We will soon to be in the market to buy an SUV, as our Audi A4 simply doesn’t suit our needs anymore, with the new addition to our family. From the HR-V, Honda’s mini SUV to the full-size Acura MDX and everything in between, we had the opportunity of testing the entire utility vehicle lineup that Honda/Acura has to offer. Keep in mind that I was reviewing these vehicles with the consideration of them possibly becoming our next family car, so I placed a heavier emphasis on versatility, practicality, fuel economy, and price.
2016 Acura MDX Elite
I’ve been a fan of the Acura MDX for awhile now, and I think it’s one of the more attractive looking SUV’s out there. This three-row luxury crossover SUV was introduced in 2000, and is now in its 3rd generation. With a 3.5L V6 engine, it puts out 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque, giving it plenty of pull off the line. It comes with a standard 9-speed automatic transmission with push-button gear selection, which I’m not a big fan of. Call me old fashioned, but I still prefer the tactile feeling of a traditional gear box and shift knob. It does take some getting used to, as there were times in the beginning when I wasn’t sure whether I was in park or not. This is the same gearbox found in the Honda Pilot (reviewed later below). With a 2-3-2 seating configuration, it is very comfortable, offers plenty of rear legroom (nearly enough to fully stretch out your legs), and offers ample cargo space (68.4 cubic feet).
I love the 360-degree camera, which even provides a sweet aerial view when you’re parallel parking. However I am not a fan of the 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system, as I found it difficult to navigate and just not that intuitive. I spent a lot of time poking around while trying to access some pretty basic functions. In addition, the navigation system doesn’t zoom in closer than 80 metres, and I noticed that there were hardly any street labels for side streets. In contrast, my Audi allows you to zoom in to 30 metres, so you can really drill down to the small street details (maybe it’s an option within the Navigation system to change that? I couldn’t find it). My biggest knock on the MDX has to be its fuel efficiency. Over the course of a week, I averaged around 17L/100 km (~14 MPG) in the city, and I was driving it pretty conservatively. It has a government rating of 18 MPG in the city, which really isn’t far off from what I was able to achieve. It has an auto stop-start engine idle feature (which you can turn off), which is supposed to help make it more fuel efficient, but overall I still found it to be too thirsty (plus, it takes Premium gasoline). With a push-start ignition, I also noticed that you actually have to press the button 4 times in order to fully turn off and disengage the vehicle. I’m not sure if that was a particular vehicle setting, but it wasn’t that way in any other Honda/Acura that I tested (again, perhaps it’s a feature that can be disabled).
The newly refreshed 2017 model was just unveiled at the New York International Auto Show, as it was made lighter and more aerodynamic with new bumpers in the front and back, a new diamond pentagon front grille, and redesigned LED headlights. The infotainment system in the 2017 model has also been updated, and I suspect that it’s same one found in the 2016 Honda Pilot.
Price: Starting from $55,141 ($67,141 test model)
It’s a beautiful SUV, but the fuel efficiency is a deal breaker for me on this one.
2015 Honda CR-V Touring
The CR-V is Honda’s compact mid-range utility vehicle, slotting in between the smaller HR-V and the larger Pilot. I was particularly interested in testing the CR-V, because it seems to be the logical step up from a sedan to SUV for a small family, and it also happens to be the best-selling utility vehicle on the planet. The CR-V received quite a significant facelift in 2015, and I have to admit they did a great job with it. The CR-V has never been that eye-catching to me as I always found its styling to be a bit bland, but that certainly changed with this particular iteration as it looks more stylish and modern as ever. The 2015 and 2016 models are nearly identical, with the exception of the 2016 having slightly upgraded interior trim.
Cargo space for its class is decent, with 37.2 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats up, and 70.9 with them folded down, making it slightly smaller than the Toyota Rav4, but slightly larger than the Ford Escape. Surprisingly, it actually has 2 more cubic feet of cargo space than the much larger Acura MDX. It barely just fits our Uppababy Cruz stroller though. Yes, the stroller storage test is an important one for us. The CR-V does score high marks when it comes to ride comfort, as it’s both spacious and quiet in the cabin.
Fuel economy is exceptional in the CR-V, with its new CVT transmission married to the 2.4L 4-cylinder engine that produces 185 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque (+11% over the 2014 model). It gets around 26/33 MPG (city/highway), which out performs both the RAV4 and Escape (both rated at 22/29 MPG). If you’re a city driver, you can expect to average around 9L/100km, which is phenomenal. Plus, it takes Regular gasoline as well, another bonus these days with gas prices being quite high.
The dash display is cleverly laid out, although I found the infotainment buttons on the side of the unit too small, and like the Acura MDX, the touchscreen system a bit tough to navigate. I also wasn’t a big fan of the side camera that activates when you’re turning, as I found the display more distracting than helpful. I think you can turn that feature off though.
The 2015 CR-V is neither sporty nor particularly quick, but it prioritizes interior space and fuel efficiency is great, it’s earnestly versatile, and boasts cleverly chosen features in a way that buyers appear to crave.
Price: Starting from $28,041 ($38,751 test model)
With its great fuel efficiency and modern styling, it’s easy to see why the CR-V is a perennial favourite with consumers, as it seems to be getting better and better with each iteration.
2016 Honda HR-V (FWD)
The Honda HR-V is Honda’s newest entry into the crossover segment. Marketed as a subcompact crossover (or mini SUV), it’s much smaller than the CR-V and is a great budget-friendly option for those looking for a small 5-seater crossover. It competes in a class along with the Mazda CX-3 and the Nissan Juke. We tested the front-wheel drive version, however it is also available in AWD as well. It comes paired with a 141 horsepower 1.8L four-cylinder engine that’s married to a CVT or 6-speed manual. I noticed that it drove quite smoothly, and the paddle shifting was also very quick and responsive, but the real bonus is that as a CVT transmission, it saves on fuel economy, which is already rated at an impressive 28/35 MPG (city/highway). It had great visibility out of the rear quarter windows, giving the car near 360-degree visibility. I also scored it high marks in the looks department as its aggressive styling makes it quite attractive. Vehicle controls are nicely laid out and all touch sensitive. It also comes equipped with a ton of standard and optional active and passive safety features such as lane-departure warning. The infotainment system was also an upgrade from the CR-V. The flat-folding second-row makes it great for modest cargo hauling.
One annoyance that I had was there is no auto unlock feature for the backdoors, as you need to unlock the back doors from the front seat, which isn’t always ideal, especially if I’m going out with just the baby. The backseat door handles are also placed in an awkward position, positioned on the side of the window rather than below it like most normal vehicles. The rear cargo cover was also quite flimsy as well. If you’re looking for power and excitement, you’re not really going to find it in the HR-V. However if you’re looking for a small vehicle that’s more versatile and spacious than a Civic or Fit, which has comparable fuel economy, then the HR-V might be the right vehicle for you.
Price: Starting from $20,690 ($25,041 test model)
While it might appeal to some, it’s just not as practical for us as we are looking for something larger and more spacious. Pass.
2016 RDX Elite
I’ve always considered the Acura RDX to be the beefier, more expensive, and generally more premium version of the Honda CR-V. However after testing it out, I realized that the two are even more different than I had originally thought. The 2016 model comes refreshed with all-new LED headlights and taillights. While the exterior dimensions are more or less the same as the CR-V, there’s quite a different story to be told under the hood. While the CR-V has a 185 horsepower 4-cylinder engine that runs on regular gas, the RDX sports a 279 horsepower V6 that takes premium gas. Unlike the CR-V which has a CVT transmission, the RDX has a 6-speed automatic. It is also rated at 19/28 MPG (city/highway) compared to the more efficient CR-V which achieves 25/31 MPG. Behind the wheel, the difference is quite significant, as the heavier RDX is well-powered, smooth, but yet still extremely comfortable.
But what I found most surprising is that it has nearly 10 cubic feet less cargo space than the CR-V, despite it having the same amount of legroom in the front and rear seats and being 5 inches longer. The rear seats are great, as they’re stadium seats that sit slightly higher than the front seats. This makes it great for long car rides with kids in the back.
Price: Starting from $43,841 ($48,991 test model)
Fun to drive with great premium features, but I think Honda has really closed the gap and made the CR-V much more appealing to a broader audience.
2016 Honda Pilot Touring
I have to admit, I was most excited to try the Honda Pilot, which was newly redesigned for 2016. I was never a big fan of exterior styling of the first- or second-generation Pilots, so the new design definitely had me intrigued. And I had read a bunch of beaming reviews of it as well. The new 2016 model is around 4 inches longer than the outgoing Pilot, and right away you’ll notice that it is sleeker and less boxy that the old model. The exterior is further accented by LED headlights and taillights. From the outside, the Pilot is more or less exactly the same size as the Acura MDX, while on the inside the 2nd and 3rd rows of seats offer slightly more legroom than the Acura. The Pilot comes equipped with the same 3.5L V6 that is found in the MDX, except the Pilot puts out 10 horsepower less. The Pilot also comes with an available 8 passengers option (2-3-3 configuration), while the MDX seats 7 (2-3-2 configuration).
A photo posted by @dennispang & @em_pang (@pangcouver) on
The test vehicle we had came fully loaded. In truth, if you removed the badging from this vehicle, you’d think you’re sitting in an Acura MDX. Honda has really come a long way in narrowing the gap between their Honda and Acura vehicles. It used to be that the Acuras were miles ahead of their Honda counterparts in terms of fit, finish, and refinement, but it’s clearly not the case anymore. I actually used the Pilot during our office move and the sheer volume of stuff that I was able to put into it was nothing short of amazing, as it boasts a whopping 83.9 cubic feet of cargo space with both rear rows folded down. By contrast, the MDX has 68.4 cubic feet of cargo space. Driving conservatively in Eco mode, I was able to get gas consumption to around 15L/100km in the city. So you should have no problems getting at least 450km per 73L tank. I should point out that it also takes regular gas instead of premium like the MDX. So you should be able to save quite a bit of money at the pumps just from that alone. I don’t have many negative things to say about the Pilot, other than it felt underpowered and heavy at times, but I don’t think you can expect otherwise from a full-size SUV. And as mentioned before, I wasn’t a fan of the push-button gearbox either.
Price: Starting from $37,341 ($52,341 test model)
With the Pilot being $15,000-18,000 less expensive than the MDX, the Pilot really makes you wonder why you would ever consider getting an MDX.
To recap, of the 5 vehicles we tested, I liked the Honda CR-V and Pilot the most. I went into this comparison test thinking that I’d love the MDX and RDX, but the truth is I think Honda has done a fantastic job in recent years of making their Honda vehicles feel and look more premium. By no means is this meant to be a knock on Acuras, as their vehicles are solid and they’re an upscale brand that caters to a more premium market. At this time though, neither the MDX or RDX is quite right for us. While the Pilot might be too big for our family, I will be giving the CR-V a long hard look when it comes time to purchase our next vehicle later this fall.
2016 Acura MDX
2015 Honda CR-V
2016 Honda HR-V (FWD)
2016 Acura RDX
2016 Honda Pilot
Disclaimer: We were loaned the vehicles by Honda Canada. Our opinions and thoughts are our own, and were not compensated in any way for this review.