If you’re considering an SUV or crossover, you need to take a look at Honda’s lineup. While you won’t find heavy duty, maximum towing rigs here, you will find efficiency, comfort, everyday utility, and reliability. Here are Honda’s top two picks.
The benchmark crossover for two decades, the Honda CR-V is the right size for people and cargo, while still being easy on the wallet and fun to drive. Does that sound like a familiar combo? It should, as those characteristics are what make the Civic so popular. The CR-V is built on the Civic’s winning chassis, positioned below the Pilot SUV as a compact. This SUV segment is hugely popular at the moment for the high seating position, excellent visibility, and superior cargo room, while remaining easy to park and fairly efficient.
Get in and you’ll notice the doors open nearly 90 degrees for easy entry/exit, and those with bad knees or aging hips will find the entry height just right. The seats are comfortable and the steering wheel telescopes to fit you perfectly. In back, the rear headroom is impressive even for taller adults. On the road, the 2.4-liter four cylinder has enough torque for on-ramps and highway passing confidence. The suspension is soft like a ’90s Cadillac, which isn’t sporty, but it does eat up potholes and bumps without a care, and the sound dampening leaves it as quiet as an Acura. Talking to owners, there are no real complaints to the CR-V, other than some pointing out the sound system could use more power. The CR-V is at the top of its class for cargo, as there’s 40 cubic feet of cargo space behind the seats, and an unusually large for the class 75+ cubic feet when the seats are flat. The rear seats fold down by pulling one handle, and even the cargo cover clicks neatly into its storage space so you can lay down and sleep if you want. With ease-of-use, capability, and reliability combined, the CR-V is one of the most practical vehicles you can buy.
New for 2017 is Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and the first parts of Honda Sensing. That one is a safety suite now comprised of: Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assist, Road Departure Mitigation, Adaptive Cruise Control, a Collision Mitigation Braking System, and Forward Collision Warning. Understandably, the CR-V has a five-star safety rating from the NHTSA. Cross-shoppers should also look into the Toyota RAV4.
There’s a war raging in the subcompact crossover class right now, with every manufacturer launching mini SUVs that deliver utility and style for a great price. Honda entered this market with the HR-V in 2016. This new design offers 30+ mpg average even with all-wheel-drive, impressive storage solutions, and uncompromising safety tech. It even drives like a fun little Honda Honda Fit. It’s been an instantly popular hit for Honda.
On seeing the HR-V, likely the thing you’ll notice is that it’s smaller than the CR-V. This isn’t a bad thing here, as that makes it shorter and easier to park. The HR-V borrows the clever “magic seat” design from the Fit that flips up to store large items on the floor, or folds down with one button for a completely flat rear cargo area. The result is a subcompact that can hold more than you think, and it has a low point of entry for easy cargo loading. Rather than a “baby CRV,” owners think of it as a larger Fit with all-wheel drive.
On a test drive, you’ll notice everything inside is a bit smaller than the CR-V. The front seats are still comfy for taller drivers, but the rear three seats only hold two adults if you want to remain friends with them. It drives with athletic grace, and Honda programmed the CVT to mimic a traditional automatic, so you won’t hear a droning engine here. HR-V owners complain in only two areas. First, the HR-V’s ride is more firm than the CR-V, but that’s to be expected in the more affordable and sporty version, plus it’s balanced out by being nearly as quiet as the bigger crossover. Second, owners say the HR-V is a bit pokey. While it’s true you won’t be winning any drag races with the 1.8-liter’s 141 horsepower, that’s not the point here. The HRV offers a quiet ride, effortless parking, solid utility and efficiency, all for a compelling price.
A mid-cycle refresh for 2019 added Android/iOS connectivity, and Honda Sensing became an option on EX trim and above. If you like this class, the HR-V is often cross-shopped with the Subaru Crosstrek.