Collingwood, On – Honda’s ubiquitous compact crossover is no stranger to the Canadian motoring public. With sales reaching more than 34,000 units in the Great White North last year, the number of new CR-Vs being parked in Canadian garages has been on an upward trajectory since 2009.

Even on the cusp of a significantly refreshed 2015 model reaching dealerships, the 2014 model still proved to be the third most popular compact SUV in the land in August of this year.

The CR-V is no stranger to either. We have scrutinized and re-examined the little ute numerous times during road tests, long-term tests and comparison tests where it has continuously placed at the top or near the top of our charts in every instance.

Not being ones to rest on their laurels, Honda has taken the beloved CR-V and given it a significant mid-cycle refresh, addressing a number of key issues identified to be weak points against the competitors and making it more efficient, more functional and more confident on the road.

For starters, and most significantly, the CR-V’s drivetrain has undergone a significant update providing an improvement to both efficiency and performance. While a 2.4L inline-four cylinder is still the only mill Honda offers for the CR-V, this new one lifted from the Accord, now produces 181 lb-ft of torque, up 11 percent from a somewhat anemic 163 in last year’s model.

Maximum power (185 hp) is achieved 600 rpm sooner than in last year’s engine, now at 6,400 rpm. The new engine is a higher compression unit with direct injection and reduced internal friction resulting in the torque increase and greater power throughout most of the rev range up to 7,000 rpm.

This Earth Dreams engine is also mated to an all-new CVT transmission, replacing the outdated and comparably inefficient five-speed automatic. While driving enthusiasts generally bemoan the implementation of a CVT, the reality is these systems are efficient and becoming far more prevalent in the automotive universe. Honda is one of only a few builders that has does a really good job of their CVTs in the past and the unit found in the CR-V is also a good one.

That said, Honda’s product manager promoted a simulated downshift feature with this new transmission that I rarely experienced out on the road. Instead, the dreaded CVT “mooing” was occasionally present with judicious prods of the accelerator pedal.

The newfound torque and more usable power delivery are appreciated in daily driving situations, enabling the CR-V to get up to speed and pass safely to suit most people’s needs. This may also help potential buyers choose the Honda who might have otherwise been leaning toward a more energetic Toyota RAV4 or Mazda CX-5.

2015 Honda CR-V2015 Honda CR-V2015 Honda CR-V steering wheel2015 Honda CR-V centre stack
2015 Honda CR-V, steering wheel, centre stack. Click image to enlarge

Out on a scenic drive Honda set up for us around the rural routes near Collingwood, Ontario, the new CR-V is pleasant enough and a satisfying improvement over the outgoing model in terms of its drivability. With new door sealing, carpet insulation and sound-absorbing material usage throughout the car, the 2015 CR-V is claimed to be the quietest in the class. I can attest that wind and road noise are both impressively suppressed, though engine noise still makes itself known.

Honda claims the new mechanical changes to the engine and transmission will vault the CR-V to the head of the class for fuel efficiency too. The 2WD version is rated at 8.6 L/100 km city (versus 10.3 last year) and 6.9 highway (versus 7.6). For the 4WD version, owners are looking at 9.1 city (versus 10.6) and 7.2 highway (7.9). In all instances, the improvements are significant enough to warrant kudos to Honda’s engineers.

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