Looking to switch it up this year and get a new vehicle with a lot more standard features than what your current ride has? The 2021 Honda CR-V is loaded with a lot of them. Even though it is due for an overhaul in 2022, the final iteration of the CR-V's fifth generation has a lot to offer: snappy acceleration coupled with a thrifty fuel economy, a roomy and cozy interior, and an abundance of safety and infotainment features. You just have to get past the obnoxious touchscreen display and avoid using voice command and built-in navigation. At least that can be negated by utilizing the smartphone app integration via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto (available on all but the base LX trim).
What's New for 2021?
Nothing changes for the 2021 model year. Honda is saving its changes for what is coming in 2022. A light refresh in 2020 saw the standardization of the turbo 1.5-L engine (which was definitely a smart move on Honda's part), tweaked exterior styling, and more advanced driver aids on each trim level. For 2022, you can expect the turbo 1.5-L and continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT for short) to still be equipped) but for the design to be much more contemporary, sporting a two-tiered grille. For now, though, buyers will have to settle with the single-tier that adorns the 2021 CR-V. It's already a beautiful vehicle and not all that dated to begin with.
Top 10 Reasons to Buy a 2021 Honda CR-V – The Pros
1. Swift Acceleration Plus Excellent Fuel Efficiency (Equals A Lot of Fun)
The turbo 1.5-L engine is a little spitfire. While it might take 8.2 seconds to get from 0 to 60 mph, it does so without much hesitation. And that's on the all-wheel drive model. That might not sound like a thrilling ride, and it isn't, but it isn't boring by any stretch of the imagination. For daily commutes, it is most certainly adequate, and for family roadtrips, it is more than acceptable. You can actually have fun cruising around, too, given that the CVT shifts smoothly between gears. And, of course, fuel efficiency is respectable with 30 mpg combined on the front-wheel drive.
2. Spacious Interior
Compact crossovers aren't exactly known for being superbly spacious, but the CR-V feels quite cavernous. The dimensions are bigger than what you will find in most of the other vehicles in this segment, and Honda knows how to make the most of the space it has. You can easily fit two full-sized adults in the back seat without anyone's legs or heads feeling cramped. Yes, even those over 6 feet in height won't feel crammed in since the roof gives plenty of space above and the seats aren't positioned too high.
3. A Massive Cargo Area
Need a lot of space to store your cargo? Then you're in luck. The 2021 Honda CR-V is a segment leader when it comes to cargo space. Behind the rear seats, you get 39.2 cubic feet of cargo space. Fold those seats all the way down (and, mind you, they go down quite easily) to max out at 75.8 cubes. You can fit a few weeks' worth of groceries back there, load up on luggage or camping gear, or hit the golf course with a few of your best friends. Not only is it spacious, but its design is useful and versatile.
4. Plenty of Ride Comfort
Hondas are known for giving you just the right type of ride comfort, and the 2021 Honda CR-V does not disappoint. The line-topping Touring trim comes with beefy 19-inch wheels and shorter tire sidewalls, but even then, the ride quality does not get terribly compromised. Rough, jagged, broken road surfaces are handled with ease, and the suspension takes care of dispatching any large or small bumps before they make their way into the cabin.
5. Athletic Handling Capabilities
Overall, the CR-V's driving performance is impeccable. The handling? Well, that's even sportier than you might think. Many smaller crossovers have handling capabilities that are just average or even exhibit a bit of body roll. Not so on the CR-V. The CR-V remains controlled in all situations but is also fun and athletic. Coupled with responsive and precise steering, the CR-V is able to round through sweeping turns with ease, never once jostling its passengers about.
6. Versatile Small Item Storage Areas
Make the most of what you've got; this is a concept that Honda has honed to perfection. Small item storage areas are abundant and well-sized inside of the CR-V. The center bin is deep and has a sliding tray that can cover up your valuables while serving double-duty holding your extra pennies.
7. An Easy-to-use LATCH System
Need to secure a kiddo or two into child safety seats? Doing so in the CR-V is simple. The LATCH anchors are well within reach, not buried beneath the cushions. Also, with how much space exists in the back, putting rear-facing car seats in is a breeze. Older kids can climb in and out without a hassle, too.
8. Honda Sensing
One of the best features to come on the Honda CR-V is actually a bundle of features - driver aids, to be more specific. The Honda Sensing suite takes all the driver aids you could possible want and bundles them into one neat package. The best part? It comes standard on each trim level. This gives you access to forward collision warning as well as the collision mitigation braking system, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, and lane keep assist. Upgrading to the EX trim level (just one up from the base LX) adds blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert.
9. A Ton of Standard Infotainment Features
If you skip over the base LX trim level (which we assume many buyers will), you can access a ton of standard infotainment features on the EX trim level. This trim comes with a 7-inch infotainment screen, multiple USB ports, and has standard smartphone app integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Not to mention you can also pair compatible devices with Bluetooth for hands-free phone calling and audio streaming. If you go up to the EX-L trim level, you get upgraded to an 8-speaker audio system.
10. A Smooth CVT
Normally, we aren't big fans of CVTs. They tend to be clunky in their power delivery and, when they break down, they are insanely difficult and expensive to repair. So they kind of double-whammy you. But Honda puts out some good CVTs, and this is one of them. Its power delivery is smooth, and it never seems to get lost searching for gears. Its response feels natural.
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Reasons Not to Buy a 2021 Honda CR-V – The Cons
1. A Finicky Touchscreen Without a Separate Tuning Knob
Not having a separate tuning knob makes dealing with the 2021 Honda CR-V's fussy touchscreen display all the more frustrating. The menus for the built-in navigation are way clunkier than they ought to be, and the voice control system struggles with understanding natural speech patterns. Best to rely on your smartphone to handle those tasks. The less you have to rely on the touchscreen, the better.
2. Below-average Towing
A capable tower, the CR-V is not. Its max towing capacity is 1,500 pounds, whereas others in this segment can best it by up to 2,000 pounds. This means you won't be taking an RV or a large boat anywhere with you. Fingers crossed that Honda will up the max towing capacity for the 2022 overhaul.
3. Automatic Climate Control Doesn't Always Maintain the Temperature You Set
This is a minor gripe for us, but it could be more of an annoyance when you deal with it every day. The automatic climate control system doesn't always maintain the exact temperature you set it at, so you will have to readjust it as needed, lest the vehicle get too hot or cold.
4. The CR-V is Driving Style Sensitive
Fuel efficiency is top-notch, but that kinda-sorta depends on how you drive the CR-V. And by that, we mean, if you have a lead foot, you'll get lower than the EPA estimates. A more aggressive driving style could average about 28 mpg combined whereas a more conservative driving style could net you somewhere around 35-36 mpg combined. Therefore, don't expect your return to be spot-on with EPA estimates.
How It Stacks Up to the Competition:
2021 Honda CR-V vs. 2021 Mazda CX-5
The 2021 Mazda CX-5 is stiff competition for the CR-V with its competitive price tag. It offers sharp steering and handling capabilities meant to rival the CR-V, and its cabin is designed with quality in mind. If you opt for the turbocharged engine, you will get an amount of power fit to rival that of the CR-V's. However, the CX-5 has a base engine that struggles to accelerate and cannot hold its own against the CR-V. Also, the CX-5 has a firmer ride quality and less space in the cargo area and in the rear seat.
2021 Honda CR-V vs. 2021 Nissan Rogue
The 2021 Nissan Rogue is priced at about the equivalent as the CR-V, and it offers a ton of standard features for the price. Its ride quality and seating comfort rank right up there with the CR-V. Its advanced driver aids are user-friendly, offering those who aren't tech-savvy an opportunity to feel at-home in a brand-new vehicle. On the downside, the Rogue gets a lot of wind and road noise coming into the cabin at highway speeds. Its rear seat is also not quite as spacious as the CR-V's. On top of that, its voice recognition system gets confused quite easily.
All in all, the 2021 Honda CR-V is a segment leader. While many are likely to wait for the 2022 overhaul to hit the market, buying a 2021 model is far from being a bad choice. In fact, it is a really good one. If you have your heart set on getting a new small SUV, the CR-V is one of our top picks.
• Why buy a 2020 Honda CR-V? w/ pros vs cons