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Tough act to follow: how will 2018 Honda CR-V defend its claim as best all-around compact crossover SUV?

2018 Honda CR-V

2018 Honda CR-V

What changes will make the 2018 Honda CR-V different?

Precious few, considering this compact crossover is coming off a complete redesigned for model-year 2017. The first all-new CR-V since the 2012 model, the ’17 introduced a restyled and roomier body, added a peppy turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, and expanded availability of important safety features to nearly every model in the lineup. For ’18, there could be a new color choice or two, with an outside chance Honda would add a sporty-themed trim similar to the SE model that helped close out the 2012-2016 CR-V generation.

Why should I wait for the 2018?

You probably shouldn’t, if you admire how Honda redid the 2017 CR-V. The ’18 likely will endure some model-year price escalation but it’s highly unlikely to change in any way worth waiting for. Honda dropped the sporty-themed SE for ’17, but returned the bare-bones LX grade, volume-selling EX trim, uplevel EX-L, and flagship Touring edition. The SE didn’t bring any performance advantages, though you may wish to hold out for its potential return if you fancy its particular styling touches – or to see if Honda imbues it with, say, an uprated suspension.

In any event, the ’18 CR-V will carryover the all-new structure introduced for 2017, an upgrade to what already was a benchmark in compact-crossover packaging. In improving a key metric — lengthening the wheelbase (distance between front and rear axles) 1.6 inches – Honda enlarged the CR-V’s already generous rear legroom by 2.1 inches, exceeding that of its own midsize Accord sedan. Cargo volume expanded to rival that of some midsize crossovers, thanks in part to a body 1.5 inches longer and 1 inch taller. Also returning for ‘18 will be the more aggressive styling that came on line with the fifth-generation redesign. Same for the choice of two 4-cylinder engines, each available with front- or all-wheel drive.

Should I buy a 2017 model instead?

Yes, if you want to begin enjoying the latest generation’s improvements without paying more for an essentially unchanged 2018 model. You’ll get exterior styling highlighted by sharpened contours and upscale details, such as LED daytime running lights on all trim levels. You’ll benefit from a posher cabin with friendlier controls, including addition of an audio volume knob. And you’ll enjoy confidence that all but the lowest-priced model comes standard with a suite of driver assists, including the autonomous emergency braking that’s a prerequisite for the industry’s most coveted safety rating: Top Safety Pick+ status from the insurance-industry-funded Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Will the styling be different?

No, with possible exception of new color choices or maybe the trendy dark trim and wheels that would come with revival of an SE edition. The 2017 redesign retired the gentle curves of the 2012-2016 CR-V for more angular shapes intended to catch the eye and quicken the pulse. It brought a sweptback grille, more muscular body sides, and a busier but more interesting hinny highlighted by taillamps reminiscent of large, inverted ray guns. Again distinguishing the LX will be touches like 17-inch alloy wheels and black instead of body-colored rear spoiler and door handles. EX and above will again feature 18-inch alloys, fog lamps, and heated body-colored side mirrors with integrated turn signals. Expect chromed dual-exhaust outlets and LED headlamps (with automatic high-beam on/off) to remain Touring-model exclusives.

Much of this fifth-generation CR-V’s basic understructure is shared with Honda’s similarly visually hyper Civic compact cars, and so is the dashboard design. It won’t change for ’18. The transmission shift lever will again jut from its lower central section, freeing storage room below in a generously proportioned console with a sliding armrest. Activating the parking brake not with a lever but via an electric button is among the space-maximizing changes introduced with the redesign. LX versions will again have a 5-inch central dashboard screen, the other models a 7-incher, but all will have a conventional audio-volume knob in place of the previous-generation’s fussy touch-sensitive electronic slider. EX models and above will again feature pushbutton ignition and dual-zone automatic climate control.

Any mechanical changes?

No. The 2017’s powertrains will repeat. The LX will return with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder of 184 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque, for acceleration that’s perfectly adequate but far from exciting. The other CR-Vs will reprise a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder gratifyingly more powerful than the similar engine available in the Civic. With 190 horsepower and 179 pound-feet of torque, it’ll feel encouragingly stronger than the 2.4 accelerating from midrange speeds and in highway merging and passing. Both engines will again mate with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which performs the duties of a traditional automatic transmission but without stepped gear changes. All models will again come with a choice of front-wheel drive or an all-wheel drive system designed to maximize traction in snow and on gravel, not for off-roading. In all, the ’18 CR-V should again be among the best-driving crossovers in the class, with a ride-handling balance sportier than most yet reassuringly composed.

Will fuel economy improve?

Not likely. EPA ratings for the redesigned 2017 CR-V were not released in time for this report, but expect them to remain unchanged for the ’18 model. Given that Hondas are traditionally among the fuel-economy frontrunners in every class in which they participate, the ’18 CR-V should sustain its predecessors’ leadership among compact crossovers. A more aerodynamic body shape, minimal weight gain, and the efficient 1.5-liter turbo are factors, as is Honda’s first use of active grille shutters that automatically open and close to reduce wind drag. Look for the 2018 CR-V LX to rate around 27/33/30 mpg city/highway combined with front-drive and around 26/32/28 with AWD. With their turbocharged 1.5, the other models should beat that by a mile or two per gallon in every column.

Will it have new features?

Quite unlikely. Honda gave the ’17 CR-V’s feature set a thorough upgrade and isn’t apt to alter it for 2018. We’d like to see, however, even the 2018 LX model get the most important of those upgrades — the Honda Sensing suite of safety features — as standard equipment. The automaker expanded Honda Sensing from a Touring-model exclusive to a standard feature on EX-grade 2017 CR-Vs and above. The system includes lane-departure warning and automatic steering correction, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic detection, and adaptive cruise control that maintains a set distance from traffic ahead, even in stop-and-go driving. Most significantly, it includes autonomous emergency braking that can stop the CR-V when sensors detect an imminent frontal collision with another vehicle or a pedestrian. That ability qualifies a vehicle for the safety rating manufacturers want most, the IIHS’s Top Safety Pick+.

As with the 2017 models, expect every ’18 CR-V to again come with a rearview camera, automatic climate control, capless fuel filler, remote keyless entry, and a 60/40 split-folding rear seat. Also included will be a rear windshield wiper that activates automatically when the CR-V reverses and the front wipers are on; it also resists buildups of freezing slush thanks to a dedicated heated-rear-window zone.

Honda says 75 percent of CR-V buyers choose an EX model or above, and that’s where most of the boldface standard features will again begin. In addition to the aforementioned 7-inch touchscreen, heated mirrors, and the like, these upticks include heated front seats, a power driver’s seat with power lumbar adjustment, a power moonroof, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, remote engine start, rear USB ports, and a retractable cargo cover.

Leather upholstery will continue among the EX-L’s perks, accompanied by a power passenger seat and memory for the driver’s seat; a power liftgate; an automatic-dimming rearview mirror; and optional availability of an imbedded satellite navigation system that, unlike smartphone-based apps, isn’t dependent on a cell signal. Expect the Touring to again include all that plus a hands-free power liftgate that opens with a wag of your foot beneath the bumper, upgraded audio with a subwoofer, ambient LED cabin lighting, roof cargo rails, and rain-sensing windshield wipers.

How will 2018 prices be different?

They’re almost certain to increase, though not drastically. Including Honda’s destination fee (it was $900 for 2017 models) estimated prices are $24,900 for the ’18 CR-V LX, $27,400 for the EX, $29,800 for the EX-L (figure $31,200 with navigation), and $33,500 for the Touring. Add about $1,300 to those prices for AWD. And don’t be surprised if ’18 CR-V prices again seem slightly higher than base prices of top rivals. Blame Honda’s minimal-options policy and recognize that similarly, equipped, key competitors cost as much or more than CR-Vs. None, however, matches this crossover’s overall record for customer satisfaction, reliability, and resale value.

When will it come out?

Estimated release date for the 2018 CR-V is autumn 2017.

Best competitors

Chevrolet Equinox, 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?

Honda Sensing as standard on every model. And continued tweaking of the continuously variable transmission to better mimic the throttle response of a conventional automatic gearbox.

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 [email protected]