2002 Honda CR-V

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2005 Honda CR-V

This 2005 review is representative of model years 2002 to 2006.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

The CR-V is kept competitive with key improvements and new features.
Pros:
  • Roomy
  • Car-like
  • More standard equipment and features
Cons:
  • Average highway pep
  • No optional V6
  • Tailgate hampers curbside loading

The Honda CR-V compact sport-utility didn't get major changes for 2004, but that didn't stop it from being the second most popular compact SUV last year, finishing only about 34,000 units short of the No. 1 Ford Escape.

The CR-V actually didn't need many changes because it had been made larger and roomier for 2002, with a bigger engine, new chassis, better construction and more refinement and features.

In fact, the 2004 CR-V had more than double the sales of its old major competitor—the Toyota RAV4, rising to a healthy 149,281 units.

Key Improvements
A move from bigger SUVs and higher gasoline prices doubtlessly helped last year's CR-V. But Honda didn't get where it is by staying still for long, so it has given the 2005 CR-V key improvements and more features to keep it very competitive. There's also a new top-line SE (Special Equipment) trim level.

New features for the 2005 CR-V include a slicker front appearance, with new headlights, grille and bumpers. New side sills and protectors adorn the CR-V, while there are newly designed rear combination lights and new rear bumpers. A neighbor with a 2004 CR-V definitely will know that he's got last year's model.

That neighbor's CR-V also will feel a bit dated if he drives the latest version because it has a new 5-speed automatic transmission, which replaces a 4-speed automatic for better acceleration and fuel economy.

More Safety Items
Many SUV buyers are increasingly looking for more safety items, and the new CR-V has them. They include newly standard front-seat side airbags and head-protecting side-curtain airbags for both seating rows.

The 2005 CR-V also has a previously unavailable Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) anti-skid system with traction control. Also newly standard for all versions are 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes.

Roadability is enhanced by larger 16-inch wheels, which replace 15-inchers with narrower tires.

The entry front-wheel-drive CR-V LX costs $19,995 and has lots of comfort and convenience items. They include air conditioning, cruise control, a tilt steering wheel, a rear defroster, an AM/FM/cassette/CD and power windows, locks and mirrors.

The LX also is offered with an all-wheel-drive system for $21,195.

Improved All-Wheel Drive
Both the higher-line EX and new SE versions have even more equipment, including a power sunroof and standard all-wheel drive, which is improved for better acceleration and hill-climbing performance. However, the system has no low-range gearing for tough off-road driving.

Top-Line Trim Level
The new SE is based on the midrange EX, but adds heated leather seats and mirrors and a leather-covered steering wheel and shift knob. The SE also adds body colored bumpers, side moldings, door handles and hard spare-tire cover. It even gets its own exclusive color: Pewter Pearl.

New for the EX and standard on the SE are steering wheel audio controls and an outside temperature indicator. The EX and LX have new wheel designs, and all trim levels now have integrated remote keyless entry, retractable grab rails and larger seatback pockets.

Redondo Red Pearl and exotic-sounding Silver Moss and Sahara Sand are new colors.

Carryover Engine
Carried over from last year is a 2.4-liter 160-horsepower 4-cylinder engine. It provides good performance to 60 mph, but only average acceleration above that speed. After all, the engine is relatively small and the CR-V isn't especially light at 3,318 to 3,494 pounds. The engine works hard during full-throttle acceleration, but steady high-speed cruising is easily done.

Rivals offer a more muscular V6, but Honda continues to firmly believe in 4-cylinder engines. Of course, it knows that a V6 would add to the price of the CR-V and that four cylinders are less fuel-thirsty than six.

The EX all-wheel-drive version with a 5-speed manual transmission (the only manual-transmission version) delivers an estimated 21 mpg in the city and 26 on highways. All other CR-Vs do better with the automatic: 22 city and 27 highway, with the lighter front-wheel-drive LX, the fuel economy champ of the lot at 23 city, 29 highway.

Practicality Over Sportiness
The CR-V puts practicality above sportiness, although it's still fun to drive if not pushed hard. It's got nimble handling during routine driving, and its size is almost perfect for congested traffic.

Steering is plenty quick, and the new anti-skid system promises to help keep aggressive drivers out of trouble.

A car-like all-independent suspension and fairly long (for a small SUV) 103.3-inch wheelbase help provide a stable, comfortable ride. Braking is decent, with good pedal feel.

Most Comfortable for Four
Five tall adults can fit in the CR-V's airy, generally quiet interior, but four are a lot more comfortable. The rear seat has a reclining backrest and slides fore and aft for more leg room. Occupants sit high and are surrounded by plenty of glass area. Rear windows roll down all the way.

It's easy to slide in and out with the low floor, and front seats provide good support. The steering wheel has a slightly awkward bus-like cant, and high audio controls can be a stretch for those with shorter arms.

But the dashboard has gauges that can be quickly read, along with large climate system controls, handy covered storage areas and a good design, with items such as a handy pop-out cupholder; it accompanies twin cupholders in a center tray between the front seats that can be lowered for relatively easy access to the rear without leaving the vehicle.

The shift lever juts from the dashboard to the right of the steering wheel so it doesn't block rear access, as would a typical center console-mounted lever.

Spacious Cargo Area
The spacious cargo area is wide and tall. However, its side-hinged tailgate swings open toward the curb, hampering curbside loading, but has a handy lift-up glass section. Split rear seatbacks easily fold entirely forward to greatly increase cargo capacity.

With all the changes, the CR-V continues to be a strong contender, and the illustrious Honda nameplate contributes to good resale value.

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BB05 - 8/22/2014 6:45:11 PM