Sufficient Power, Firm Ride

Paired with a standard five-speed automatic transmission, Honda's 2.4-liter four-cylinder pulls the CR-V up to speed with sufficient power. The automatic kicks down to 4th or 3rd gear on the highway aggressively and with little delay — which is necessary given that, characteristic of a Honda four-cylinder, the CR-V has modest low-end torque. With just me on board, our front-drive tester droned loudly in the passing lane, but overall power for such maneuvers was ample.

In contrast, I put four adults in an EX-L already burdened by an extra 124 pounds of all-wheel drive. Loaded up, the CR-V doesn't have much oomph to spare: It reaches highway speeds soon enough, but passing requires planning and effort. If you want enough power to pass on a whim — or if you need to tow more than what's allowed by the CR-V's meager 1,500-pound rating — consider the Toyota RAV4 or Ford Escape, both of which can be had with a V-6 engine. (The Chevy Equinox also offers a V-6, but it's pretty underwhelming.) The CR-V comes only with its four-cylinder, which makes 180 horsepower.

EPA combined gas mileage with front-wheel drive is 24 mpg; all-wheel-drive models are rated 23 mpg. That's near the top of the segment. In Cars.com's recent $29,000 SUV Shootout, the CR-V's 28.8 mpg tied for top honors among nine crossovers in a 145-mile highway loop.

If outright power isn't a strength, handling is. The CR-V's reflexes are generally sharp, with good braking linearity, relatively flat cornering and sharp steering. Though it falls short of a Subaru Forester or Kia Sportage when it comes to outright driving fun, the CR-V's maneuvering confidence puts it in the upper half of its class. That said, some drivers may wish for more power steering assist at low speeds, such as in parking lots.

The CR-V handles larger bumps well enough, but small road imperfections will be felt over long stretches of interstate. The CR-V settled in better and bounced less on the highway when loaded with extra passengers, but Honda has work to do on the suspension.

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