2019 Honda CR-V Review

2019 Honda CR-V - Compact crossover a crowd pleaser


What's not to like?  

Compact five-door crossovers continue pulling customer's interest away from traditional smallish four-door sedans.  Additional storage opportunities and slightly higher seating positions providing enhanced road visibility remain some of the top 'why' reasons.

Almost every mainstream auto producer promotes one in its lineup.  During the past two decades, Honda's answer, the popular CR-V, has enjoyed robust results consistently finishing as one of the category's top sales leaders.

In 2018, compact-sized crossovers such as CR-V dominated sales with 3.1 million units sold, the most popular U.S. segment.  The mid-size crossover/SUV category (including Honda's reissued Passport) posted sales totaling 2.5 million units in the U.S., the second-most popular vein.

In the 2018 calendar year, CR-V U.S. sales reached a very respectable 379,013, a .03 percent increase from 2017's 377,895 units. The compact CR-V easily topped sales at Honda in 2018, surpassing second-place finisher Civic by more than 50,000 units.

Priced competitively, CR-V offers good value for the money (but not a bargain-basement-price purchase) with four trims from which to choose.  Each enjoys varying content levels with limited factory options easing the dealership experience.

In Honda's crossover product portfolio, the well-established CR-V slots between the subcompact HR-V, introduced relatively recently in the 2016 model year, and the mid-size Passport, a name reemerging in the 2019 model year after a first-retirement in 2003. The three-row Pilot measures in as the largest Honda crossover.

Debuting in the 1997 model year, CR-V underwent a fifth-generation redo in 2017.  During each subsequent redesign, CR-V has grown marginally in size (as have most rivals), but continues pegged as a compact, albeit one with goodly head and leg room. Our 2019 tester is based off this most recent redesign, with scant changes for 2019 save for a new exterior color.

All four Honda crossovers boast a lighter-weight uni-body, car-like platform great for traversing suburban Chicago roadways, but not recommended for heavy off-roading duty, best left for heavier, less-fuel efficient body-on-frame designs.   

Four CR-V trim levels available include LX, EX, EX-L and top-shelf Touring.  Front-wheel drive comes standard while all-wheel drive remains a $1,400 option in all trims.

The lowest-priced 2019 CR-V, a front-drive LX checks in at a competitive $24,450. Our top-trim Touring with all-wheel drive started about 10 grand more at $34,150. No extras added as this trim includes just about all CR-V bells and whistles with at $35,195 bottom line after $1,045 destination fee.

Setting the top-level Touring apart is the power tailgate with hands-free access; a swipe of a foot activates the upward motion.  Also, dual chrome-tipped exhausts, roof rails and rain-sensing front wipers remain Touring exterior exclusives. Inside, a satellite-linked in-dash navigation system is a Touring-only extra.

The CR-V offers two engine selections with the Base LX the sole resident of a naturally-aspirated inline 2.4-liter four-cylinder delivering 184 horsepower.  If budgets allow, opt for the more energetic turbo-charged choice standard in remaining trims. This 1.5-liter direct-injection four cylinder delivers 190 horses.

Both engines prioritize fuel economy over performance.  The 1.5-liter turbo four delivers what a compact crossover historically needs, enough oomph traveling the suburbs while merging onto expressways with confidence.  Both mate with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) activating chosen gears via a mechanical grab bar on the lower dash sliding down and up. To the left of the gear selector, an electronic, push-button parking brake.

The turbo's 27 miles per gallon city and 33 mpg highway rate above average for an all-wheel drive choice. Front-wheel drive combined with the 1.5-liter turbo adds one additional number in each category.  Regular, unleaded 87-octane fills the 14-gallon tank once the nozzle pierces through the cap-less, self-sealing fuel lead.

The CR-V doesn't offer a gas-electric hybrid, plug-in hybrid or all-electric variant, but Honda recently reintroduced the Insight name in a new compact four-door sedan body style powered by self-charging gas-electric hybrid powertrain (no plug necessary).

Honda also offers the Clarity sedan, with numerous alternative-power options including an all-electric version (EV) with no internal combustion engine or a plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) offering up to 47 miles of pure-electric travel teamed with a gas-electric hybrid back up for a total range between fill-ups and plug-ins of 340 miles.  Clarity electric is currently available only in California and Oregon.

With 60-40-split second-row backrests folded down and flat, CR-V enjoys best-in-class cargo volume (75.8 cubic feet), a notable achievement and rivaling some mid-size dimensions. When prone, two adult riders travel in optimal comfort; three in a pinch.

Honda's capital H logo, with the horizontal crossbar set below midlevel, enjoys a stark resemblance to a football (American of course, not European) goal post, something one could spot at the north or south ends of Soldier Field this time of year.

One of the few newly arriving updates of late, a welcome return of the audio system's volume knob (never should have gone away).  Honda's Pilot, reviewed earlier this year, also welcomes back this relic of old.  A smallish seven-inch multi-function touch screen (five inches in base LX) includes push-icons with pokey response times. Good thing Apple Car Play and Android Auto come standard (in all trims other than LX) allowing a less-stressed Smartphone screen interaction. The reintroduction of a scrolling knob would be welcome for the 2020 model year. Two USB plug ports are found in front as well as two in back, keeping the plugged-in generation happy.

The screen also plays a part controlling ventilation functions.  Top-trim Tourings feature dual climate control with driver and shot-gun rider in charge of their own twist dial. Fan speed controls from push buttons between the dials while fan direction gets summoned from the touch screen when first selecting a 'climate' dashboard button or a screen icon.

Push-button start comes standard.  The highly animated instrument panel does away with circular dials, instead boasting a tri-sectioned arena divided by vertical slates. Atop the larger center section, a long, uni-brow like animated bar-type tachometer illuminating a greater number of small squares as RPMs increase.  The large center portion includes a digital speedometer and lettered indicator (PRDN) as to the present gear selection. The right side features a fuel gauge in arrowhead design pointing right while the left section's temperature indicator's arrow head points outward left.

A welcome added value includes Honda Sensing, a grouping of radar-enhanced nuances standard in all trims sans base LX.  Adaptive cruise control (slowing and speeding CR-V based on the distance of the vehicle ahead), lane-keep assist, lane departure warning and collision mitigation were privy only in luxury-badged vehicles with twice the price not long ago.

2019 Honda CR-V

Price as tested:  $35,195

Wheelbase:  104.7 inches

Length:  180.6 inches

Width:   73.0 inches

Engine:   1.5-liter turbo four

Horsepower:  190

Curb weight:  3,512 pounds

City/Highway economy:   27 mpg city/33mpg highway

Powertrain warranty: Five years/60,000 miles

Assembly:  Greensburg, Indiana

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.