Motor Trend's 2015 SUV of the Year Surprised Many, but It Shouldn't Have

Graph by author. Data source: Automotive News Data Center.

What's new for the 2015 CR-V?

Honda's initial fourth-generation CR-V wasn't exactly a flop, but it certainly missed the mark with critics. That's why Honda's 2015 refresh was a significant one, and one that needed to stir up some positive attention or risk losing ground to Ford's Escape. The CR-V has evolved into a very important sales pillar for the Japanese automaker, and its mid-cycle refresh brought on more than 60 improvements.

Honda's 2015 CR-V interior was improved. Source: Honda

2015 brought some fresh features and updated styling, but the headline was the CR-V's revised 2.4-liter engine with a continuously variable transmission, or CVT. The engine is rated at 185 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque, and consumers can select front- or all-wheel drive on every available trim. Honda's CR-V is estimated to get 29 mpg combined, or 27 mpg city/34 mpg highway, with the front-wheel-drive option. The all-wheel drive takes each of those figures down 1 mpg.

One stereotype that holds true for Honda's CR-V is that consumers are getting a solid deal. IntelliChoice estimates that the CR-V's cost of ownership is roughly $4,500 less than the class average. The 2015 CR-V also makes a much-needed improvement to its interior, where it has lost some ground to Nissan 's Rogue and Toyota 's RAV 4, and has been lauded for using higher-quality materials.

"The competition will find it difficult to match the new CR-V in looks, fuel economy, feature content and safety, but where it really stands out is value for the money," according to Kelley Blue Book.

Bottom line

Ultimately, this is a bigger deal for Honda than many would believe. Detroit has long been known to dominate the industry in terms of two products: full-size trucks and SUVs. Both segments represent much higher profitability, as well as two of the highest-volume selling segments. To put it bluntly, these segments are extremely important for the bottom line. That's even more true for Japanese automakers because Ford, General Motors , and Chrysler have had the full-size truck segment on lockdown -- any success Japanese automakers have with SUVs is a huge deal.

Despite going against historical automotive stereotypes, Honda's CR-V has been one of the industry's best SUVs for some time -- and this mid-cycle refresh should only cement its spot atop the sales rankings.

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The article Motor Trend's 2015 SUV of the Year Surprised Many, but It Shouldn't Have originally appeared on

Daniel Miller owns shares of Ford and General Motors. The Motley Fool recommends BMW, Ford, and General Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days . We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy .

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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