The Honda CR-V is roomy, convenient and easy to drive. You can put lots of stuff in it and the back seats are quite comfortable. It rides smoothly, without the jouncy harshness of many SUVs. The CR-V is surprisingly maneuverable in tight quarters and handles well on winding roads. It's also stable in stiff crosswinds at freeway speeds.
Like Toyota's RAV4, the CR-V was one of the first so-called cute-utes: Not quite a sport-utility, but more than a car, offering an upright seating position, all-wheel drive and decent cargo space. Since it was built on a car platform (the Honda Civic), CR-V's highway-friendly ride and handling made it drive more like a car. This combination attracted buyers who needed a minivan but wanted something smaller and more maneuverable, and something that didn't look like a minivan.
The CR-V isn't much good off-road, but it's better than competent on the highways and byways where most SUVs are driven most of the time. It beats most of its immediate competitors in both qualitative and quantitative measures, and trails the competition in only a few. It's available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive for winter weather capability.
Changes for 2005 include minor exterior restyling, added standard safety features, and the addition of a new luxury trim level. A cam-driven all-wheel-drive mechanism now replaces the pump system on all 4WD-equipped models, improving acceleration and hill-climbing performance.
The CR-V is offered in three trim levels. All come with a four-cylinder engine. All are available with a five-speed automatic transmission; a five-speed manual is available on the mid-level model. Honda has long believed that the fewer the options, the less a car costs to build, so options on its small SUV are few.
Standard features on all 2005 models include 16-inch wheels, integrated keyless entry, and safety features including front and side-impact air bags, anti-lock braking (ABS) and Vehicle Stability Assist with traction control (electronic stability control).
The LX ($19,995) is available with front-wheel drive, but it comes well equipped. Standard equipment includes air conditioning with micron filtration, AM/FM/CD/cassette stereo, cruise control, an adjustable steering column, power mirrors, power windows, power four-wheel disc brakes, front and rear power outlets and a removable folding picnic table. A four-wheel-drive version of the LX is also available ($21,195). Aluminum wheels are available as a dealer-installed accessory.
The EX comes only with four-wheel drive, and adds a premium stereo with CD changer, anti-lock brakes, rear privacy glass, aluminum wheels, and a power moonroof. For 2005, 16-inch aluminum wheels, outside temperature gauge, and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls have been added. EX 4WD is available with five-speed manual ($22,450) or automatic ($23,350).
The SE ($25,050) is new for 2005, and comes standard with four-wheel drive and the five-speed automatic. On the interior, the SE adds heated leather seats, and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. Exterior additions include door mirrors, body-colored bumpers, side molding, door handles and spare wheel cover.
For 2005, the front grille and front bumper have been redesigned to improve aerodynamics, and cylindrical headlights added to complement the stronger appearance.
This second-generation CR-V features smoother styling than the original (pre-2002) CR-V. And the shorter, blunter front-end creates a more rugged look. The CR-V still sports its trademark high-mount tail lights on either side of the rear window.
The rear glass opens on its own, separately from the tailgate, which is good. Unfortunately, the lower part of the gate is side-hinged and opens to the right. That's a nod toward Honda's right-hand drive models in Japan; in America, you'll have to walk around the tailgate when you're loading cargo from the curb, inconvenient at the airport.
The Honda CR-V has a friendly interior that's easy to live with, and quite convenient in the daily hustle. Getting in and out is quick and easy and doesn't require climbing or stooping.
The front seats are excellent. In most measures of interior room, the CR-V beats its competition. Only the Toyota RAV4 tops the CR-V's front-seat headroom, and by less than half an inch. The CR-V offers generous front leg room (41.3 inches), though the RAV4 and Ford Escape provide marginally more (by 0.9 and 0.3 inches, respectively). The moonroof, standard on the EX and SE is nice, but reduces headroom by nearly 2 inches. Taller drivers or those who like to sit upright will notice.
More surprising than the front-passenger accommodations is the space and comfort provided by the CR-V's rear seats. The rear bench is neither too soft nor too hard, and allows passengers to travel without getting numb-reared or fidgety. All three rear positions have three-point belts and head restraints, something not all SUVs offer.
Gauges are easy to read, with white numerals on a black background, eliminating the twilight wash-out afflicting the black-on-white arrays that are the current fad. Cruise control is standard, as is an adjustable steering column. We love the stereo and six-disc in-dash CD changer, standard on the EX and SE. On the other hand, Honda does not provide a compass in the CR-V. The parking brake is disguised, subtly integrated into the vertical panel forward of the center console. It looks like a grab handle until you spot the icon in the grip. As odd as the placement might seem at first, using the hand brake gets more comfortable in short order.
It's the small, thoughtful touches that make the CR-V a pleasant place to go about the business of driving. There's a convenient, collapsible tray table betwixt the front seats, with a couple of cup holders and a recess for a cell phone. The cover for the spare-tire bin does double duty as a folding picnic table. Almost everything else seems to be where it should be, and there are no less than 21 storage nooks adroitly spread through the cabin. Coat hooks are provided above the rear seats and the center console accommodates CDs and cassettes. For 2005, Honda added retractable grab rails and larger seat pockets.
In terms of cargo hauling, the CR-V is the champion among the small SUVs, with 72.0 cubic feet of cargo space. By comparison, the Escape offers 64.8 cubic feet, while the Land Rover Freelander provides just 46.6 cubic feet. The CR-V provides 33.5 cubic feet with the rear seat in place. Better still, the CR-V's 60/40 split rear seat slides forward and back over a range of six inches to maximize either passenger or cargo space when the seat is up.
Honda's four-cylinder engine provides enough power to thrust the CR-V off the on-ramp and into fast-moving traffic without worries. With 160 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque, the Honda overpowers other four-cylinder SUVs. Torque is that force that propels you away from intersections and up hills; in the CR-V, torque peaks at just 3600 rpm and remains strong over a broad swath of the engine's range. When you put your foot to the floor, acceleration comes on quickly, which makes for safe merging and allows greater margins of safety when passing on two-lane roads. So power isn't a problem.
The four-cylinder engine isn't as smooth as a V6, however, and because it revs higher it sometimes seems like it's working harder. It isn't really, and you can be sure Honda's big four-cylinder is sturdy. So don't be afraid to rev it. Honda is a leader in engine technology, and the CR-V's 2.4-liter, 16-valve, DOHC engine benefits from "intelligent" variable valve timing, which Honda calls i-VTEC. This system allows the engine to generate lots of usable power while keeping fuel economy at an impressive EPA-estimated 22/27 mpg city/highway. Like all Hondas, the CR-Vs is a clean-running vehicle. It meets the LEV-II low-emissions standards, meaning 10 CR-Vs generate fewer pollutants than a single car did just 10 years ago.
As four-cylinder/automatic combinations go, the CR-V's is first rate. The five-speed automatic is fairly responsive and helps keep the four-cylinder engine in the right rev range for power or fuel economy. Downshifts come quickly, and full-throttle upshifts come smoothly just before the redline. Nonetheless, if obtaining the best response, performance or economy is your priority or rush-hour commutes aren't part of the daily ritual, we recommend the five-speed manual available on the EX.
The CR-V all-wheel-drive system operates full time, with the bulk of the power directed to the front wheels. It's a great aid when winter snowstorms hit, adding confidence and sure-footed tracking in slippery conditions. Vehicle Stability Assist, new for 2005 and standard on all models, uses sensors at each wheel and the anti-lock brake system to modulate the electronic throttle and apply brake force to individual wheels as needed to maintain traction and avoid skids on slippery pavement and in tight turns.
Called Real Time AWD, Honda's system enhances stability and maximizes traction in the snow and on dirt or gravel roads. This is not a true off-road system with a dual-range transfer case or locking differentials or anything of the sort. With its standard smooth-tread tires, the CR-V is not suited for backcountry off-road travel. But it is suited for snow.
Whether the roads are smooth or rough, the CR-V rides well. It rides more smoothly than most SUVs, which makes for pleasant motoring around town over busy, beat-up streets. Handling is reassuring. It feels sure-footed on twisting roads. Even when it's driven harder than most owners are likely to go, the CR-V doesn't push excessively at its front end or slide at the rear, and the tires provide good grip on pavement. In short, this cute-ute drives more like a car than a truck.
That's because it is more car than truck. The CR-V is based on a front-wheel-drive Honda Civic, with a unit-body construction and four-wheel independent suspension. It's more maneuverable in tight parking lots than a RAV4 or Escape, thanks to its tighter turning radius (33.8 feet, compared to 35.4 feet for both the RAV4 and Escape). Given the way most folks drive their SUVs, being more like a car is a good thing.
In terms of crashworthiness, the CR-V rates highly. It earned five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for both front and side impacts, the highest ratings possible. Remember, though, that NHTSA's tests compare cars in a given class (in this case small SUVs) rather than across all categori
If you're looking for a reasonably priced, all-purpose vehicle with a sense of adventure and fine foul-weather capability, the CR-V is hard to beat. Honda's four-cylinder engine delivers impressive power and excellent fuel economy. The CR-V offers good road manners, class-leading interior space, and lots of conveniences. Add Honda's reputation for quality and durability and the CR-V remains a top choice among small sport-utilities.
New Car Test Drive correspondent Tom Lankard reports from Northern California.
|Model Line Overview|
|Base Price (MSRP)|
|Honda CR-V LX 2WD ($19,995); LX 4WD ($21,195); EX 4WD 5M ($22,450); EX 4WD 5A ($23,350); SE 4WD (25,050)|
|160-hp 2.4-liter dohc 16v inline-4|
|5-speed automatic; 5-speed manual|
|Safety equipment (Standard):|
|front-seat airbags, three-point belts and head restraints at all five seating positions, front belt force limiters and pre-tensioners, front; front and side-impact air bags; Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) with traction control|
|Safety equipment (Optional):|
|3 years/36,000 miles|
|Specifications As Tested|
|Model tested (MSRP):|
|Honda CR-V 4WD EX automatic ($23,350)|
|air conditioning with micron air-filtration system; cruise control; adjustable steering column; power door locks, windows and outside mirrors; maintenance interval indicator light; manual height adjustment on driver's seat; front and rear accessory power outlets; waterproof rear storage well; interior grab handles for each side door; AM/FM stereo cassette/CD changer; removable picnic table|
|Options as tested:|
|5-speed automatic transmission|
|Gas Guzzler Tax:|
|Price as tested (MSRP)|
|2.4-liter dohc 16v inline-4|
|Horsepower (hp @ rpm):|
|160 @ 6000|
|Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm):|
|162 @ 3600|
|EPA fuel economy, city/hwy:|
|Head/hip/leg room, f:|
|Head/hip/leg room, m:|
|Head/hip/leg room, r:|
|72 cu. ft.|
|ventilated disc/disc w ABS in.|