passengers, and those seats recline and have child safety seat LATCH anchor points in all three seating positions. Space up front is good, too, especially with the added adjustability that comes with the available power driver seat, providing superior visibility and a sense of openness.

Less impressive are the materials that fill the interior of the CR-V. The cabin is a sea of hard plastics as far as the arm can reach. It wouldn't be so bad if not for the numerous rivals with interiors that look and feel more upscale. Although most controls are logically laid out and easy to learn, the 7-inch touchscreen suffers from some difficult-to-decipher buttons and an occasionally confusing menu structure. We also dislike the lack of volume and tuning knobs.

Aside from that touchscreen, notable tech features include a rearview camera, Bluetooth (phone and audio), a text-message reader with a digitized voice and Pandora compatibility. Those are all standard on the base LX, by the way; they'll run you extra on many competitors, if they're offered at all. On the other hand, certain popular features are restricted to the highest trims, including a power liftgate.

Power or no, that liftgate reveals one of the most user-friendly cargo areas in the compact SUV segment. The CR-V can carry 37.2 cubic feet of cargo behind the rear seats. That area benefits from a low load floor and a boxy shape overall, making it easier to carry large items or dogs. Lowering the spring-loaded, auto-folding rear seatbacks with a tug of the trunk-mounted levers reveals 70.9 cubic feet of maximum space, which is one of the top figures in the segment.

The 2016 Honda CR-V comes standard with antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and a rearview camera. The LaneWatch blind spot monitoring system (featuring a camera of its own that displays passenger-side blind spot activity on the 7-inch touchscreen) is standard on all but the LX and SE. The Touring boasts a lane departure warning system and a forward collision warning and mitigation system that's able to distinguish between vehicles and pedestrians (and warn the driver accordingly) as well as apply automatic braking intervention to reduce the severity of a collision.

In government crash tests, the 2016 CR-V had not been tested as of this writing, but the 2015 model earned four out of five possible stars for overall crash protection, with four stars for frontal crash protection and five stars for side crash protection. During Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the Honda CR-V received the highest possible rating of "Good" in the small-overlap and moderate-overlap frontal-offset impact tests. It also earned a "Good" score for the side impact, roof strength and whiplash protection (head restraints and seats) tests. The IIHS also tested the CR-V's optional frontal collision warning and mitigation system and gave it a top rating of "Superior."

In Edmunds brake testing, an all-wheel-drive Honda CR-V Touring came to a stop from 60 mph in 119 feet, which is a few feet shorter than average for the class.

2016 Honda  CR-V Picture

PERFORMANCE & HANDLING

Every 2016 Honda CR-V comes with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 185 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) is the only available transmission. Buyers can choose between front- and all-wheel drive on all trims.

The EPA's estimated fuel economy on 2016 CR-Vs with front-wheel drive is 29 mpg combined (26 city/33 highway), a superb showing for this segment. The all-wheel-drive CR-V, at 27 mpg combined (25 city/31 highway), is right behind.

In Edmunds track testing, an all-wheel-drive CR-V accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 8.8 seconds, which is a bit quicker than average.

While 185 hp seems like a healthy amount from a four-cylinder engine, most of that power doesn't arrive until high up in the rev range. You'll need to wring it out for highway passing. Overall, the Honda CR-V's engine power is adequate, but many other competitors, including the Santa Fe Sport and Escape, offer more powerful optional engine upgrades that provide quicker and less stressed acceleration.

On the upside, the CR-V boasts impressive fuel economy, and one reason is the now-mandatory CVT. Some CVTs can seem odd in the way they change and adjust the engine's rpm compared to traditional automatics, but to Honda's credit, the CR-V's CVT doesn't draw attention to itself in normal driving. Indeed, it's so unobtrusive that you tend to forget it's there, which is why we consider it one of the better CVTs in any vehicle. We will note, however, that in Edmunds.com consumer reviews, many consumers have complained about distracting vibrations in their 2015 CR-Vs, and that was the first year for the CVT. It's something you'll want to pay attention to if you're test-driving a current CR-V.

In terms of handling, the 2016 Honda CR-V feels secure when going around turns, but numb steering feedback and plenty of body roll when cornering prevent it from stimulating much driver excitement. The CR-V does have a very smooth ride, though, and the suspension soaks up many of the bumps along the way. It's also one of the quietest small crossovers available with regard to road and wind noise.

VERDICT

Are you just looking for a "set it and forget it" type of vehicle, one that's coolly competent across the board? The Honda CR-V feels instantly familiar when you get behind the wheel, and it's packed with features designed to make your life easier. Read more to learn what else we like about the highly popular CR-V.

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