First Drive: 2015 Honda CR-V

2015 Honda CR-V

Honda called it a major-minor model change. The automaker increased the fuel economy and added another trim line to the 2015 Honda CR-V, but they also improved their best-selling entry level crossover vehicle in 60 other areas.

For 2015, the Honda CR-V has a new grille, new headlights, new front bumper, new skid plate and a tweaked front suspension. The rear end has a new fascia, new license housing and new bumper. It looks wider from the rear and now the crossover can be equipped with 18-inch wheels, in addition to its normal 17-inch rubber.

LED running lights are also available, a power tailgate is now offered and there is an available smart key.

The interior has gone high tech too. It has dual information screens. The center console is configurable, with easily reachable USB ports and the abilityto hold an iPad and large soft drink cups from fast food outlets. The dash has a clean saddle bag look to it as each soft touch layer flows down to a thin wood-like trim that spans across its width.

The interior has a high-quality look to it, but Honda would do well to upgrade the polymer used in the frames that hold the CR-V’s climate vents. They didn’t match the quality of materials used in the rest of the interior.

Although horsepower has stayed the same at 185 on the 2.4-liter aluminum alloy four cylinder engine, torque has been increased by 11 percent to 181 pound-feet. To improve fuel economy, Honda switched the CR-V from a five-speed automatic transmission to a continuously variable transmission or CVT.

The fuel consumption rating for the 2015 Honda CRV, which went on sale in October, is 27 mpg in the city, 34 mpg on the highway and 29 mpg combined for the front-wheel-drive model; the all-wheel-drive version boasts 26 mpg in the city, 33 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg combined.

We thought the new 2.4-liter engine ran smoothly and power was decent. Although we’ve never been a fan of a CVT, this generation of pulley-type transmission was pretty quiet at low speeds. Still, though CVTs save fuel, we question how effective they are at transmuting engine torque to power on the pavement.

Another idiosyncrasy of CVTs is that under hard acceleration they drone on with seemingly no break in the sound because they don’t shift gears. Under our heavy foot, the Honda 2015 CR-V didn’t seem to be moving as fast as it sounded, but after a check of the speedometer, it confirmed that we were indeed moving swiftly.

Our test vehicle had all-wheel-drive. The system was really front-wheel-drive on dry pavement, but it was capable of sending 20 percent of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels once any slip of the front wheels was detected.

The 2015 CR-V’s steering could be a little tighter, but the vehicle still responds to driver input quickly. When test driving so many different vehicles, it’s not a bad idea to keep in mind who is the target buyer. For the 2015 Honda CR-V, it is a 32-year-old mother of two. In other words, the CR-V is not supposed to handle like a sports car or a performance sedan.

To appeal to mothers of young children, the 2015 CR-V can be equipped with the Honda Sensing system. It includes forward collision warning, a collision mitigating braking system, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control and Honda lane watch.

The lane watch system is unique, we think, to Honda. A camera at the bottom of the right sideview mirror will show on the navigation screen what is in the right-hand lane when the right turn signal is activated or when a button at the tip of the turn signal stalk is pressed.

This equipment is packaged as a safety suite, and that is preeminent to most female car buyers. Honda is targeting young mothers with the 2015 CR-V, and a vehicle with outstanding safety features is at the top of their shopping list.

Prices for the 2015 Honda CR-V cover a variety of incomes. There are four trim lines: the LX, the EX, the EX-L and the Touring. A front-wheel-drive LX starts at $23,320 the range goes up to the top of the line Touring with all-wheel-drive. It starts at $32,770. Honda is putting its best tread forward, so to speak, to stay atop the entry level crossover market.

Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com.