If you're looking for a compact SUV, chances are good that you're not too choosy when it comes to finding a model with the best handling or lightning-quick acceleration. And you're probably not holding out for luxury materials or cutting-edge technology. We've found that shoppers looking for a good compact SUV want just that -- a good, reliable, efficient vehicle with SUV practicality and driving position. If that sounds like you, the 2014 Honda CR-V fits the bill perfectly, as we discovered after a week behind the wheel of a well-equipped EX-L model.
A lot of today's SUVs claim to offer off-road capabilities or tout a "sporty" driving feel. The CR-V doesn't bother with that stuff -- and, for better or worse, it shows. Everyone who drove our CR-V over the last week came away feeling like it was a tried-and-true compact SUV, offering precisely the equipment that shoppers in this segment want.
For instance, the CR-V doesn't pretend to offer go-anywhere capabilities. That's because Honda knows it'll be primarily used on the road, so the brand gave the CR-V a comfortable seating position, excellent ride quality and a relaxed ride height that makes it very easy to get in and out, or access cargo in back.
The CR-V doesn't emphasize sport or performance, either. As a result, acceleration isn't stellar, but it's acceptable. And gas mileage benefits from the lack of huge engine power, as the CR-V returns up to 30 miles per gallon on the highway, even with all-wheel drive.
In other words, the CR-V does exactly what it says and exactly what most buyers will expect. No, you can't take it off-road, and you won't win any stoplight drag races -- and some shoppers may find that dull. But if you're looking for a no-nonsense approach to the world of the compact crossover, the CR-V might be your vehicle.
Just because the CR-V is practical doesn't mean that it's perfect. In fact, nearly everyone who drove the car took issue with its outdated navigation system, which just doesn't live up to infotainment systems in other cars. By comparison, the buttons are small, the screen is outdated and simple tasks like entering an address -- or even changing a radio station -- are overly complicated.
If it was up to us, we'd skip the navigation system altogether. And if you're a technophile, dealing with it constantly will likely drive you crazy. Systems are far improved in rival cars such as the Ford Escape, Nissan Rogue and Toyota RAV4.
Another place that our CR-V tester drew praise was the cabin. Everyone who rode in or drove the CR-V noted that the interior was quite nice, especially for a compact crossover. Rear legroom is ample, and we found headroom to be more than necessary for even the tallest drivers. Best of all, the front seats were perfectly cushioned for relaxing, pleasant long drives.
While the interior is a great place to spend time, some of us felt that the exterior takes a little getting used to. Of course, styling is subjective -- so you might not agree. But we find that the slanted window line gives the car an unusual look. Worse, that styling element robs visibility when changing lanes.
Beyond the rear styling, few testers were fond of the CR-V's protruding front grille. While we all agree that the latest CR-V looks better than its predecessor, most of us feel the SUV has something of an awkward appearance compared to handsome rivals such as the Ford Escape, the Mazda CX-5 and the Nissan Rogue.
Recommended for Most Shoppers
If we had to sum up our experience with the 2014 Honda CR-V in one word, we'd choose "pleasant." It's not perfect, especially considering the outdated navigation system, the lackluster performance and the slightly unusual styling. But the CR-V does everything we'd expect from a compact SUV. It's a vehicle that you can buy and use for years as safe, efficient, reliable transport for yourself, your family and ample cargo. If that's what you're looking for, the CR-V is easy to recommend.
However, if you place an emphasis on one particular aspect of car ownership, you might be interested in some excellent compact SUV alternatives to the CR-V. Want performance? Consider the Kia Sportage SX, which boasts a 260-horsepower turbocharged engine. Want technology? Check out the Ford Escape and its SYNC infotainment system. Want efficiency? There's always the Mazda CX-5 and its 35-mpg fuel economy rating. No, the CR-V may not be able to match those vehicles, but it's a great overall compromise. For that reason, we think it's a great fit for most drivers.