Car people generally prefer very particular types of vehicle. It could be a supreme off-roader, or a pared-down track beast; maybe it just makes a sweet, sweet racket with that big V8. But that beloved car is typically a specialist. It does one or two things with exceptional proficiency — even if the average owner may never use that feature.
The Honda CR-V is the antithesis of that car. It’s brilliant in an entirely different way: it’s the ultimate generalist.
With the CR-V, Honda set out to build the consummate useful car. The company has been refining that vision for more than two decades. The CR-V has the practical body style everyone wants these days — a spacious compact crossover. Instead of a superpower, the CR-V is simply good at just about every normal car activity…assuming normal for you doesn’t include towing a giant camping trailer, rock crawling, or accelerating like an absolute loon.
I consider myself a car person. Writing about cars for a living, I want every manufacturer to swing for the fences with a car, succeed or fail wildly, and include a manual transmission option as much as possible. But, in my real life, my hair keeps getting grayer. My family — and consequent responsibilities — keeps expanding. As depressing as it may be to admit, a practical family car like the Honda CR-V makes a whole lot of sense.
I spent a week with a Honda CR-V Touring — ironically, a week where social distancing meant I had almost nothing practical to do. It wasn’t rollicking fun. But the car was flawless.
I haven’t abandoned my dream of one day being Mercedes-AMG E 63 S wagon dad — or perhaps, given the present climate crisis, Jaguar I-Pace dad. But I now understand why the over/under is set at 8.5 CR-Vs in every parking lot I enter — and I support it.
The CR-V is affordable
The CR-V starts a little above $25,000. You probably want to jump a trim level to the EX trim ($27,650) for a reasonably appointed one. Even my fully-loaded, media reviewer-spec Touring trim CR-V with fancy wood trim came in only a tad under $36,000 — less than the average price an American pays for a new car.
This Honda really does do pretty much everything well
The CR-V looks solid and unpretentious, thanks to the recent styling refresh. The interior feels pleasant and upscale, even if it’s not sumptuous. It handles decently, especially for a crossover; it stays composed on twisty roads and over pockmarked terrain. It’s not especially quick, but nor is it achingly slow.
It’s easy to get in and out of. It gets darn good gas mileage — 29 mpg combined — especially for a non-hybrid. (Though you can get one of those now, too.) The brakes work well. It’s safe. If I have forgotten anything, presume the CR-V can do that adequately too.
It has a massive trunk, even for an SUV
I’ll spare you a groan-worthy double entendre; let’s just say the CR-V has a lot of room for junk back there. Most compact crossovers can seat five comfortably or hold luggage; the CR-V can do both at once. It has a little over 39 cubic feet of trunk space with the seats up, and more than 75 cubic feet with the seats down.
I took the CR-V on a grocery trip — not just a daily run, but a shelter-in-place-let’s-get-a-ton-of-food mission. That haul had the cart struggling, but it fit in the cavernous trunk with ease. The extra space almost enticed me to go foraging for toilet paper and paper towels.
The Honda CR-V is the only new car you ever need to buy — maybe literally
A Honda CR-V, with basic maintenance, should last pretty much forever — at least, in automotive terms. You’re more likely to quit on it before it quits on you. A quick AutoTrader search found more than 200 CR-Vs for sale nationwide with more than 200,000 miles on the clock — and their prices, some approaching $10,000, were higher than far less-used Land Rovers we found. The CR-V is a car you can keep for 10–15 years…then bequeath to your children.
Price as Tested: $35,845
Drivetrain: Turbocharged 1.5-liter inline-four, CVT, all-wheel-drive
Power: 190 hp, 179 lb-ft
Fuel Economy: 27 mpg city, 32 mpg highway
Honda provided this product for review.
Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.