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How 2016 Honda CR-V won 'Best Choice for Families' honors

When compared to Mazda CX-5 and Hyundai Tucson, 2016 Honda CR-V came out on top. What makes this 2-row SUV a U.S.News & World Reports a “Best Choice for Families” winner?


As announced by Honda earlier this week, their entire light truck lineup earned the coveted U.S.News & World Reports “Best Cars For Families” designation. Take it for what you will, based on drive review feedback from yours truly, and other members of the automotive press, when combined with safety ratings, and consumer feedback, 2016 Honda CR-V SUV took the brass ring.

Not perfect, but close

After spending many hours and well over 2,000 miles behind the wheel of Honda CR-V, I’ve walked away with a greater understanding and subsequent appreciation for what a compact SUV should and can be. It’s a tough measurement when it comes to comparing the top-5 contenders in this hot segment. They’re all pretty good, CR-V design just happens to rest at the pinnacle of compact SUV excellence.

The hottest automotive segment in North America

At no other time in U.S. automotive history has the crossover-SUV craze overtaken all other comers, with the exception of the ½ ton pickup truck. Honda CR-V remains the top contender in the compact SUV segment 10 out of the past 13 years, and has done so despite a manufacturer’s recall or two, and a consumer reported vibration that Honda has gone to extraordinary measures to mitigate.

I’m one one of those drive review guys that give Honda CR-V high marks for the “overall” picture of what I believe a compact SUV can and should be. Truthfully, when you get behind the wheel of 2016 CR-V, the sensory perception is that of a much larger vehicle. In-fact 2nd only to Acura RDX, Honda CR-V is my personal favorite daily driver. I first discovered the "Earth Dreams" powered CR-V in Huntington, Beach, California.

This makes Honda CR-V superior in the compact SUV segment

Honda engineering has gone to great lengths to eliminate blind-spots, a cage-like tunnel vision view out the windshield, and the much too often ‘claustrophobic feeling’ one gets when entering the tight confines of an overstuffed compact car or light truck interior.

The CR-V EX-L / Touring drive and ride experience begins with arguably the best power adjusted driver’s seat in the segment -- followed by a very refined drive and ride dynamic, thanks to chassis, engine and transmission upgrades. I find the 2.4 Liter Earth Dreams ™ direct injected i-VTEC 4 cylinder to produce exceptional mid-range torque, with enough drive-by-wire acceleration to meet my daily commuting needs.

Through the engineering magic of low friction engine components and ECO-mode engine management, Honda CR-V comes standard equipped with the highest combined MPG in the segment. 2016 Honda CR-V presents a midsize drive and ride feel with compact fuel economy and in town maneuverability -- yet instills a sense of truck-toughness in the driver.

There’s nothing “cheap, tinny, or cost-cutting” about 2016 CR-V. Sure, you’ll find generous use of plastic throughout CR-V, but that’s how cars are built today.

Honda design does a very commendable job of “balancing” the look, feel and utility of the interior, while preserving the historic CR-V style and flavor, albeit “super sized” when compared to past CR-V generations. This is the highest refined interior in CR-V history.

It’s those not so little things that make the CR-V difference

This week Torque News took delivery of a 2016 CR-V Touring. It’s our third CR-V drive review in two years. What we’re looking for this week is a little less vibration generated by Honda’s 2.4 Liter direct injected i-VTEC 4 cylinder gasoline Earth Dream ™ engine and (CVT) constant variable transmission.

After 3 days behind the wheel I’m satisfied that any vibration detected at idle is minimal, and while driving under all road and weather conditions, negligible. Yes, there is some. But no more than noted while driving other direct injected 4-cylinder powered competitors.

My favorite features

O.K., you may say all compact crossovers and SUVs are largely the same. Well, they do all roll on 4 wheels. Where CR-V excels for me is in the interior and under the hood. I truly appreciate the look and balance of CR-V’s interior. The dash and center stack are well balanced, positioned for easy reach,(both driver and passenger) and is very intuitive as to ease of operation and personal electronic connectivity.

I truly appreciate the ease of operation and subsequent utility of CR-V’s second row seating. With the flip of a wrist, the seats can be folded and pushed back into the up position in a matter of seconds. The operation is fluid and subsequent near-flat rear deck impressively spacious.

I love the night visual afforded by CR-V inside and out. Head lighting is “best in class” while body integrated tail lighting is uniquely recognizable to the Honda brand. I further appreciate the “in-your-face” look of the redesigned Honda 3-D grill, and the “fat” side profile of Honda’s latest CR-V manifestation.

From the inside out

When I review a vehicle, I initially do so from the second or third row, depending on what I’m reviewing. In the case of CR-V, the second row is very comfortable, presents copious amounts of leg, shoulder and headroom, while affording the rear passenger largely unobstructed view to the side and forward. It’s large enough for adult seating, yet safe and within parental arms reach for the transportation of children.

When under way, 2016 Honda CR-V proves to be normal-voice-level-quiet. Our test mule featured a quality entertainment system with touch-control-monitor, smart wheel and voice command infotainment, navigation and systems monitoring. It all worked very well. I further appreciated the glove-soft perforated leather touch of CR-V Touring heated front seats. I also found the dual-side-synchronized climate control to adjust to perfection with little to no effort.

The more I drive CR-V the more I appreciate the “total package” presented by the best selling SUV of any size in North America. While there are compact SUV’s featuring greater horsepower and fun-to-drive characteristics, none of them present a greater standard featured value then 2016 Honda CR-V.

What I’d change

Refine the driver’s seat: I found the power adjusted driver’s seat to be measurably less comfortable than the manually adjusted front passenger seat. This may be due to the automated adjustment frame, motors etc, incorporated into the seat. Unfortunately for me, I found myself sitting on top of a hard bar -- much akin to sleeping on a convertible sofa mattress. With an MSRP approaching $34,000, I want my driver’s seat to be perfect!

As a cost saving measure, the front passenger seat is mechanically adjusted. My co-pilot Nancy would appreciate power adjustment shadowing the pilot’s seat.

Noisy windshield wiper motor: The downside of a quiet interior is the amplification of(any) outside noise source. Our 6-month old CR-V with 5300 miles showing on the O.D. has an unusually noisy windshield wiper motor -- this may be specific to our test vehicle.

Also, when it rains, which is often in Oregon, the gutter-less roof design lends itself to an annoying “running water” effect when moving at speed in the rain. That’s about it inside. I truly appreciate the fit, finish and materials utilized in creating CR-V.

Now to the engine, transmission, brakes and handling

Stabilize the idle: I have no complaints directed to Honda’s Earth Dreams ™ engine. Well, perhaps one. It has a very peculiar oscillating idle when waiting at a stop light. I’m assuming that this occurs as engine system, accessories such as A.C. kick on and off while not under way. At any rate, this oscillation as it were causes vibration, albeit miner, I don’t like it! I’ll leave it at that.

Paddle shifting: As to the (CVT) constant variable transmission, it takes a bit of getting use to. But, with a bit a practice, and a bit of pedal-play, the CVT works very well while increasing fuel economy. I find it to be a bit unusual that our CR-V Touring is not equipped(standard) with steering wheel mounted paddle shifting, as found on 2016 Pilot -- perhaps next year.

Oh yes, braking and handling

2016 Honda CR-V while a stable, very capable family and friends hauler is not a performance handler. I discovered its handling limitations in a downhill, two-lane sweep. In fact, CR-V may be considered to be a bit “high centered” when it comes to sport-driving. It’s not CR-Vs calling.

I further found out test CR-V’s brakes to be a bit “sticky” in wet weather driving. Admittedly, I don’t know how hard or CR-V test ride has been worked by the automotive press.

The bottom line: When all reviews are weighed, consumer feedback tabulated and then factored in with 5-Star safety ratings, best in class fuel economy and the highest value standard feature package found today in a compact SUV, 2016 Honda CR-V may in-fact be the “Best Compact SUV for Families,” as stated by your’s truly and U.S. News & World Reports.