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I recently purchased a 2016 CR-V EX AWD. These are impressions of the vehicles that I test drove before purchasing the Honda. They are in roughly order of worst to best overall.

CR-V Test Drives


Nissan Rogue SV AWD

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Appearance-wise, the Rogue is first rate. It looks nice outside and in.

The front seating is comfortable and supportive, among the best of any vehicle tested.

The interior layout and materials are very good for the class. Controls are intuitive and the number of buttons to fiddle with are refreshingly limited.

Around-view camera system is very cool if you like that sort of thing.

The standard audio on the SV level is good for the segment. The upgraded Bose system is the best among those tested here, unlike the CX-5’s Bose system, which was remarkably bad.

Nissan dealers are typically quite eager to price their vehicles aggressively. For the Rogue, it allows a higher trim level to be priced against several competitor’s lower versions.

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The Rogue is underpowered and the engine is rough and noisy under acceleration, what there is of it. Nissan has been using CVT’s for longer than most, and they don’t seem to be able to optimize them the way that some others do. It goes to high revs and drones badly as the engine struggles for speed.

Steering has good weighting but almost no feel or feedback of any kind. Uncomfortably numb.

Rear visibility is poor. It really needs the camera system.

The Rogue’s safety scores are not generally as good as the competition.

Verdict – A surprisingly nice vehicle that’s hamstrung with a few significant issues. Like the Rav4, the Rogue must compete against its own brother in the Murano, and like the Rav4, one gets the feeling of driving something that’s not playing at the top of its potential game. Too bad.

Toyota Rav4 XLE

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The Rav has excellent storage capacity that is easy to access and utilize. The rear hatch is large and the floor low. It’s the only vehicle here that can store road bikes relatively upright with both wheels on. Rear seating is ample, and the front feels spacious.

The seats feel like a huge upgrade from prior models, which were not good. At all.

Instruments are complete and well laid out. Nothing amazing, but quite adequate.

The RAV has a real 6 speed automatic transmission.

The new RAV appears generally reliable and gets good gas mileage with regular fuel.

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You're asked to pay $2500 for a package that upgrades the RAV to what everyone else (except Ford) offers as part of the standard package, and then you get no leather interior available.

The RAV is not inspiring to drive. It feels about the slowest here, and the steering, handling, and suspension are close to truck-like. The transmission is the only one here that feels lost on anything other than flat ground. It’s constantly shifting, trying to find, something….

The 2016 exterior refresh looks like the front end was put through a nose-compactor.

The upgraded audio system is mediocre. The speaker size and placement provide sound, but there is little life-like imaging.

The XLE is on the high side price wise, and Toyota dealers don’t appear highly motivated price-wise. That made the RAV the most expensive vehicle here out the door.

Verdict – Nice enough, great interior capacity, boring in all regards, too expensive for what you receive relative to the competition. The driving experience is boring, as a “driver’s car” it’s handily bested by everything else here. As with the Rogue, the RAV4 must compete against the Highlander for market position, and Toyota’s focus just doesn’t seem 100% on the Rav4. Unlike the Rogue, the RAV4 really does no wrong, just nothing particularly great.

Subaru Forester XT Premium

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The XT is fast, easily the fastest here by any measure. Once over 5 MPH or so, it’s almost BMW 6 cylinder-like. Did I say fast? Yes...

Off-road capability is the best here, again by a large margin. Subaru’s AWD systems are as close to the best in the world that few need discuss the differences. If you are going fire-roading at altitude, look no further.

Foresters have exceptional outward visibility for 360 degrees. One reason that exterior cameras have become so popular in the SUV segment is that they generally suck in this area. Not so the Forester.

Subaru’s have excellent reliability, maybe the best at this point. While they have always been good, in the last few years they have become about the best available regardless of cost. The XT is turbocharged, which can mean a lower potential reliability for most makes. Not so much for a Subaru.

The interior quality is competitive in the segment though not outstanding in any way. The stereo system in the Premium version is adequate.

Owning a Subaru is a pleasure. You get nice magazines and dealers are aggressive in keeping you a Subaru owner.

The XT has a CVT transmission. However, unlike the standard engine Forester, the XT has “fake” shift points that simulate a regular automatic and paddle shifters to simulate a manual transmission. They work very well.

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Seating comfort is awful. A sure fix for those who don’t like their CR-V seats is to drive a Subaru (non-WRX) for a few hundred miles. You will change your opinion. This is no joke and no minor matter. In reality, seats are the main reason that I don’t remain a Subaru owner.

The suspension is calibrated for the standard 185 HP model. The XT overwhelms it. The XT also outweighs it. Being a fairly tall vehicle with high ground clearance, the extra HP’s are more of a detriment than a plus for most users most of the time. The main advantage is when driving with passengers and loads in mountainous or hilly terrain.

The XT requires premium fuel, and gets modest MPG’s while doing so. That significantly knocks down the utility rating.

The XT is relatively expensive. Dealers like keeping you a customer, but the demand for XT’s is fairly high, and their availability fairly low. The overall value level is average IMO.

The verdict – Relatively expensive, painful seats, and mediocre mileage with premium fuel required. It has the look of a sports CUV, but the suspension and wheel/tire package don’t support the appearance. The engine is excellent for hauling people and gear up to high altitude play locations though.

Mazda CX-5 Touring AWD 2016.5

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Zoom Zoom – Driven with zest, the CX-5 is fairly quick, with superior handling, suspension, steering, driving position, and overall ergonomics. Mazda clearly put a lot of effort into the CX-5 and it shows in a lot of ways.

The center BMW-like control knob is a real treat. It’s worth driving one just to check it out. Excellent implementation.

The interior’s appearance is first rate, almost Audi A4-like. It has a refined, Teutonic look that’s very nice indeed. The seats are supportive and moderately comfortable.

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The stereo is one of the worst I’ve experienced since 8 Tracks. I thought there must be something wrong with it until I looked on-line and saw that there was general agreement. I’m no audio geek, but I do like to listen to music when I drive. You literally wouldn’t do that it a CX-5. It makes no sense at all. Come on, Mazda 

It’s relatively small in terms of storage area. The sleek-ish rear end means that loading large-ish objects, like bikes, isn’t going to happen easily, or at all. The sport/utility ratio is clearly on the side of sport here.

The controls and materials generally have a lesser quality feel and response versus other vehicles here.

While the CX-5 can be driven relatively quickly, you have to drive it aggressively to make it be so. At lower revs, it’s just slow, subjectively at least easily the slowest here other than the Rogue. In everyday driving, the CR-V feels livelier for instance. While it may appeal to the Zoom-Zoom crowd, I personally don’t want a CUV to mimic a small sports car. Just me though.

The transmission mapping is complex and not terribly well calibrated. In standard mode, it upshifts very quickly in order to maximize MPG’s. Calling for power on hills or when already at speed has the trans shifting through its gears rather significantly. There is a sports mode that eliminates the issue however. Unfortunately, the sports mode tends to hold a lower gear almost to redline when there is no need to do so. There are paddle shifters as well, and the combination of sports mode and the paddles is the treat. One must think that most people just want to get to the grocery store though, not simulate LeMans.

Verdict – On the small side, horrible stereo, dealer has the lowest discounts available next to Toyota, making the end price in line with models with much better feature sets. It doesn’t feel right to put down the CX-5 though. It gives the impression of a product that’s trying really hard to be good at what it is.
 

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
Honda CR-V 2016 EX AWD

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It’s a Honda. While some may bemoan the overall level of execution versus prior years, there is still the belief, at least to me, that it will last a long time, not strand you on the side of the road, and offer good value both at purchase and at trade-in.

Mine has no vibration issues. I drove three 2016 CR-V’s and none of them exhibited any vibration issues. To the contrary, my CR-V is impressively smooth. It’s easily the smoothest engine/transmission among those reviewed here.

I may be wrong, but Honda dealers seem much more willing to offer significant price incentives on the CR-V than in prior years. Whether this is in part due to the 2015’s vibration issues, or the impending 2017 redesign I don’t know. Out the door, the EX AWD was the second lowest priced vehicle, which given its quality and feature list, it had no place being.

It’s usefully quick. Subjectively, only the Subaru and Escape are quicker, and they’re both turbos, require expensive fuel, and get lesser gas mileage.

Steering and overall handling are composed. It’s an easy vehicle to run a few hundred miles. It uses little gas and is a low-stress experience.

It’s relatively quiet except on rough road surfaces.

Even without the EX-L’s stereo upgrade and sub-woofer, the EX has adequate sound, particularly when cranked up a few notches.

Mine gets really good gas mileage. It gets high 20’s around town and mid 30’s on the highway at moderately fast speeds.
The CVT implementation is very good. It doesn’t tend to immediately go to high revs unless you really tell it to. Unless you tell someone, there is no real CVT driving characteristics that a passenger might be aware of.

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CR-V’s are boring. Owning one labels you as a herd-following conforming non-risk taker.

The right-turn camera seems more of a gimmick that’s trying unsuccessfully to stay up with the Jones’s than being a significant safety feature.

I don’t need to be told that it’s my responsibility to drive safely every time I want to listen to the stereo.

The need to flip the stereo’s face down to load a disc is unfortunate. The button that you need to press to do this is very small, making the disc-change sequence similar to texting and driving.

Handling is composed, but not aggressive or sporty by a wide margin. It doesn’t generally like to be pushed, and combined with the heavy steering doesn’t transient from corner to corner well. Only the Rav4 is worse in this regard.

Verdict – Notice that the CR-V isn’t listed last. That’s because it isn’t the best vehicle here. Actually, every other vehicle does one or more things better than the CR-V. Sometimes much better. Unlike the rest though, the CR-V has no significant weaknesses, and does most things very well. Given good pricing by dealers and high resale value, it remains a compelling selection.

Ford Escape SE 2L EcoBoost (2016)

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The Escape is the best vehicle here, and in many ways by a large margin. Anyone who thinks otherwise very likely hasn’t driven one. It’s just really, really good.

The 2 liter Eco-boost and transmission package are close to world-class. While it’s not as fast as the Forester XT, there always seems to be power available to do whatever you ask of it, and the transmission seems to have read your mind (or foot) and has already selected the optimal gear for you. As a road (rather than off-road) vehicle, the Escape obliterates the Forester in every imaginable way. By the numbers, the Escape is only slightly faster than the CX-5. By the seat of the pants, it’s a completely different experience.

The handling, steering, and suspension package is superb. Overall body movement is very well controlled, but bump compliance remains exemplary. Again, it almost feels like the vehicle has some form of artificial intelligence. Bumps are absorbed but the ride remains firm.

The test vehicle was an SE with the leather package. The material quality wouldn’t have been out of place at twice the price. The seats are comfortable and provide adequate side bolstering as well.

The stereo system is easily the best here. It’s very good regardless of price and should satisfy all but the most discriminating listener.

The 2017 Escapes are arriving at dealers now. They may be giving very aggressive pricing to move the 2016’s. The MSRP on the test vehicle was around $32k. Discounted, it was less than the RAV4 and Rogue, which really isn’t quite fair.

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It’s a Ford Escape. Its resale value just isn’t in the same league as a Subaru, Honda, or Toyota. While it may be reliable overall, there is still at least the impression that it both isn’t as good as the above three, and that there is greater likelihood of catastrophic failures. In addition, many Ford service departments have less than stellar reputations for correcting non-standard issues.
The interior, while of very good quality, is rather busy in a decidedly Star Wars manner. Of course, if you like Star Wars, that might be a plus. There is also less front storage than any of the others with the possible exception of the CX-5.
It requires at least “plus” level fuel to run at its advertised output and mileage figures. Combined with somewhat lesser overall mileage, fuel costs are going to be higher than all the normally aspirated models here.
Verdict – it’s a great vehicle that should be a must on your test drive list. If I wasn’t a boring, conforming, non-risk taker I would have purchased it instead of the CR-V.

Acura RDX AWD Technology
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Has a very nice V-6 and 6-speed auto transmission (not CVT). It’s smooth and fast.
Excellent stereo system, easily better than anything else tested here.

Seems generally quieter than the CR-V.

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Costs around $10k more than the comparable CR-V. Dealers not interested in discounts.

Handling is worse than CR-V.

Significantly worse gas mileage. Premium fuel highly recommended.

Verdict – In the Escape’s case, checking the 2.0L Eco-boost option to the SE trim level transforms a vehicle that isn’t competitive with the base engine and trim to something that in many ways is the class leader. While not considered in the CR-V’s class, the RDX is still a CR-V with a V-6. The ten thousand dollar question then is whether Acura has created something that justifies the price jump.

That turns out to be an easy question. No, it hasn’t. In my opinion, rather the reverse. The CR-V can just as well be considered an RDX with no-cost handling and fuel economy upgrade that also costs at least $10k less.
While the V-6 is a great engine tied to a capable transmission, as with the Forrester XT, the suspension isn’t configured to deal with the additional power and weight. The RDX also handles like a boat. The CR-V, no BMW itself, is superior. The steering is lighter than the CR-V’s, making the excessive body role even more obvious.
Unlike the Escape, where the 2.0L Eco-boost is more of a requirement than a luxury on AWD versions, the CR-V isn’t slow, making the V-6 a premium fuel guzzling extravagance in most conditions.

I think the justifiable price difference between the CR-V and RDX is about the same as the cost of the Ecoboost in the Escape, about $2500. The rest is what you’re paying Acura/Honda to bend the top of the H badge into an A.
 

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Thanks for the very thorough review of compact suv's. Perfection is a worthy goal and sometimes close is enough. There are so many compromises each of us are faced with. Overall satisfaction is what keeps me loyal to a particular brand. Honda CR-V does it for me!



Enjoy the ride.
 

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Great job.
Add in the fact that the CRV was the only one I "connected" to and it's easy to see why I stayed in the Honda fold.
 

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Having just come out of a Ford into the Honda, let me just say the unreliability of the Ford product and the ineptitude of the dealers simply cannot be over stated. I'll take boring every day and twice on Sunday.

Sent from my note 4 using Tapatalk.
 

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Great reviews. I share the opinion that the CR-V isn't the best at any one thing, but it is good at most things and poor at almost none. I never would have imagined I'd own a compact SUV, but I ended up with one and I've really been enjoying it. Another observation I agree with is the handling of the CR-V - it's reasonably comfortable and composed during normal driving, but it does get loose when driven hard and doesn't inspire much confidence in emergency handling.

The Escape was the only other small SUV I seriously considered, but I couldn't get past the "Ford" badging and faster depreciation. The reliability and resale value of the six Hondas I've owned in the last 10 years have kept me coming back and staying away from other brands.
 

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I haven't thrown the crv around too much yet, but I did notice it did take a pretty hard nose dive under emergency braking.

Sent from my note 4 using Tapatalk.
 

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Coming from a Pilot and xc70 the CRV feels positively sporty.
If you are coming from a BMW, you might think otherwise
 

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Thanks for the write-up. I agree with your assessment except for the Escape, which I cross-shopped seriously before buying a CRV. Here are my reasons for putting the Escape behind the CRV (and CX5 and RAV4):

1) The rear seat is pretty uninhabitable - limited room, low cushions, massive amounts of hard plastic. In other words, no place you'd want your friends to spend time.

2) For an SUV, the roof rack situation is ridiculous: with a sunroof the maximum load carrying capacity is 45 pounds, including any rack components you need to add. So, no canoes or kayaks and only one bicycle. Really, Ford?

3) EcoBoost engines. We'll see about long-term durability, but no owner I know comes close to EPA fuel economy estimates. My own EcoBoost rental car experience is similar. Ford's turbo strategy seems to program them to produce good fuel economy numbers only when driven exactly according to the EPA test cycle. Look at an EcoBoost Ford at a stoplight: see the soot accumulated around the exhaust outlets? To avoid pre-ignition with other than gentle throttle with the recommended 87 octane fuel, Ford seems to richen the fuel/air mix considerably which in turn destroys fuel economy.

4) Then there's the whole Ford thing of less-than-average assembly and material quality and resale value. I own another Ford and love my dealer, but just couldn't pull the trigger on an Escape.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
My understanding of your points on the Escape-

1. For the base model, I would tend to agree. The one I was interested in was an SE with the leather package, which creates a very different interior environment. The SE and above rear seats also have the advantage of reclining.

2. The roof rack spec is odd and makes no obvious sense. The 45 pound restriction only applies to the models with sun roofs. The implication then seems to be that the sun roof somehow compromises the top's structural integrity to the point that it can't support almost any weight at all. That also makes no sense as the rails are in no way attached to the sun roof structure. What actually seems to be going on is that the limitation is associated with the vehicle's center of gravity, and that the difference in capacity is literally the weight of the sun roof assembly. This would seem highly paranoid on Ford's part until you recall the little issue with the Explorer tipping over.

3. Turbo engines are chameleons. Driven conservatively, they can perform much like their displacement would indicate. It's all too easy to get Turbo fever though, because it's fun and you paid for the engine and spendy gas. Unfortunately, it all too common for the boost-addicted to complain they aren't getting the mileage that the government promised they would on the window sticker.

Just like everything else other than Christie Brinkley when she was younger, the Escape isn't perfect, and one must be wise in selecting options, levels, and engines where those types of choices aren't available on most all of its competitors.
 

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I ditched the Escape not on interior quality but the issue that it's so much smaller the the CRV while the equinox fell off because it's way bigger outside but not inside.
 

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Well done...thanks
 

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There are a million reviews out there. By professionals and amateurs and wannabe pros and those who think they are better than anyone else. And they all disagree with each other. And some even thank each other? Who cares? Everyone makes up their own mind.

"I bought this because ...... ". "Didn't like this ......" "Of course its' the best because I bought it". Blah blah blah.

Who cares. :p
 

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There are a million reviews out there. By professionals and amateurs and wannabe pros and those who think they are better than anyone else. And they all disagree with each other. And some even thank each other? Who cares? Everyone makes up their own mind.

"I bought this because ...... ". "Didn't like this ......" "Of course its' the best because I bought it". Blah blah blah.

Who cares. :p
Anyone who believes knowledge is power cares !! Go back to your comic books and the "informed" members will handle the rest !! Craig
 

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Good write up and one has to really appreciate the time spent to post it here. It will be for sure useful for some as I constantly see prospective buyers asking questions and comparisons.

CR-V’s are boring. Owning one labels you as a herd-following conforming non-risk taker.

Verdict – Notice that the CR-V isn’t listed last. That’s because it isn’t the best vehicle here. Actually, every other vehicle does one or more things better than the CR-V. Sometimes much better. Unlike the rest though, the CR-V has no significant weaknesses, and does most things very well.
This is my favorite from this post. I cant agree more on the boring part but still no real weakness and perhaps the most well rounded vehicle in the segment :)
 

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We all like other peoples reviews if we agree with their opinions. If we don't agree, they must be wrong.

I have never posted my reviews. I could have, but why? Just because I feel something is too big or too small or too noisy or too quiet or too slow or too fast, is just my opinion. Let everyone make up their own minds. That what they do anyway.

Agree or disagree, you have to respect other's opinion. Reviews or comments.

How can a vehicle be boring? I don't get it.

But never-the-less, an entertaining write-up by the OP.
 
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