Honda Canada delivered a 2017 Honda CR-V Touring to my driveway less than 100 hours ago.
It is, in so many ways, an exemplary means of transporting one’s family: surprisingly efficient, sufficiently powerful, wonderfully spacious, and undeniably refined.
But it’s not pretty.
Of course, merging some of Honda’s recent miscues with the apparently desperate need across the industry to make SUVs look angry won’t make the all-new, fifth-generation Honda CR-V unpopular. January 2017, the new CR-V’s first full month on sale in America, was the nameplate’s best-ever January. Last month served as a successful follow-up to a 2016 calendar year in which CR-V sales climbed to an all-time record high of 357,335 units, enough to make the CR-V America’s best-selling SUV/crossover for a fifth consecutive year.You get the sense Honda might know the first CR-V (1997-2001) was simplistic, handsome, Honda crossover design at its best. In a Super Bowl 50 commercial chock full of A-list celebs (Amy Adams, Magic Johnson, Missy Elliott, Robert Redford, and others), the 1997 Honda CR-V makes a cameo appearance, too.
Sure, it was obvious that the CR-V wasn’t a rugged body-on-frame SUV, the kind of traditional SUV that still reigned supreme twenty years ago. But it was boxy, it wasn’t overly weighed down by cladding, and the spare tire was out on the back where it belonged. You might need it when crossing the Gobi Desert.
Honda attempted to smooth off some edges with the second CR-V go-round, but it arguably was not a successful effort. The third CR-V (2007-2011) had a nicely arching roofline. The departing fourth-generation CR-V was by no means a stylistic homerun, but it didn’t get all up in your face like the new one.
“Best” can obviously mean different things to different people. Objectively, each of the 2017 Honda CR-V’s 184 horses must tote around 26-percent less weight. Yet fuel consumption is down between 22 and 28 percent, depending on engine choice. The new CR-V provides 32 percent more cargo capacity despite having grown only three inches longer.
But imagine if the fifth CR-V was as honestly charming as the first CR-V. Then we wouldn’t be forced into having this debate: was the first Honda CR-V the best Honda CR-V?