What do you look for in a compact SUV? If you're after sporty performance and head-turning looks, then you're probably looking in the wrong segment (but feel free to disagree with us). The Honda CR-V, for example, has neither of those things. But as we found out during a test drive of the S Diesel variant, it offers everything you could want out of a seven-seater SUV. Here are five reasons why.
1) Its powertrain is economical and unobtrusive.
Gone are the days when having a diesel engine meant putting up with harsh cabin noise for the sake of fuel economy. Today's oil burners are much more efficient, and the CR-V's Earth Dreams Technology turbodiesel revs up with only the tiniest hint of noise heard inside. Power delivery from the 118hp, 300Nm mill is a bit livelier than expected with a light load, with a slight kick once you hit the power band. Our test netted us 12km/L in heavy city traffic.
2) The interior is simple and ergonomic.
The CR-V's interior isn't anything special, if we're being honest. Sure, leather seats come standard across the range, and the sloping dash and triangular plastic moldings are great. And the Civic-like center console is neat, too. No, it's not special, but it is very well put together. All the controls are within hand's reach, and the blacked-out scheme with occasional wooden accents are easy on the eyes. This was clearly designed with comfort in mind.
3) The shifter is fully electronic.
All the CR-V diesel variants have done away with the traditional gear shifter, and have gone with big buttons to select the gears. While the design gives the dashboard a more streamlined look, the new way of choosing gears takes a lot of getting used to, especially if you depend on tactile feel to remember what gear you're in. Whether you end up getting comfortable with it or hating it altogether is a matter of preference. During our test, we found it easy to work while parking, but cumbersome in start-stop traffic.
4) It's spacious.
The CR-V offers plenty of breathing room in the cabin. There's lots of storage room in the back, too—472L with the rearmost seats folded, and 967L if you include the second row. Alas, the CR-V's compact SUV dimensions are still a touch smaller than the midsize models, so comfort in the sixth and seventh seats isn't guaranteed. At least Honda was nice enough to include a small nook for your feet in the back.
5) It's a comfortable vehicle whether you're a driver or a passenger.
In the compact SUV segment, comfort is the name of the game. On that front, the CR-V delivers in spades. The leather seats are well-bolstered, while the ride is calm and plush even on less-than-ideal terrain. Steering is hassle-free, so you won't tire much even on long drives. Oh, and the dual-zone A/C plus the thick doors will keep you nice and cool.