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Road Test: 2015 Honda CR-V

Since 2004, Honda has sold more than 2.3 million of its easygoing CR-V crossover sport utility vehicle, and most of those years -- including this one -- it has been the top-selling SUV in the U.S.

The current generation, introduced in 2012, has averaged 300,000 sales a year. Although not a standout in any particular area, the CR-V does everything well, which has helped it weather competition from all-new versions of the Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue and Ford Escape.

The revisions on the 2015 CR-V go beyond what automakers typically bolt on for a mid-cycle refresh. Highlights include a new and more efficient engine and transmission, an updated interior and new safety features.

The biggest update is the new drivetrain. The earlier version used an older four-cylinder engine and a five-speed automatic transmission that was quickly becoming antiquated.

The new engine remains a 2.4-liter four-cylinder but picks up power and efficiency. Horsepower stays the same, but torque rises to 181 pound-feet from 163. Most customers won't notice much difference in the new drivetrain -- and that's the point. The extra torque is available earlier in the CR-V's acceleration, giving this Honda some extra giddyap. Drop the transmission into sport mode, and the car feels eager.

But the real gains come in fuel economy. The standard front-wheel drive models jump to 27 miles per gallon in the city and 34 mpg on the highway, up from 23 and 31, respectively.

The interior and exterior also get a mild but worthwhile redesign. Inside, the CR-V gets a bigger center console and more soft-touch controls. Dash controls for navigation have been moved to the touch screen, for better or worse. The interior remains a friendly, practical space for a family. Tall adults fit in the back with ease, and the rear seats fold flat with the tug of a lever.

Outside, the CR-V gets a more aggressive grille, headlights and bumper. The rear end still has an awkward bulge, but Honda massaged the caboose slightly and added some chrome trim to make it more upscale.

The top Touring model gets the automaker's first application of what it calls Honda Sensing. That's a fancy name for a group of tech-based safety features like adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking.

By sticking to the basics that have made the CR-V a top seller -- while aggressively updating the drivetrain, safety and efficiency -- Honda has made it clear it doesn't intend to lose its sales lead any time soon.

2015 HONDA CR-V

Base price: $23,320

Price as tested: $31,520

Engine: 2.4-liter four-cylinder

Power: 185 horsepower at 6,500 rpm

EPA fuel economy: 27 mpg city; 34 mpg highway

Length: 179.4 inches

Height: 64.7 inches

Width: 71.6 inches

Bottom line: sales leader gets a tuneup

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