2000 Honda CR-V
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
Honda's CR-V sport-utility vehicle has proven so popular, it set sales records in its first three years. But now, as new and updated competition arrives, it's becoming more obvious that more horsepower, more features and an updated look would go a long way in furthering the CR-V's appeal.
The Honda CR-V appears to have been the right sport-utility vehicle that arrived at the right time. Just as the SUV craze was going full bore in 1997, Honda brought the CR-V to U.S. shores from Japan, adding a new, small sport utility to the SUV landscape.
Longtime Honda loyalists were arguably the first and most appreciative customers, since Honda's only other offering in the SUV category was the Passport, a re-badged Isuzu. But soon, the combination of Honda's well-known quality, the CR-V's maneuverable size and starting price tag under $20,000 lured other SUV buyers, too.
Now, with a considerable number of laurels—including being named Best SUV under $25,000 by auto researcher IntelliChoice early in 2000 and being ranked first in J.D. Power and Associates' Initial Quality Study in 2000—the CR-V is on a roll. It set sales records each year that it has been on the U.S. market.
2000 another banner year
Compare this to the 18-mpg city rating for a 4-wheel-drive, 4-cylinder-powered Jeep Cherokee or the 17-mpg city rating for a 4-wheel drive Toyota 4Runner with 6-cylinder engine and you can begin to appreciate the CR-V's fuel thriftiness.
Only 4-cylinder power
Still, the CR-V performed admirably in mostly runabout work around town, where frequent stops and starts were adequately managed without fuss and where the CR-V merged with city traffic easily, if not always quietly.
CR-V, by the way, refers to Comfortable Runabout Vehicle.
Careful design in all-wheel-drive system
A driver does nothing to engage the CR-V's all-wheel drive. The nearly seamless transition from front- to all-wheel drive and back again is handled automatically via a sophisticated clutch pack. Honda calls the system Real Time 4WD, but it doesn't come with a true low gear for really rough off-road going.
The CR-V also can be had without Real Time 4WD. In fact, a CR-V LX with 2-wheel drive and automatic transmission is the lowest-priced vehicle in the lineup and still had a starting manufacturer's suggested retail price of under $20,000 for a 2000 model.
Easy entry and exit
Helping to ease my entry was leather on the seat—it's a standard feature on the SE and helps reduce the static cling and rubbing that come with the standard CR-V fabric seats. Other SE features include AM/FM stereo with cassette player and in-dash CD player, body-colored bumpers, hard spare tire cover and leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Honda only began selling the SE model—it stands for Special Edition—in March 2000 and advertises the SE as having popular amenities but at a $1,000 savings over what it would cost to put the items on individually.
Some novel features
The retractable center tray table between the two CR-V front seats remains a pleasing alternative to the usually bulky, fixed center consoles in other SUVs and lets front-seat riders easily climb to the back seat. But note the retractable tray table doesn't incorporate covered storage space.
The back seats still fold back and nearly flat, mating with the two front seats so riders can literally stretch out and nap during a long road trip. And the CR-V continues to be the only vehicle that offers a standard, molded plastic, picnic table. It serves as the floor in the back cargo area. Just lift it out, extend the folded table legs, and you're set for a roadside lunch stop.
Note that the rear hatchback door of the CR-V continues to swing over to the right, where it blocks access from curbside, though.
Competition is getting more intense with the arrival of the rugged-looking 2001 Ford Escape and Mazda Tribute small SUVs, a redesigned 2001 Toyota RAV4 and a value-priced 2001 Hyundai Santa Fe.
All these brawny-looking, new, small sport utilities with higher-power engines than the CR-V's are bound to cast a new light on Honda's popular-selling SUV. And despite its noteworthy accolades, the CR-V runs a serious risk of suddenly looking very dated.