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How bold with Honda get with the completely redesigned 2017 CR-V?

Last Update August 6th, 2016

2017 Honda CR-V

2017 Honda CR-V

What changes will make the 2017 Honda CR-V different?

Most everything. America’s top-selling crossover will be fully redesigned but won’t veer from its role as a roomy, economical compact with wide appeal. It’ll grow slightly, although not enough to accommodate a third row of seats. Styling will be all-new, with an edgier look that nonetheless shouldn’t sacrifice interior space for swoopy lines. Big news underhood: likely introduction of a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine.

Read Our 2018 Honda CR-V Preview for the latest information

Why should I wait for the 2017?

To see if the fifth generation of this five-seater is more attractive to you than the fourth, which bowed for model-year 2012. It received a significant refresh for model-year ‘15, getting updated styling, better fuel economy, and a new top-line model that introduced new safety features. The ’17 will build on those advances and likely offer powertrain and equipment choices that may better fit your needs. Prices won’t be prohibitively higher. Whether the look of the new body will turn you on, off, or leave you indifferent depends on the skills of Honda’s stylists.

Should I buy a 2016 model instead?

Because it does everything a compact crossover should and in some respects is still a class leader. No rival uses its space better. The cabin is airy, with great outward visibility. Passenger room is generous front and rear, with just enough width to wedge a third adult in back. With 37.2 cubic feet behind the rear seat and 70.9 with it folded, cargo volume is near the top of the class. While acceleration is decidedly midpack, fuel economy is among the category leaders. Ride and handling are top-notch, too: it’s a composed balance that inspires confidence. Of course, a ’17 CR-V will look newer and carry higher resale value. But that’ll be partly offset by clearance-sale prices as the factory and its dealers work to get ‘16s off the lots before the redesigned ‘17s land.

Will the styling be different?

Yes, though how brave Honda will be remains to be seen. The conservative automaker shaped the fourth-generation CR-V to address what its designers acknowledged was a “wimpy and boring” image. Still, the 2012 model was far from bold. The ’17 could be influenced by the look of Honda’s midsize Pilot, redesigned for 2016 as a fairly generic take on the family-crossover genera. Or it could gravitate toward the sportier profile of the automaker’s HR-V, launched for model-year ’16 into the burgeoning subcompact-crossover field. Either way, expect CR-V’s wheelbase – distance between front and rear axles – to grow from today’s relatively short 103.1 inches. That’ll expand legroom even further, though cargo volume probably won’t grow much because Honda won’t want to increase overall body length significantly. And it won’t encroach on Pilot or Odyssey minivan territory by fitting a third row of seats, although Honda plans just that in overseas markets. Expect the cabin to follow the lead of the Pilot and HR-V, with a clean, modern layout that easily integrates large dashboard touchscreens and such space-saving features as an electric parking brake and even pushbutton transmission controls.

Any mechanical changes?

Yes. Almost certain to be offered is a 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder similar to the one that debuted in Honda’s redesigned 2016 Civic. At 174 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque, it would trail the naturally aspirated 2.4-liter 4-cylinder that’s the fourth-generation CR-V’s sole engine. The 2.4-liter has 185 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque, but most drivers would probably be happier with the way the turbo 1.5 produces power at lower engine speeds, which makes for quicker, strong throttle response around town and on the highway. Honda could well offer the ’17 CR-V with two engine choices: a naturally aspirated version in the lower-priced trim levels and the turbo 1.5 in upper grades. It does just that in the Civic, with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder rated at 158 horsepower and 138 pound-feet of torque. Expect a continuously variable transmission to continue in place of a conventional automatic. And a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (awd) for all trim grades will repeat.

Will fuel economy improve?

It should, and that’ll require some clever engineering to keep weight down despite the added mass from slightly larger vehicle dimensions and addition luxury and convenience features. Smaller-displacement engines are part of the answer, of course. Honda accomplished this with the redesigned Civic, which is larger than its predecessor and has more features, yet is more fuel-efficient. The goal would be to beat the ’16 CR-V’s EPA ratings of 26/33/29 mpg city/highway/combined with front-drive and 25/31/27 with awd. And the turbo would not require premium-grade gas.

Will it have new features?

Look for a more upscale feel overall, with higher-grade cabin trim. Premium details such as LED running lights could be standard on all models, not just the highest priced ones. Some perks, such as a power liftgate, could migrate from upper trims to some lower ones, as well. Its policy is to not offer stand-alone options, so the automaker probably will force buyers to climb the model ladder for things like pushbutton ignition and the Display Audio system with dashboard touchscreen and Android auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity. Same for heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, power driver and passenger seats, and heated rear seats. It should, however, feel compelled to liberalize availability of its Honda Sensing suite of driver-assists. It introduced the system to the CR-V for model year 2015 but has kept it exclusive to the costliest Touring model. Honda Sensing includes forward-collision alert and automatic braking to mitigate frontal collisions, lane-departure warning and self-correcting steering to prevent unintended lane and road departures, and adaptive cruise control to maintain a set distance from traffic ahead. To the carmaker’s credit, Honda Sensing is standard or optional on every trim level of the Civic, and we hope that’s true for the ’17 CR-V.

How will 2017 prices be different?

They’ll climb, but not drastically. Expect a core lineup of base LX models priced around $24,850, volume-selling EX models around $27,100, leather-upholstered EX-Ls around $29,600 (figure $31,000 with navigation), and top-line Touring versions at roughly $33,300. To those prices, add $1,300 or so for awd. To close out the fourth-generation model run, Honda introduced a Special Edition (SE), which built on the LX trim with two-tone alloy wheels and rear privacy glass at an $800 premium. It could offer some sort of “sport” trim for ’17, to juice CR-V’s image. In any case, these prices will again appear a bit higher than the base prices of top rivals. That’s partly down to Honda’s no-options policy; similarly equipped, top rivals cost as much or more than CR-Vs. None, however, matches this crossover’s all-around record for customer satisfaction, reliability, and resale value.

How does the 2017 CR-V handle in the snow?

The CR-V performs as well as any compact crossover SUV on the market, with a standard front-drive configuration and optional all-wheel-drive (AWD) system. While many buyers choose AWD for its perception of added safety, it’s an unnecessary expense for most buyers. It’s a non-issue for those living in warm and dry climates, except perhaps for those living in remote areas with unpaved roads and steep grades. Even those living in wet and modestly snowy areas should find the standard front-drive setup sufficient. And while AWD is of the greatest benefit to those living deep within the Snow Belt, especially on unpaved roads and/or in areas that don’t immediately get plowed after a snowstorm, studies have shown even those motorists would benefit more from having a set of deep-tread snow tires installed on a front-drive vehicle for the winter over a more-expensive AWD system that exacts a cost in terms of diminished fuel economy and the potential for added repairs down the road. The CR-V’s AWD system ordinarily operates in front-drive mode, sending power to the rear wheels automatically to maintain traction if sensors detect wheel slippage. Working in conjunction with a Hill Start Assist function it will automatically send more power to the rear axle from a standing start when climbing hills for smoother launches. The base LX model comes with 16-inch wheels and tires, which should cut through the snow a bit better than the SE, EX, or EX-L’s 17-inch tires and certainly the top Touring model’s 18-inch rims and rubber.

The CR-V’s snow skills are about on a par with most front-drive/AWD compact crossovers, though we’d prefer a model that comes with a conventional automatic transmission instead of a gearless CVT, both for smoother overall operation and for the inclusion of a “low” gear selection, which can help get the vehicle unstuck in the snow. These models include the Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Mazda CX-5, Jeep Cherokee, Chevrolet Equinox, and Hyundai Tuscon, among others. The Jeep Wrangler is the odd conventional truck-based SUV in the compact class, and it includes a burly 4WD system with real low-range gearing for burrowing out of the deepest snowdrifts, but it’s a rough and unsophisticated ride as a daily driver.

When will it come out?

Expect a late 2016 release.

Best competitors

Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Cherokee, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4, Volkswagen Tiguan

What change would make it better?

A Display Audio revision that would add conventional volume and station-selector knobs in place of a touch-sensitive panel. Today’s system allows the driver to adjust those functions with steering-wheel controls, but adjusting them through the main Display Audio dashboard screen forces interaction with that temperamental touch-sensitive surface.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at chuck.giametta@carpreview.com