2015 Honda CR-V offers more mpg, technology

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

Salem Township, Mich. — – A significantly refreshed 2015 Honda CR-V SUV is arriving at dealerships, and American Honda Motor Co. Inc. hopes more than 60 enhancements will help it retain its title as the top-selling compact SUV.

The CR-V was last a new model in 2012, and Honda sold more than 300,000 of the compact SUV last year, a feat it expects again to achieve in 2014. Sales of the CR-V are up 5.2 percent through September this year.

The price tag on the 2015 CR-V rises by about $200 ($24,150 including destination charge for the LX trim level), but includes about $1,500 in new features such as a new armrest, new center console with storage for phones and with cup holders, and rear seat air vents, said James Jenkins, manager of Honda Trucks product planning for American Honda Motor Co. Inc. That doesn't include updates to the engine or transmission, he said.

"We feel we have the benchmark product," Jenkins told reporters this week at a program in Metro Detroit. "It's our goal to stay on top."

Honda says CR-V improvements have increased safety, performance and handling. They include a new and more efficient engine.

From the exterior, the CR-V has a new front face with updated grille, headlights and wheels. The back appearance was tweaked to seem wider. Inside, engineers and designers worked to make the vehicle have a "more premium feel" and answered some customer requests such as adding a sliding sun visor, Jenkins said.

Kelley Blue Book analyst Karl Brauer said Honda did what it needed with its refresh to stay atop a competitive segment that has grown dramatically in the past few years. He said the new CR-V delivers better fuel economy, an improved and more functional interior and cutting-edge technology.

"The design and look and feel of the interior definitely took a step up," Brauer said. "The new car has a better look inside, the materials have a richer kind of finish to them. Everything just looks more updated."

Compact SUV sales are booming this year, up 15.6 percent through September, according to Kelley Blue Book.

"The compact crossover segment has nearly doubled in share in just seven years, mainly at the expense of compact and midsize cars. If sales continue to grow at a pace similar to what we've seen recently, in addition to introductions in the compact crossover segment, we could see small crossovers surpass sales of compact and midsize cars in 2017," Alec Gutierrez, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book, said in an emailed statement.

Honda says CR-V improvements have increased safety, performance and handling.

Under the hood, the CR-V features a 2.4-liter direct injected four-cylinder engine that increases torque by 11 percent. Honda got rid of its five-speed automatic transmission in favor of a continuously variable transmission.

Fuel economy was improved by four miles per gallon in the city and three mpg highway and overall over the older version to 27 miles mpg city, 34 mpg highway and 29 combined for front-wheel drive and 26 mpg city, 33 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined for four-wheel drive models; Honda says 65 percent of CR-V sales are four-wheel drive.

Honda also added a top-of-the-line trim line called Touring. Jenkins expects Touring could represent 5 percent to 10 percent of CR-V sales.

A new package of Honda Sensing safety and driver assistance technologies is available on Touring models. Features on the $2,000 tech package include a lane keeping system, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, collision mitigation braking, lane departure warning and Honda's LaneWatch, which puts a view of the exterior right-side of the SUV into the center screen.

Since 2004, Honda has sold 2.3 million CR-Vs in the U.S., which the Japanese automaker says makes it the best-selling SUV of the past decade. The CR-V is made in three North American plants in East Liberty, Ohio; Canada; and Mexico.


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