2015 Honda CR-V Touring AWD Update 9: Get the Nav?

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Just think of what you could do with an extra $1,500. That could pay off months of utility bills or go toward the new bike/patio furniture/weekend getaway you’ve been considering. Even when it’s spread across 60 car payments, $1,500—what Honda charges for navigation on the 2016 CR-V EX-L trim—is a significant sum of money. So after months of daily driving Motor Trend’s long-term Honda CR-V, do I think the crossover’s navigation system is worth the money?

Yes and no.

Thankfully, we’re past the automotive days when a navigation system is required to enjoy a larger display screen. I’ve previously written about how much I love the CR-V’s dual-screen set-up, and the central 7-inch display is standard starting with the EX trim. Because the CR-V has two screens, the smaller one at the top shows what your next turn is when you’re getting close, while the larger one can still show the map (or whatever else you want). The double-dose of navigation is helpful whether you’re using the 2D bird’s-eye view or the 3D option. Also, the push-and-pull zoom in/out feature is appreciated, but the similar functionality in our long-term 2016 Subaru Outback 2.5i is easier and quicker to use.

To enter directions, I use voice commands instead of sitting in an idling car poking a touchscreen. As I drive from my place to the freeway, I’ll first say, “Destination” followed by the full address. It can sometimes take the system a while to catch up but, once it does, tell the system you want directions to an address, and you’re off.

The problem I have with the CR-V’s navigation on the EX-L w/Navi and Touring trims isn’t its outdated graphics, colored traffic lines that are too thin to see at a glance, or average loading times. Instead, it’s knowing that other Hondas with newer nav systems developed with Garmin have better graphics, more street labeling, and more features and are usually priced at $1,000. The navigation in new Civics or Pilots have a speed-limit display and a helpful feature that tells you the next cross street or freeway exit. On the CR-V EX-L, I wouldn’t spend $1,500 on navigation, especially considering the other options available.

Paradoxically, the navigation system makes more sense when Honda charges $3,650 for it. That’s how much the pricey Touring costs over an EX-L without navigation, but at that price you’re also getting a full suite of adaptive safety tech, a power liftgate, projector-beam halogen headlights, and flashy 18-inch wheels that set apart your CR-V from the thousands of others near you. Once a redesigned CR-V arrives possibly in the 2018 model year, active safety tech will be offered on more trims than just Touring, and the addition of Apple Car Play and Android Auto will change the picture considerably.

Until then, the least expensive method is to use navigation on your phone and sync with Bluetooth so the directions play through the sound system. If you’ve got a newer iPhone, you might not even need to pick up your phone to get started, thanks to Siri Eyes Free and the “Hey Siri” feature, with which you can summon your phone without even touching it. The downsides here, of course, are that you must keep Bluetooth on as your music source of choice (as compared to radio, CD, or satellite radio), and there’s no visible screen—staring at a phone while driving would be an unfortunate way to test the car’s safety in a crash you’ll cause. Vent clips for your phone might work too, but I’d rather not block an air vent, so that’s out for me. Portable GPS units could work very well too, but those are illegal to mount to windshields in some states and can lead to windshield cleaning between car washes if you’re afraid someone will break into your car to grab the portable nav system.

The $163 Navigation System

That leaves an intriguing fifth option I’d recommend for readers on a budget considering a 2015 or 2016 Honda CR-V EX or EX-L. If you’ve got an iPhone 5 or newer, consider buying the HondaLink Next Generation kit, which includes an Apple Lightning Digital AV Adapter, Apple-approved HDMI cable, and Apple Lightning to USB cable. That’s $99 plus $3.95 for shipping, and we’d strongly suggest making sure the car you’re considering is compatible before buying. Currently, the list includes Hondas without the newer, Garmin-based navigation system such as the 2014-’15 Civic, 2015-’16 CR-V, 2015-’16 Fit, 2016 CR-Z, and 2016 HR-V. Combine the above kit with the $59.99 HondaLink Navigation NA app, and you’ve got a navigation system that can display a map on your car’s 7-inch screen and use the car’s sound system to vocalize the next set of directions. Unless you’ve already bought a vent clip for your phone, this $162.94 option is worth consideration despite its faults.

First, Honda makes you download three apps to use HondaLink navigation. Besides the $59.99 nav app, there’s the free HondaLink Launcher and HondaLink Connect apps. I don’t use HondaLink to schedule service appointments or to search for POIs, and it would be nice not to have to open the launcher app before the system gets me to the navigation app, and I end up swiping away three different apps on my phone when I leave the CR-V. Even so, the navigation app—which can be used outside the car if you’re not satisfied with other iPhone nav options—provides just as many if not more street labels as the integrated system and an easy way to see what directions are coming up next. When you use the system to get directions instead of simply seeing where you are, the system will automatically change to a 3D view from the 2D view when you’re approaching the next direction. Helpfully, whether you’re entering a residential address or that of a business, it will attempt to find or autofill with what you want. Zooming in and out is accomplished with decently sized on-screen buttons.

For this affordable navigation solution, voice commands won’t work for navigation or if you want to make a phone call. (You’ll have to navigate on the 7-inch screen to your phone for that.) Also, unlike the integrated navigation system, the smaller screen above the main 7-inch unit won’t provide additional visual prompting like the integrated system does. Listening to something on your phone via Bluetooth can be a hassle, as the system puts it on pause once you activate the HondaLink navigation. That forces you to restart the music and then go back to HondaLink on your phone to get the map back on the 7-inch screen. Listen to radio, satellite radio, or a CD from the CR-V’s hidden one-disc player, and this shouldn’t be a problem. For folks who just like to see a map display even when they’re not getting directions, I’ve found the useful tech to be worth the slight hassle on drives of 20 or more minutes.

For Hondas that don’t offer Apple Car Play or Android Auto, this decent, phone-based $163 solution can be added whether you’re buying new or used, as long as the HondaLink apps continue to be offered in the App Store. We recently got in the mail a notice from Honda pointing out that our 2015 CR-V’s integrated navigation system can be updated to the newest version, with updated roads, addresses, and points of interest but at a cost of $99 (normally $149). For all the issues of the HondaLink system, annual map updates are included for free.

Clearly, potential CR-V customers have many navigation options, even if none of them is ideal. After recently using Apple Car Play in our long-term 2016 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen, I’ve experienced how great that feature is for navigation, easily sending voice-commanded text message responses, and more. It’s unfortunate the 2015 and 2016 CR-V don’t offer that tech, but the missing feature shouldn’t be a deal-breaker on a crossover as well-rounded, considering all the other nav-on-a-budget solutions.

More on our long-term 2015 Honda CR-V Touring AWD here:

Arrival Update 1: How Much MPG Does ECON Mode Really Add? Update 2: How the CR-V Has Changed My Driving Habits Update 3: CR-V or HR-V? Update 4: From Econ to Sport Mode: Does it Make a Difference at the Track? Update 5: The CR-V Goes Camping Update 6: Not A Constantly Racing Vehicle Update 7: Why the CR-V’s Lack of a Volume Knob is Mostly Not an Issue Update 8: Exploring the CR-V’s Flexible Interior and a Helpful Cargo Net