Success breeds contentment when it comes to vehicle design.
Automakers often are reluctant to mess too much with a hit product. So with the Honda CR-V the longtime leader in the U.S. Middle CUV sector – it’s topped the segment 10 of the last 11 years – it could be forgiven if expectations for a dazzling redo were low.
But tear it up designers did – and to great effect.
Honda’s makeover of its venerable CRV for ’17 not only won over judges during 2017 Wards 10 Best Interiors testing, the redesign that’s anything but play-it-safe also has turned the best-selling model into one of the best-looking in its price class.
Our tester stickered at $34,635 – a great value – and sported a striking two-tone color scheme, combining basic black throughout the cabin with snow-white leather for the seats and door inners. Adding a luxury-like touch is the unique low-gloss, faux-wood trim that runs along the doors and dashboard and shimmers like metal.
There’s a healthy mix of materials here, but it all comes together quite well, transforming the one-time quirky CR-V into a fully matured and mainstream midsize CUV that exudes quality and functionality and is more than easy on the eyes.
Polishing things up is the brightwork employed judiciously around the door handles and vents and used as an accent for the steering wheel and ignition button. It also combines with a dash of high-gloss piano black to add some decorative punch to the console-mounted shifter.
Designers penned the dashboard with an imaginative combination of curvy flourishes and rigid lines, imbuing it with a multilayer, 3-dimensional quality that provides the interior with some of its texture. The sculpted dash neatly tapers down as it approaches the passenger side of the vehicle and flows elegantly into the door panels with jigsaw-puzzle-like precision.
VIDEO: INSIDE AWARD-WINNING CR-V
Having experimented unsuccessfully with touch-sensitive controls in the past, Honda designers return to the tried and true in the CR-V with rotary dials for adjusting radio volume and cabin temperature. A mix of shapes, textures and functionality makes steering-wheel controls for the radio, smart cruise and lane keeping easy to operate while maintaining eye contact with the road.
Honda doesn’t cut corners with the TFT (thin-film transistor) screen that serves as the centerpiece of the driver cockpit. The generously sized, multifunction display adds some tech appeal to the midsize ute, combining digital tachometer, speedometer and gear-selection and lane-departure indicators with a variety of vehicle-status readouts of the driver’s choosing.
But where the CR-V really shines is in comfort and convenience. Firm, power-adjustable front seats (12-way for the driver, 4-way for the passenger) with side bolsters wrap around the occupants and hold them in place. Padded-leather armrests along the doors and via the center console further ratchet up the comfort quotient.
It’s no penalty box in the second row either, where leg- and headroom are more than ample and twin USB ports at the base of the center console (along with two more up front) keep smartphone and tablet batteries topped off throughout the journey.
Cargo room is about as good as it gets in this class, and Honda ups the ante further with a clever adjustable center console bin that can be configured to stow away a large purse or laptop.
Standard on our all-wheel-drive Touring model is a full complement of safety and driver-assist features, from wheel-specific electronic brake distribution to adaptive cruise, collision-mitigation braking, forward-collision warning, lane-keep assist and road-departure mitigation.
All in all, the CR-V takes some chances, and drivers and passengers reap the rewards. It clearly outshines its competitive set in just about every department, making us think the reigning Middle CUV champ might be on top to stay.
[email protected] @DavidZoia