With no big updates for 2021, we test a new Honda CR-V against a used Honda CR-V to find out which SUV is the best value.
Honda might not be the flashiest automaker on the planet, but that hasn’t stopped them from influencing the landscape as much as practically any other. One of those shifts was the Honda CR-V. Since its introduction, it’s played a large role in the popularization of the crossover platform. The 2021 CR-V is the most innovative version yet. Still, we’ve called a used CR-V one of the best vehicles you can buy. What happens when you compare the two against each other though? We’re here to find out.
The newest CR-V generation was introduced all the way back in 2017. Since then it’s been gently massaged into a seriously good value for money with more features, technology, and styling than ever before. For our comparison, we’re looking at the latest CR-V for new and its earlier 2018 model used. Since they’re on the same platform, they share many properties.
The used Honda CR-V model comes with a choice of either a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder with 184 horsepower or a 1.5-liter turbocharged engine that actually makes just a bit more at 190 horsepower. For 2021, that turbocharged engine is the only option, in part because it’s more fuel-efficient, scoring 2 miles per gallon better (29 vs 27) than the larger 2.4-liter engine. Both feed power to the front wheels through a CVT, but all-wheel-drive is optional across each range.
Pricing for a used CR-V is of course all over the place depending on mileage, but for a lightly used Touring trim expect to pay somewhere around $32,000. A brand new 2021 Honda CR-V Touring starts at $33,650. That’s pretty close, but considering that a fully optioned new CR-V can jump to $40,000, this becomes a much more interesting comparison.
Since both vehicles come with the 1.5-liter, we’ll consider the difference between the 2018 and its 2.4-liter against the new car with its turbocharged mill. While on paper, these engines provide similar amounts of power, they drive distinctively when it comes to acceleration. Both can pop off the line in a satisfying way, but what’s really surprising is how much better the 2.4-liter feels on the highway. The small turbocharger on the smaller engine really runs out of breath at higher speeds in a way that the naturally aspirated engine doesn’t. Nevertheless, both are capable at any speed.
Braking and handling are really impressive for a vehicle as tall as this one. Part of why we chose the 2018 model is because after the initial year of this generation, Honda revamped the suspension to make it more compliant and that was a good choice. Frankly, each of these CR-V models handle very similarly to a Honda Civic. The biggest benefit of the new model over the old is that, regardless of the trim level, buyers get the more economical and nearly as peppy turbocharged engine.
Overall, the Honda CR-V feels a bit nicer than it’s priced. It’s not going to blow anyone away when it comes to materials or styling, but it’s a step above average. Instead of hard plastics, there are much softer surfaces inside. Instead of simple stamped panels or pieces, there’s detail all around. Visible high-quality stitching and woodgrain accent the cabin nicely and the switchgear feels nice to work with.
Ride quality is very good. Most vehicles that are similarly sized and similarly nimble struggle to soak up bumps, but the CR-V is very compliant. Big bumps in the road that the CR-V meets mid-corner can unsettle it slightly, but the cabin soaks up the broken pavement nicely. The used Honda CR-V suffers from the lightly used shocks that are just a touch slower to react. In addition, road noise is slightly quieter in the new model. Heating and air conditioning are exceptional across both models and fast to react.
In terms of practicality, the CR-V is easy to get into and out of. Cargo spaces are littered throughout and placed in thoughtful areas for maximum utility. The 2018 model doesn’t have as many, but it’s not lagging far behind. At more than 39 cubic feet of storage space behind the rear seats, it’s incredibly spacious. Put the seats down and that nearly doubles to over 75 cubic feet.
To begin with, both years of the Honda CR-V come with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, so long as you avoid the base LX model with its tiny infotainment screen. We found that utilizing your mobile device in unison with the system completely changes the experience of technology in the little Honda. Without it, the touchscreen and menu layout itself can be a bit disjointed and clunky with delayed reactions and oddly placed features. Still, it’s a decent system that will get buyers by without too much frustration once familiarized.
One major difference is that the 2021 Honda CR-V comes with advanced safety equipment regardless of the trim level. It’s also more refined than the used Honda CR-V. Those features include adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, and forward collision mitigation. Another difference comes in the way these two very similar SUVs look. New styling changes to the exterior arrived in 2020 and they really help the new CR-V to stand out from its used competition.
Both get the standard 3-year 36,000-mile limited warranty and a 5-year 60,000-mile powertrain warranty. Unlike some of its rivals, Honda doesn’t offer any factory warranty coverage to second owners, but does provide the option to purchase certified pre-owned CR-Vs.
That difference in warranty coverage is the final blow to the used Honda CR-V in our eyes. The potential pricing gap is at its most around $8,000. While that might sound like a high number, keep in mind that the CR-V holds its value incredibly well. Both vehicles are outstanding and certainly anyone who purchases a used model will still end up with a quality SUV. Nevertheless, improved storage and styling of the new model are important factors in this segment. In addition, knowing that you’re getting a more economical engine and better safety equipment regardless of the trim makes a big difference too. Finally, the factory warranty ensures that for buyers willing to spend just a bit more, their Honda CR-V experience will be a great one.