Mountain Wheels: Updated Honda CR-V is a sight, indeed |

Mountain Wheels: Updated Honda CR-V is a sight, indeed

2015 Honda CR-V.
Honda | Honda

2015 Honda CR-V AWD Touring

MSRP: $32,770; as tested, $33,600

Powertrain: 185-HP 2.4-liter four-cylinder, CVT automatic transmission

EPA figures: 28 mpg combined (26 city, 33 highway)

Here’s an effective schoolyard taunt: Your mom’s car looks like a hunchback.

Say that in the wrong place and you might end up on CNN, the victim of a major anti-bullying Twitter campaign. Maybe you’ll be run out of town, too.

But if you’re talking about the considerably-less-homely-than-in-the-past Honda CR-V, it’s still a little true. In a field filled with competition that also look a bit like bumper cars — the very homely new Jeep Cherokee, the odd Toyota RAV-4 and even the VW Tiguan — the CR-V and its refreshed looks are still a little weird, with that indelicate curve to the liftback gate still intact. Nice Cadillac and Volvo-inspired vertical brakelamps reach up and around that lumpen curve, lightening the look, somewhat.

For Honda fans needing a small crossover, at least until the very small HR-V finally appears, the refreshed 2015 CR-V has certainly got a lot going for it, including an optional suite of safety systems, a range of fuel-saving tweaks and a thoroughly decent interior, especially in the higher-end Touring edition. Extremely stripped down, CR-V starts at a little over $23,000.

And the trash talk belies the fact that the 179-inch-long CR-V rides and drives in an entirely pleasant fashion, even over a long highway journey. I tooled around in an AWD model equipped with day-old winter tires — on absolutely dry roads, naturally — and found it to be a pleasant touring machine with enough room for four adults, or one extra slightly less comfortable adult.

It ain’t huge; total passenger volume is 101 cubic feet, and the cargo room is approximately 70 cubic feet with the back seats dropped, or 35 cubic feet with them up.

For 2015, the flowery sounding Earth Dreams collection of fuel-efficiency measures includes a new 185-horsepower 2.4 liter four-cylinder, with direct injection. Drive it sensibly and you’ll get close to the 33 highway mpg figure — aided by a new, standard continuously variable transmission that is indeed unnoticeable, and includes a very, very low, low-range gear, helpful for steep highway descents or making your way through icy spots.

For the very eco-conscious, there’s an “eco” button to further sap takeoff power, plus the moderately ominous glowing green lights around the instruments, indicating that you are using fuel in an appropriate fashion.

The center stack-mounted shifter frees up room for an oversized picnic basket of center console spaces and cubbies, including an iPhone-sized pad, an adaptable cupholder trench, power outlets and even seat heater buttons. Under the armrest, there’s more power and even an HDMI plug, if you want to plug in whatever you might plug into an HDMI system that you want to watch on the 7-inch navigation display, while parked.

Spiffy overall cabin design, though — lots of levels and contours, some wood-styled trim, perforated leather in the doors and all over the seats; all very simple, but pleasant. The aforementioned screen rivals older Mitsubishi systems in its maddening lack of an actual stereo volume knob, at all (there are rocker switches, or you can use the wheel-mounted controls, but don’t go reaching for a knob). Trying to access functionality through voice-recognition commands also results in a infuriating series of long-winded individual inputs. As is the Honda style, there’s a redundant primary video screen above the optional navigation screen, which offers some limited information.

The “Honda Sensing” package adds both lane-keeping assist and a forward collision warning/braking system — I got a few false warnings while cruising along but the system will certainly step in and stomp on the brakes if someone cuts you off and you’re too busy fiddling with that HDMI input, or still trying to find the volume knob.

Flip-forward headrests in the second row improve rear visibility, and the seats can also be dropped out of the way courtesy of remote switches in the rear cargo area.

There’s a full-sized spare under the cargo deck in the rear; my Touring edition had a remote power liftgate control.

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