Comfortable Runabout Vehicle: 2014 Honda CR-V

Honda’s CR-V is a pioneering, compact crossover. The CR-V, short for “Comfortable Runabout Vehicle” (hats off if you knew that), is in its fourth-generation, having first debuted in the U.S. in 1997.

The 2014 Honda CR-V comes in three trims: LX, EX, EX-L, offered in both front- and all-wheel-drive versions. Prices start at $22,945. Our tester was the top-line EX-L with AWD at $31,275.

The new generation CR-V has some spiffed-up sheet metal, a more efficient engine, along with refinements in the AWD system. Inside, Honda simplified the rear seat fold-down process and added a fistful of technology and connectivity features.

One way that CR-V choices have been streamlined is to offer it with only one powertrain. The sole driveline connects a 2.4-liter four-cylinder motor with a five-speed automatic transmission. The 2.4L is rated at 185 horsepower and 163 lb.-ft. of torque. EPA predicts the 2014 CR-V capable of doing 23 miles per gallon city and 31 mpg highway (FWD); 22/30 mpg (AWD).

It’s somewhat surprising that Honda doesn’t offer a six-cylinder engine as an option, given that many of its competitors do. But Honda is betting that most buyers want higher mileage from the smaller engine than needing the towing capacity of a six.

That said, the current powertrain works well together. With a 0-to-60 mph time of 9-plus seconds, the CR-V isn’t fast and it’s loud at full throttle. However, it’s sufficiently quick enough to satisfy the majority of drivers, settling down to cruise quietly at highway speeds. The gas mileage is quite respectable; my week behind the wheel netted 27 mpg in mixed conditions. An ECO mode helps promote maximum mileage by remapping shift points, limiting throttle response and climate control settings. Switching it off makes acceleration noticeably snappier, but you do so at the expense of some gas.

Honda’s AWD system has been retooled and refined for this current Gen 4 model. The full-time setup is fully automatic; drivers benefit from enhanced traction in wet or dry conditions, on pavement or dirt roads.

CR-V has a car-like feel and handles confidently. The revamped power steering rack has a comfortable heft. Step-in height is improved, thanks to a revised doorsill design. Once inside, the interior looks well constructed, though the abundance of hard plastic gives a downscale tug on perceived value. Driver controls lay out logically and are in easy reach.

At 6’1” I’m fairly comfortable in the CR-V’s front seat, but I wouldn’t say no to another inch of legroom. The CR-V’s broad roof pillars make for a blind spot in your quarter rear view.

Rear seats are comfortable for us 6 footers. They no longer adjust fore and aft as in the previous generation, though no legroom is lost -- and a benefit is gained: A new design makes it easier to fold the seatbacks down from either the second row or the cargo bay to make a mostly flat load floor.

Liftover height in back is low and storage capacity ranges from 37.2 to 70.9 cubic feet. A center console between the front seats is standard on all trim levels, as is a rear camera. Buyers can add either a navigation system or a rear seat DVD entertainment system to the EX-L, but not both.

The latest generation CR-V takes a big step in connectivity. An iPhone compatible interface for Pandora internet radio is standard on all 2014 CR-V models, as is Bluetooth hands-free phone capability. Also standard is an SMS text messaging feature. When paired with a compatible phone and a Bluetooth connection, the driver can hear incoming texts read aloud and can respond with any of six, pre-set text messages.

The compact SUV segment is much larger and far stronger now than it was when the first CR-V appeared. This good for buyers. If you don’t need a six-cylinder engine, then the practical, always popular CR-V is a fine pick.