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

Updated October 24th, 2017

2018 Honda CR-V

2018 Honda CR-V

2018 Honda CR-V Buying Advice

This is the best compact crossover for you if you recognize that “best in class” needn’t mean No. 1 by every measure. Indeed, the ’18 CR-V is outdone here and there by the competition. But no small SUV beats its overall blend of value, roominess, road manners, and fuel economy.

The CR-V slides into model-year 2018 unchanged, without even a new paint color. This is the sophomore season for an all-new CR-V that bowed for model-year 2017. The first fully redesigned CR-V since the 2012 model, the ‘17 introduced a restyled and roomier body, added a peppy turbocharged four-cylinder engine, and expanded availability of important safety features to nearly every model in the lineup.

The ’18 CR-V remains a five-seater competing with the likes of the Toyota RAV4 and Nissan Rogue, which it trails in the compact-crossover sales race. It outsells a passel of other rivals, including the Ford Escape, Subaru Forester, Mazda CX-5, Hyundai Tucson, and Volkswagen Tiguan. The CR-V slots into Honda’s crossover lineup between the smaller, subcompact HR-V and the larger Pilot, a midsizer that seats up to eight.

Should you buy a 2018 model or wait for the ’19?

Wait for the ’19 if you’re interested in a gas-electric-hybrid version of this crossover. Honda has promised to electrify cars and crossovers throughout its lineup, either with conventional-hybrid or plug-in-hybrid powertrains. Most likely for the 2019 CR-V is a conventional-hybrid technology using the Two-Motor Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive system from Honda’s redesigned 2018 Accord midsize sedan. It teams a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with electric power for 212 net horsepower. That would be 22 horses more than today’s most powerful CR-V and would promise equal or better acceleration and higher fuel economy, too.

If a hybrid isn’t on your agenda, go for a 2018 CR-V. You’ll avoid the inevitable model-year price escalation for gas-only models that almost certainly will not change performance or appearance. Of course, there could be a new color choice or two, and there’s an outside chance Honda could add a sporty-themed trim similar to the SE model that helped close out the 2012-2016 CR-V generation. Otherwise, the ’18 lineup would again begin with the bare-bones LX model and ascend through the volume-selling EX trim, the uplevel EX-L and EX-L with Navigation, and the flagship Touring edition. All again come with a four-cylinder engine, naturally aspirated on the LX and turbocharged for more power on the others. Also available across the board is front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (AWD).

Changes


Styling: It’s a rerun of the styling that came on line with the fifth-generation redesign. That redo retired the gentle curves of the 2012-2016 CR-V for more angular shapes intended to catch the eye and quicken the pulse. Compared with its immediate predecessor, this CR-V has a more sweptback grille, more muscular body sides, and a busier but more interesting hinny highlighted by taillamps reminiscent of large, inverted ray guns.

Beneath the body is an all-new structure shared with Honda’s Civic compact cars. It’s an upgrade to what already was a benchmark in compact-crossover packaging. It improved a key metric — lengthening the wheelbase (distance between front and rear axles) 1.6 inches – to enlarge the CR-V’s already generous rear legroom by 2.1 inches. Cargo volume expanded to the near equal of some midsize crossovers, thanks in part to a body 1.5 inches longer and 1 inch taller.

Visual differences between model grades repeat the 2017 distinctions. The LX, for example, has 17-inch alloy wheels and a black instead of body-colored rear spoiler and door handles. EX and above again feature 18-inch alloys, fog lamps, and heated body-colored side mirrors with integrated turn signals. Chromed dual-exhaust outlets and LED headlamps (with automatic high-beam on/off) remain Touring-model exclusives.

The ‘18 CR-V is also unchanged inside. LX versions again have a 5-inch central dashboard screen, the other models a 7-incher, but all have a conventional audio-volume knob in place of the previous-generation’s fussy touch-sensitive electronic slider. All but the LX supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so you can use cell-based maps. The EX-L Navi and Touring models have imbedded navigation. Too bad it seems cramped on the 7-inch screen, and the graphics are cartoonish.

EX models and above again feature pushbutton ignition and dual-zone automatic climate control. The transmission shift lever juts from the dashboard’s 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.

Cabin-materials quality is top-notch, with EX-L and Touring replacing cloth upholstery with leather-trimmed seats. Passenger space is generous front and rear, and the back doors open nearly 90 degrees for exceptionally easy entry and exit. At 39.2 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 75.8 with them folded, cargo volume is at the top of the class. EX-L and Touring have a power liftgate and the Touring was the very first Honda with hands-free operation. All models get a height-adjustable cargo floor and remote handles to drop the rear seatbacks.

Mechanical: No changes. The LX returns with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder of 184 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque. The other CR-Vs reprise a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder with 190 horsepower and 179 pound-feet of torque. 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.

The 2.4-liter in the LX delivers acceleration that’s perfectly adequate but far from exciting. It’s actually more responsive off the line than the turbo 1.5, which requires a car length or so to furnish full power. That can make for a nervous moment or two if your intent is to zip across a busy road ahead of approaching traffic. This is one area in which the CR-V is bested by turbocharged versions of the Ford Escape and Subaru Forester, and even the naturally aspirated RAV4, Mazda CX-5, and V-6 Jeep Cherokee. However, once the turbo spools up, 1.5-liter CR-Vs take off with authority. The EX, EX-L, and Touring are satisfyingly quick around town and make short work of merging and passing at freeway speeds.

Every example of this Honda is a standout for handling. Steering feel and precision are unassailable. Control and grip in turns is outstanding. The 18-inch tires on EX and Touring models provide more adhesion in turns than the 17s on the LX, but they also generate more road noise and ride harshness. That’s the other measure by which the CR-V falls short of top-dog status in the segment. Several rivals are quieter and absorb bumps better, prime among them the RAV4, Rogue, and Cherokee.


Features: No changes. Honda gave the ’17 CR-V’s feature set a thorough upgrade and doesn’t alter it for 2018. Unfortunately, it didn’t see fit to grant the 2018 LX model the most important of those upgrades — the Honda Sensing suite of safety features — as standard equipment. Concurrent with the ’17 redesign, the automaker expanded Honda Sensing from a Touring-model exclusive to a standard feature on EX-grade 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, Honda Sensing includes autonomous emergency braking that can stop the CR-V when sensors detect an imminent frontal collision with another vehicle or a pedestrian. That’s required to qualify for the safety accolade manufacturers want most, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s “Top Safety Pick+” rating. The IIHS, however, also tests headlight performance, and including that criteria means only the CR-V Touring model, with its LED headlamps, attains full “Top Safety Pick+” status.

Every ’18 CR-V again comes with a rearview camera, automatic climate control, capless fuel filler, remote keyless entry, and a 60/40 split-folding rear seat. Also included is 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 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 continues 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. The Touring includes 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.

Prices

Despite furnishing no new content, Honda raises base prices for the 2018 CR-V $105 on the LX model and $255 on the other trims. Prices listed here include the automaker’s $940 destination charge, which is unchanged for ‘18.

Note that Honda eschews options in favor of expanding equipment as you climb the model ladder, as described above in the “Features” section. That can make the various CR-V trim levels appear higher priced than comparable grades from direct rivals. But outfit competitors with similar features, which often means paying extra for options, and there tends to be little difference in bottom-line pricing. Consider, as well, the Honda brand’s top ratings for quality, reliability, and resale value and the CR-V emerges as hard to beat for the buck.

The 2018 CR-V LX is priced at $25,090 with front-wheel drive and $26,940 with AWD. The EX is priced at $27,890 with front-drive and $29,290 with AWD. The leather-upholstered EX-L is $30,390 and $31,790, respectively, with the navigation-equipped EX-L with Navi increasing that to $31,390 with front-drive and $32,790 with AWD. Honda prices the flagship Touring at $33,590 with front-drive and $34,990 with AWD.

Fuel Economy

No change to EPA ratings, meaning the 2018 CR-V remains among the most fuel-efficient SUVs of any size, with mileage that tops even most subcompact crossovers, including Honda’s own HR-V. Basically, you’d need a hybrid to beat it, and Honda seems poised to give you that opportunity for 2019.

The ‘18 CR-V LX with its 2.4-liter engine rates 26/32/28 mpg city/highway combined with front-drive and 25/31/27 with AWD. Capitalizing on their smaller 1.5-liter – and relying on the turbo to compensate for shortfalls in displacement – the other ’18 CR-Vs rate 28/34/30 mpg with front-drive and 27/33/29 with AWD. All versions use regular-octane gas.

Release Date

October 17, 2017

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]