Here's how Honda's 2017 CR-V stacks up against rivals

Honda's latest effort has serious competition in America's hottest segment. How will it fare against the Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue and Subaru Forester?

Honda hasn't released all of the key information and key metrics for its 2017 CR-V, but here's the most important thing you need to know: It has a volume knob.

I joke, but it's a big deal. Not necessarily because of what the knob is, but more because of what it represents. The outgoing fourth-generation CR-V had an annoyingly button- and knob-free touchscreen, and this seemingly minor omission blemished what was otherwise a very user-friendly interior (dinging the model's scores in vehicle reviews and satisfaction surveys in the process). As an added bonus, the 2017 CR-V has ditched Honda's novel but cloying twin-screen center stack, and now everything is accessed through a more intuitive single 7-inch touchscreen.

Said another way, there might not have been a lot that needed fixing on the old CR-V, but for its all-new, fifth-generation model, Honda has clearly listened.

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The 2017 CR-V hews closely to Honda's winning formula, but boasts some key improvements.

Andrew Krok/Roadshow

Perhaps more than most other vehicle classes, the compact crossover/SUV segment has a strictly adhered-to formula. It's a high-volume murderers' row of all-new or refreshed talent, with nearly every player in this rapidly growing segment receiving an all-new or substantially facelifted generation over the last 18 months. And no wonder -- this segment is quickly eclipsing the midsize sedan segment as the heart of America's new-car market.

Unsurprisingly, nearly every competitor is within a few millimeters in any given direction of one another, and there's not a lot of variation in terms of approach between the CR-V and key rivals like the Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue, Ford Escape, Subaru Forester and Chevrolet Equinox. The basic formula calls for four-cylinder power, front-wheel drive with available all-wheel drive, five seats and an overall length of around 180 inches. (The Rogue and the Mitsubishi Outlander are class outliers in that they offer just-in-case third-row seating.)

Comparing compact crossovers:

Base Engine (automatic) MPG (FWD, automatic) Overall Length (inches) Cargo Room (seats up/down) Curb Weight (FWD, automatic) Max Towing Capacity Base MSRP
2017 Honda CR-V 2.4L: 184 HP / 180 LB-FT TBA 180.6 39.2 cu-ft 3,307 pounds 1,500 pounds TBA
2017 Ford Escape 2.5L: 168 HP / 170 LB-FT 21 city / 29 hwy 178.1 34.0 / 68.0 cu-ft 3,552 pounds 1,500 pounds $23,600
2017 Hyundai Tucson 2.0L: 164 HP / 151 LB-FT 23 city / 30 hwy 176.2 31.0 / 61.9 cu-ft 3,300 pounds 1,500 pounds $22,700
2017 Kia Sportage 2.4L: 181 HP / 175 LB-FT 23 city / 30 hwy 176.4 30.7 / 60.1 cu-ft 3,305 pounds 2,000 pounds $22,900
2016.5 Mazda CX-5 2.5L: 184 HP / 185 LB-FT 26 city / 33 hwy 178.7 34.1 / 64.8 cu-ft 3,433 pounds N/A $23,595
2016 Nissan Rogue 2.5L: 170 HP / 175 LB-FT 26 city / 33 hwy 182.3 39.3 / 70.0 cu-ft 3,408 pounds 1,000 pounds $23,330
2017 Subaru Forester 2.5L: 170 HP/174 LB-FT 26 city / 32 hwy 181.5 34.4 / 74.4 cu-ft 3,395 pounds 1,500 pounds $22,395
2017 Toyota RAV4 2.5L: 176 HP / 172 LB-FT 23 city / 30 hwy 183.5 38.4 / 73.4 cu-ft 3,455 pounds 1,500 pounds $24,910

Indeed, to look at the specs, there aren't a great many packaging changes between the CR-V's own generations: The 2017 model's new chassis includes a slightly longer wheelbase (104.7 inches vs. 103.1), and the entire vehicle spans 180.6 inches, less than an inch longer than its predecessor. It's also fractionally wider, at 73 inches in width versus 71.6 inches.

These slight dimensional changes yield a back seat that has 2 inches more legroom and 2 cubic feet of additional cargo space behind the second-row seats (39.2 cubes vs. 37.2), although Honda has yet to disclose how much total cargo space the new model has with the seats down. The CR-V's most interesting specification may be that it's lost a little heft, with curb weight for the base front-drive model coming in at 3,307 pounds vs. 3,358.

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High-mounted rear lamps look better than before and improve visibility.

Andrew Krok/Roadshow

Breaking with tradition, the CR-V will now be available with more than one engine. As before, a 2.4-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder will be the standard powerplant, generating a healthy 184 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque, enough to make it one of the more powerful base engines in its class.

A smaller but slightly more powerful 1.5-liter turbocharged I4 will be available on upper trims, good for 190 hp and 179 pound-feet. This is the first time a CR-V has received forced induction, and the new engine's main benefit figures to be more torque lower in the rev range. Roadshow has already experienced this new small-displacement engine in the latest Civic, and it's a peach. Regardless of which engine you buy, a continuously variable transmission is standard, just like the Nissan Rogue.

Buyers will have to wait for the 2017 CR-V's EPA fuel economy estimates to come in, but I wouldn't expect those figures to decrease from the 2016 model's excellent 26 miles per gallon rating in the city and 32 mpg on the highway. In fact, given its updated powertrains and slightly lighter weight, those figures might increase.

The 2017 CR-V is slated to go on sale in December, and pricing is expected to arrive just prior to the first vehicles hitting showrooms.

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