Honda's (HMC - Get Report) new CR-V will look and feel slightly different than the model that now leads the red-hot compact crossover segment, with sculpted indents along the sides and fenders and headlamps that resemble those from the automaker's Acura division.

A 1.5-liter engine will be available with turbocharging, the first time for the model, which was introduced in 1997 and has sold 4 million copies since. And for old-school purists, a knob that regulates sound volume from CR-V's infotainment center returns to the instrument cluster.

Other small changes abound, showing Honda's determination to maintain its lead over competitors such as the Toyota's (TM - Get Report) RAV4, Nissan's (NSANY) Rogue and Ford's (F - Get Report) Escape. Through September, CR-V was on top in the U.S. with sales of 263,493, a mere 3,000 ahead of RAV4.

A new General Motors (GM - Get Report) Equinox crossover will debut soon, signaling the No. 1 U.S. producer's resolve to win over more customers who are showing less and less interest in conventional sedans and more in the utility that comes with additional cargo space. CR-V already outsells Honda's Accord sedan and isn't far behind the automaker's Civic, its top-selling model.

"We're trying to set a new standard for the CR-V by jazzing up the styling and the interior quality, while still making sure it's affordable," Alice Lee, a senior Honda product planner, told Bloomberg News. Though Honda declined to discuss specific pricing at the vehicle's debut in Detroit, any change likely won't deviate much from the $24,000 to $33,500 range in which the model now sells.

High-tech infotainment systems are difficult to use for many new-vehicle buyers, especially those who are older or not conversant with touch-screen technology. Journalists and reviewers also bemoaned the disappearance of analog controls. "Our customers and frankly, many of you, said 'we want a knob' so the knob is back," said Jeff Conrad, senior vice president of the Honda division.

Apple Car Play and Android Auto, an increasingly popular feature that allows drivers and passengers to operate their apps from the dashboard screen, are available as options.

While the new turbocharged engine develops 190 horsepower and 179 foot-pounds of torque in the fancier trim levels, the base version of CR-V will be powered by the current 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine that generates 184 horsepower and 180 foot-pounds of torque. Honda declined to confirm rumors that a gas-electric hybrid version of the new model is in development.

Fuel-efficiency figures for the new engine haven't yet been released for the new engine. Honda said it is shooting for best-in-class efficiency, which suggests a figure somewhat better than the current 27 mile-per-gallon combined city/highway number.

Doron Levin is the host of "In the Driver Seat," broadcast on SiriusXM Insight 121, Saturday at noon, encore Sunday at 9 a.m.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.