Guess what? A Mini Cooper makes a terrible family wagon. That’s why, following the birth of our daughter, my wife and I swapped her Mini for a used 2008 Honda CR-V.

It’s proven to be an utterly practical baby-hauler but I naturally wondered if a brand new 2016 model might fare even better when subjected to the abuse of a Muzio family vacation.

Cut to Portland, Oregon; the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Snow quietly accumulates on a rental car lot as we rapidly load our bags, a child seat, one stroller, a portable crib, a small mountain of baby-related paraphernalia, and an absurdly cute 6-month old girl into a 2016 Honda CR-V. Impression number one is that easily accessed child seat LATCH points are a fantastic feature when the air is freezing and your precious baby is waiting in a stroller.

Impression number two is that the CR-V is ideally sized for a family of three. All of our cargo fit without Tetris-style trickery. More importantly the rear-facing child seat slotted in place without crowding the front seat. In fact, the roomy rear quarters afforded ample space for diaper changes, feeding time, and a shameful accumulation of empty donut boxes. (Pro tip: Portland’s Voodoo Doughnuts is gimmicky fun but Blue Star Donuts is a tastier, higher-quality treat.)

The 2016 CR-V’s tidy dimensions and standard backup camera allowed us to squeeze in and out of downtown Portland’s often scarce parking spots without delay, saving me angry glares from passing bicyclists. Once parked, wide opening rear doors made retrieving baby a simple task. On a related note, by lifting our stroller in and out countless times I gained a new affinity for the CR-V’s low cargo load height. Same deal with the optional power liftgate. Fleeing to the safety of the cabin while the rear hatch automatically lowered saved several uncomfortable seconds exposed to brisk winter air.

As the pinnacle of the lineup, the asking price for our loaded, all-wheel-drive CR-V Touring trim totaled $34,295. At roughly $10,000 more than a base front-drive CR-V that might seem pricey but man, that cash buys a lot of car. A power-memory seat allowed instant recall of my ideal driving position following rear-seat diaper changes, dual USB outlets prevented either parent from the indignity of a dead phone, and Honda’s Lane Watch blind-spot camera enhanced lane change safety. Lane Watch also reduced the odds of turning right into the path of a bicyclist; a likely scenario in bike-friendly Portland.

Also included on our Touring trim was Honda Sensing, a suite of advanced active safety and driver assist features. On an extended drive to Oregon’s stunning coastline the CR-V’s dynamic cruise control automatically kept pace with the vehicle ahead, freeing my right foot to do…well…nothing. Meanwhile Lane Keeping Assist smartly and subtly minimized lane departures during rare moments of inattention, averting tension between the driver and the uber-protective mother in the passenger seat. At another moment the collision alert system chimed in, highlighting the impatient Range Rover that leapt into our path like an entitled jerk. Interestingly, we experienced a single false alarm from the collision alert system while approaching a rock wall on a particularly curvy backroad. Otherwise the system performed as expected.

Like all proper Portland vacations we spent time exploring both nature and the city. In either environment our Honda CR-V was easy to drive, comfortable, and decently peppy. Yeah, I said peppy. That “pep” comes via a 185-horsepower 4-cylinder engine teamed with a smooth-operating continuously variable transmission that, unlike CVTs of the past, I very much liked. And our CR-V’s all-wheel drive (AWD) came in handy both on the day we arrived and the day we departed. With a layer of snow blanketing the ground the AWD system worked exactly as hoped; getting power to the ground unlike the poor Buick we witnessed futilely attempting to summit a mild incline. 

I can say with zero hyperbole that our extended test of the 2016 Honda CR-V was a smashing success. As a family of three who craves urban and rural adventure the CR-V invariably met our needs, carrying whatever we needed wherever we wanted. In the name of frugality we’ll probably hold onto our 2008 CR-V a bit longer but with its functional superiority, richer interior appointments and robust technology, the 2016 Honda CR-V is an awfully enticing upgrade.   

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