Revamped Honda CR-V speedy and comfy — but fun?

The 2017 Honda CR-V has a new look and lots of new features. The squarish rear door makes for lots of storage space.

2017 Honda CR-V 1.5T AWD Touring: A new incarnation of a small crossover standard-bearer.

Price: $34,595 as tested (no options on test vehicle).

Marketer’s pitch: Honda said the 2017 CR-V boasts “bold and sophisticated new styling, a more spacious, versatile and premium-quality interior, the model's first-ever available turbocharged engine … [and a] polished, fun-to-drive persona.”

Conventional wisdom: A bevy of awards from Car and Driver, and U.S. News & World Report. 

Reality: And here comes Mr. Cranky Driver’s Seat, spoiling the party. Polished? Yes. Fun to drive? Well …

What’s new: The 2017 CR-V is Honda’s latest update of the small crossover, although like most of the competition, it keeps growing up. Introduced in December, the CR-V exterior and interior definitely became more handsome.

Up to speed: The CR-V’s 1.5-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged engine creates 190 horsepower. That’s a lot for a small SUV, and great for getting onto highways in a hurry.

Shiftless: But coupled to the gearless CVT, the engine screams like a goose when pressed hard. While the fury is there, the sound doesn’t translate into driver confidence, even as the vehicle rockets from 0 to 60 in 7.5 seconds, according to Motor Trend.

On the curves: Fun is not a word I would use to describe the CR-V’s handling. Rolling hills and winding roads are tackled with indifference, and passengers are best to focus on the pretty interior, fancy, comfortable seats, or hot-rod acceleration.

Inside: And the seats are fancy and comfortable, at least in the Touring version. The leather coverings and premium wood grain — both free with the trim level — make the CR-V almost nice enough to be an Acura.

Riding high: The CR-V gives the feeling of driving from on high, which is a neat trick, considering how nice the seats are for hopping in and out without a big climb. At first, I felt the CR-V was a little on the tippy side, but after a few days it seemed not so bad. (I was also recovering from the horrible flu that’s been going around, so that one may be entirely on me.) Still, see what you think when testing.

En-gauged: The CR-V comes with a digital speedometer in a gauge pod that’s clear — no dial is available.

Friends and stuff: The CR-V is an ideal choice for people considering a vehicle for a family, or for taking along fellow couples. The rear seats have plenty of legroom and headroom, although hip room for three passengers can be a little dear in the skinny crossover. The hump and console don’t intrude much, though, and the seat itself is a comfy perch. Cargo space is supremely generous — 39.2 behind the second row and 75.8 behind the first.

Breeding contempt: I think it’s telling that Honda’s nifty new infotainment interface has been getting worse and worse grades from me the more times I use it. I’ve experienced the system in the Pilot and the Accord, among other models, and find the glossy surface to be a pretty feature. And the sound from the speakers is among the best there is. But. There is no learning curve with this unit, no feeling of “it gets better over time.” Changing the source is cumbersome, and the location of the buttons is not standardized from screen to screen. There’s nowhere to rest your wrist when pressing buttons, so a jostle here or a bump there means you disappear into a feature you never expected to see. Using Apple CarPlay takes drivers even one more step down the rabbit hole. Many confusing systems get better with more uses — see General Motors, Toyota, and BMW — and others have been much improved by the automakers, like Ford and Chrysler. But this one is on the wrong trajectory.

Night shift: The headlights sit a bit on the low side, and the overhead map lights are bright and diffuse. Driving at night is not ideal.

Fuel economy: I averaged just under 27 mpg in the usual Driver’s Seat mix of highway and suburban driving, which is not too bad for an all-wheel-drive small crossover.

Where it’s built: Alliston, Ontario.

How it’s built: Consumer Reports predicts the CR-V reliability to be better than average, the same grade it’s received for the last three years.

In the end: The CR-V remains a nice-enough vehicle for carrying passengers in comfort, and the turbo engine has plenty of spunk. And those not enamored of sporty handling or annoyed by the infotainment system might be happy enough. For something sportier, a Mazda CX-5 or Kia Sportage would fit the bill better.

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