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We revisit best in class 2014 Honda CR-V

On a recent visit to Santa Cruz Ca., we spent a day in the mountains driving Honda CR-V.. Stiff but!

CR-V is not this journalist's favorite Honda. However, North America loves it, placing sales at the top of the small family friendly SUV segment. We decided to spend the day driving the 2014 Honda CRV through the wine country of Santa Cruz.

On first examination of CRV, we were taken in by the body style, exterior fit, finish and cabin space; the car is damn good looking! Once again Honda captures the look and feel of a much larger vehicle in the confines of an SUV riding on the edge of the mini-classification. While the interior volume of CRV is best in class, the wheelbase and bumper to bumper length of CR-V makes city maneuvering and parking a breeze.

This 6’5 driver had no problems fitting into the confines of the pilot’s seat. Infinitely adjustable, with more than ample head and shoulder room, CR-V provides measurable comfort and great road visibility.

Performance and handling better than anticipated.

Powered by Honda’s iconic 185hp 2.4 liter DOHC 16-valve 1-VTEC, CR-V has an impressive "drive by wire" throttle. We drove the CR-V 5 door AWD EX-L without Tech package.($29,755 as tested) We found the 5 speed automatic to be relatively seamless. However, the 4 cylinder, automatic transmission combination leads to a bit of “revi-ness” as the engine searches for the sweet torque spot. Once you find it, the CR-V is surprisingly powerful and responsive.

Start and stop dynamics as well as braking is excellent, as is the interior noise level.(Quiet)

We found the suspension to be a bit stiff.

In all fairness to Honda we must admit that we were driving what is classified as a “light truck” with no cargo and minimal passenger load. Although CR-V sports full independent suspension(front and rear) all-wheel drive, exceptional disk brakes and 17” rims, on less than perfect roads, CR-V will beat you up, despite world-class leather seating.

We didn’t find this to be the case with Pilot or Ridgeline. We’ll revisit those two rigs in the near future.

Mom’s love CR-V.

Torque News sat in the back seat of CR-V in an attempt to capture child seat conditions, easy access from the front seat and outside view from the rear cabin. The view to the outside world is largely unobstructed from the rear, head and wiggle room is ample, seating; comfortable. With 60/40 split rear seating, the cargo deck can expand to accommodate many large items, adding to the truck-like utility of CR-V.

Instrumentation, road handling and fuel economy.

YES! O.K. we’ll expand a bit further. We found the placement of all instruments and controls to be ergonomically exceptional and intuitive. In CR-V's application, the dash-mounted shift lever affords a huge storage bin between driver and front passenger seat. The seats are very comfortable, our CR-V was leather trimmed, with washable floor mats, and slush trays. The dash and interior trim and finishes were mostly soft to the touch and pleasing to the eye. Our CR-V sports a dark silver gray metallic exterior with leather and vinyl light gray interior.

How’s the All Wheel Drive and Econo mode?

The handling, road holding characteristics of CR-V is exceptional. We took this little SUV through the winding roads of the Santa Cruz Mountains, from ridge line to the beach, it shined!

We find the 2014 CR-V a good feature-packed value in a small-sized SUV. Our’s was a full dresser,(less tech) looked great and averaged 26 mpg under real-world driving conditions.

What we'd change

Not much, however, if it was available in North America, we'd like to see a 2 wheel drive CR-V with Honda's " Earth Dream" diesel. Also, in the current all-wheel drive, we'd like to see a drive selection shift opting out to FWD and a multiple staged suspension for variable road conditions.

We've been invited by Honda to review the redesigned 2015 CR-V in September. Featuring a fuel efficient “Earth Dreams” 4 cylinder, new transmission and slightly tweaked design, Honda guarantees the advancement of North America’s best selling small SUV.


Mark Day (not verified)    August 18, 2014 - 9:20PM

"...on less than perfect roads, CR-V will beat you up, despite world-class leather seating."

A trend today - equip with huge wheels, and low-profile tires, but don't do the suspension engineering to provide an acceptable ride. Toyota Avalon being another example (with 18s).

No one is going "rasin" with these vehicles. I'm not buying these buck boards until the manufactures either get off the big wheel fad or improve the suspensions.

Parks McCants    August 19, 2014 - 10:13PM

In reply to by Mark Day (not verified)

Good point Mark. The factory wheels and tires may add ground clearance, but add pounds of un-sprung dead weight. The engine and drive- train is mechanically bullet proof. Perhaps Honda could incorporate an adjustable suspension, or... take the wheels and tires down a notch.

Steve (not verified)    August 20, 2014 - 10:32AM

Agree with the majority of this review. After 2+ years driving an EX-L 42,000 miles, I can attest to just 'how right' Honda got this model. The interior space continues to amaze everyone especially when they realize just how compact the vehicle is externally. MPG has averaged >30 in mixed driving, often in the 33-34 range. The ride is comfortable, controls are intuitive, stereo sounds great and trudging through a brutal Winter last year was never a problem. Best of all, reliability has been 100% perfect. Changing the OEM tires to a better brand made a world of difference.

The only issues of concern for people considering this as their compact CUV. Take a long test drive as the driver seat could use better padding. Power is great off the line, but a dawg around 60-65 on the highway. You'll get to know how to turn off the shift button very well in order to find power to pass.Some of the interior plastics show wear quickly. The door panels, especially where your elbow may rest is brutally hard. Don't have a rear spoiler installed. Handling took an immediate hit downward afterwards. I wish I had avoided that purchase.

Overall the positives far outweigh the negatives.

Parks McCants    August 20, 2014 - 1:40PM

In reply to by Steve (not verified)

Welcome Steve. It's always great to hear from an owner with long-term ownership experience. I'll be one of 40 journalist to attend Honda's national roll-out( Sept) of the redesigned " Earth Dreams" 2015. Hopefully they've taken care of a couple of issues.

Glen (not verified)    August 27, 2014 - 2:37PM

How sweet would it be if Honda included a Sport trim like they do in the accord, but only included the paddle shifters and a sunroof which they don't combine in the accord. I find the huge tires in the Accord Sport unnecessary since most drivers would not appreciate the extra stiff ride and the gaudy appearance they lend to the car. The twin exhaust pipes (on the Accord Sport) only beg to be humiliated from a Mustang at a stoplight.
The paddle shifters do add a great oomph to the Earth Dreams engine, not to mention the added fun-factor. The Accord Sport cannot be optioned with a sunroof however so if Honda combined these two in the CRV model (with EX-L options) I would be first in the door to buy one.

dagz seromlav (not verified)    August 27, 2014 - 2:50PM

The 2014 thailand crv sx i have beats anyone in its class. It packs a whoooooooping 201hp powerful enough to smash the bmw x5 sports in the freeway. Yes, the factory suspension needs improvement, which was the first i did, tuning to sporty side, like the way an sir should. Then added tons of improvements on electronics and electric. But keeping the weight down at optimum. Voila, we don't have acura in asia, but i tell you, the driver of the x5 sport was really humiliated because he could not come close to a crv. Well, its a honda, the God of engines. The bmw is just a taxi cab.

Adam (not verified)    August 28, 2014 - 7:06AM

Pretty sure the North American CR-V is the same as the European CR-V and has intelligent 4wd so runs in 2wd mode unless the car feels it needs it? Therefore would not need a switchable FWD and 4WD mode?

Glen (not verified)    August 28, 2014 - 12:07PM

Since Honda will be transferring some of the Accord's features (engine, namely) to the CRV, let's hope they improve a few more of the Accord's attributes such as the significantly numb(er) electric steering.
We have an '08 Accord with the hydraulic steering and it's very communicative. Just by feel I can tell if my car is veering off the road on an angle. With many new electric power steering units the feel is much more numb. I drove a '13 Accord and it feels like night and day compared to the '08. Basically, I love the '08 steering feel enormously more than I do the new electric unit. Guess auto manufacturers will do anything these days to add a mile or two to the mpg's rating.
I read rumors Honda will improve the CRV's suspension as well. Let's hope so. Again, while I don't enjoy overly-stiff suspensions (such as from unnecessary 19 inch wheels) the stiffer suspension in the '08 Accord is a dream for handling feel. I enjoy it immensly. The '13 Accord's (much criticised) softer suspension feels like it hops up and down on the freeway in micro-hops if you will. Basically it feels like the car hops up and down repeatedly by a very tiny amount. This combined with the lack of communicative steering on a 55-60 mph road where you're trying to scoot around traffic equals a lack of confidence and a frustrating feeling that Honda screwed up. Let's hope they learned from the Accord's misgivings and get back to sporty, confidence inspiring vehicles starting with the CRV.
Though we can't expect miracles in a mid-cycle refresh where they have to work with a lot of existing parts, let's hope they replace and improve enough of them to be worth it to buy the new CRV.