Honda CR-V retains styling cues from older generations, after an evolutionary redesign for 2012 that brought marginal adjustments to dimensions.
The front view is sleek and round, with a rakish shape to the headlights and a grille with three horizontal bars. The lower valance is pronounced, and includes fog lights. Hood sculpting is convex, and the fender blisters are bold, giving the CR-V a strong stance.
From the side, the sculpting across door lowers is recessed, with a slight Coke bottle-ness. Wheel arches are full and sharply defined. The rearmost side window pinches down to a tapered trailing edge, accenting the rear taillight and backup cluster that wraps around into the rear quarter, somewhat breaking up the sheet metal in the C-pillar (the post between the roof and lower body behind the rearmost side window). Oval recesses behind the door handles easily accommodate large or gloved hands.
In the rear, proportions are right, with the rear window fully integrated into the liftgate's lower half. A thin strip of brightwork tops the license plate recess, which itself snugs into the upper half of a scalloped recess spanning the liftgate from one fender to the other. The vertical taillights each look to be a single piece, and include the backup and running lights. Tires properly positioned relative to the rear fenders match the front end's solid stance. The matte-finished lower valance masks all but the beefiest of the rear suspension underpinnings.
At first blush, the Honda CR-V interior comes across as elegant. Some buyers might be disappointed, however, when they get in touch with some of the materials that are used to keep costs down. Nearly all surfaces are hard plastic. They are visually pleasing, with upscale-looking graining and metallic-like finishes, but the feel is clearly low-budget.
Seats are comfortable, with adequate, if not remarkable, thigh support. The leather is a little short of luxurious, but comparable to that of other vehicles in this class and price range. Door armrests are padded. Door-mounted map pockets are molded to hold a beverage can or water bottle, but aren't especially deep, so cups must be fitted with sipper caps.
The lower roofline of the CR-V means less headroom than the Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Tucson, Ford Escape or Chevrolet Equinox. Legroom is more plentiful in the Honda than these others, however, except for the Equinox, which bests the CR-V by about an inch.
The center console extends forward all the way under the pod holding the shift lever, creating usable storage space in the form of a long, deep covered storage bin, which can conceal a medium-sized handbag or other valuables. Small trays are tucked into each side of the lower part of that extended console. The lower portion of the dashboard curves outward from the shift lever pod in graceful arcs toward the doors, which themselves repeat the arc cues.
The screen that serves either as the control panel for the audio or the nav display parks front and center in the upper dash, directly below a deeply recessed, smaller screen that handles the duties of the onboard computer and the rearview camera on the EX-L with the nav system. The rearview camera is a multi-angle unit that lets users choose between a top view, a 130-degree, or a 180-degree view. All have superimposed guidelines to aid the driver when backing up, although they are fixed and don't bend to indicate track at the current steering wheel angle as they do on some systems.
On each side of the large circular speedometer that dominates the instrument cluster is a thin light strip that glows green to signal when the engine is optimizing fuel economy. It's attractive, and looks like a giant parentheses around the speedometer. Mostly intuitive knobs, buttons and rocker switches on the dash and steering wheel manage audio and climate control functions. The automatic climate control system on the EX-L works well.
The cargo area, which holds more foot-square boxes than all the competitors but the RAV4, sports four tie-downs and a thoughtful, molded-in bracket for storing the retractable cargo cover when it's not in use. The backs of the rear seats are also beveled on the outboard edges, so the shoulder straps on the seatbelts naturally slip around the seatbacks when they're raised from their folded positions. Honda also managed to give the rear seats true, one-step fold-down systems, activated by pulling either a lever on the sides of the cargo area or a strap on the outboard side of the rear seat bottoms. However, the cargo floor is not perfectly flat with the rear seats folded down, unlike the previous-generation model.