Automotive design is akin to teenage dances. It's either throwing itself into attempts at "edgy" and "cool" or it's just pronouncing "meh" and trying to blend in. The 2018 Honda CR-V's designers definitely went into the latter category with this generation of the crossover. It ain't ugly, per se, but it ain't exactly prom royalty material either.
Luckily, the 2018 CR-V isn't a wallflower when it comes to everyday capability. It has a roomy interior with good ergonomics and design, a carefully balanced powertrain, and safety as a priority. Front seating is nicely done, and comfortable for both short and long drives. The rear seat is accommodating for two adults or three kids, with plenty of leg- and headroom.
Driver's controls in the 2018 CR-V are good, but some of the auxiliary controls and gauges aren't placed well. The touch-sensitive controls on the steering wheel, for example, are easy to bump, causing volume or station changes by accident. The instrument cluster's inset often has glare at its edges, which makes seeing items on those edges (fuel and so forth) sometimes difficult.
That said, there are some ergonomic factors in the 2018 Honda CR-V that are extremely thoughtful. Holding the door lock button for a second or so opens all four windows slightly to help vent out the heat. That's a boon on hot days when the CR-V's been sitting.
The height-adjustable rear hatch allows for access to a large cargo space, at 39.2 cubic feet (1,110 liters) behind the second row. The cargo floor back there can be lowered by removing the cover, adding about three inches to the height from tub to roof – or it can be left in place to keep a flat floor for long, bulky objects. Cargo space with the second row folded flat is 75.8 cubic feet (2,146 liters). We also noted that underneath the lower cargo space, where the spare tire is located, there is enough room to stash just-in-case necessities like jumper cables and a flashlight.
There are two engine options in the 2018 Honda CR-V. The base model CR-V includes a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 184 horsepower (137 kW) at peak. The engine attaches to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Fuel economy with this setup is rated at 26 mpg (9 l/100km) in the city and 32 mpg (7.3 l/100km) on the highway.
Our test model Honda CR-V had the better 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine mated to the CVT. This engine produces 190 hp (142 kW) and delivers it faster along a longer peak plateau. This peppier engine is standard in most trim levels of the CR-V and returns great fuel economy at 28 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway (8.4 and 6.9 l/100km). In the real world, those numbers should actually happen for most drivers most of the time.
The 2018 CR-V is definitely not a race car, nor is it in a big hurry to get places, but it's not a slug either. The CVT focuses on fuel economy, even with the turbocharged engine, so there's rarely a hurry to ramp up RPM levels to build speed quickly. Like most Honda vehicles, the CR-V feels jumpy and fast paced for the first ten or so miles per hour for a quick-feeling start, then it begins to dampen responses in favor of economy. This tends to make everyday driving good in the CR-V, and even enjoyable when zipping around town. The good maneuverability and visibility offered by the crossover add to this.
On the highway, on the other hand, the Honda CR-V often feels sluggish and bored. Hills and heavy loads (four people and their stuff) can take a toll as well. The upside is that highway noise levels are better than acceptable and the infotainment system, even at its base level, is good in the CR-V. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard in the Honda, and audio quality is decent for a base-level system. Upgrades add more speakers and sound and a few more functions to the infotainment. The navigation upgrade is not terribly impressive, though. And most users will want to get familiar with the voice controls for infotainment as it's more conducive to on-road use than are the virtual buttons and sometimes clunky on-screen menus.
The 2018 Honda CR-V scores very well in safety testing. Both the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) give the CR-V top marks for crash test results. We found that getting kids in the back seat and anchoring child safety seats was a snap in the CR-V as well, with the large door openings and tall ceiling going a long way towards making life easier in that regard.
Those safety systems are augmented in the all-wheel drive models by some really well thought-out traction control and stability systems. We drove the 2018 CR-V at an ice driving event in Colorado and learned that it was no fun at all on the ice because the safety systems kept it from sliding and losing traction in all but the most idiotic of circumstances. During our week-long drive of the CR-V, we learned that in normal winter driving conditions, that remains true. The wheels will slip a bit when starting out on ice or bad surfaces, but only rarely does the vehicle itself try to slide around when driving in those conditions.
Over our week with the 2018 Honda CR-V, we came to like it for its right-sized family goodness. Getting a couple of kids, a few groceries, and other daily driving tasks are what the CR-V is most well suited for. It may not be the most fun or exciting vehicle around, but sometimes that's not what's called for.
Product Page: 2018 Honda CR-V
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