2005 Honda CR-V
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
You'd think a sport-utility vehicle that looks rather plain, has only a 4-cylinder engine and is some eight years old wouldn't be doing well among today's plentiful competition.
But the Honda CR-V keeps right on going. In calendar 2004, the CR-V posted record sales. It outsold the Toyota Highlander and RAV4. And in calendar 2005, CR-V sales started the year up again compared with the year-earlier period.
What draws buyers to this rather plainly styled, compact SUV?
Price and value quickly come to mind.
Starting manufacturing suggested retail price for a base 2005 CR-V 2WD LX is approximately $20,000. This includes standard 5-speed automatic transmission, air conditioning, an AM/FM stereo with cassette and CD players, remote keyless entry, power windows and door locks, cruise control, stability control, traction control, curtain airbags, front-seat side airbags and anti-lock brakes.
The price for the top-of-the-line 2005 CR-V 4WD SE that I tested is less than $26,000 and includes leather-trimmed seats, a power moonroof, and heated seats and outside mirrors.
In addition, for 2004 and 2005 the CR-V has been a "Best Overall Value" winner in the compact-utility class at IntelliChoice, Inc., a rating company that measures which vehicles "will cost significantly less to own" than would be expected at their purchase prices. IntelliChoice's awards are based on projected vehicle ownership costs, including depreciation, maintenance, fuel and insurance, over the first five years.
Auto researcher J.D. Power and Associates also noted the CR-V was among the top three in the entry SUV class in 2003's Vehicle Dependability Study. The study measures actual owner problems after three years of ownership.
And just as important these days, the CR-V continues to rank among the top ten SUVs in fuel economy, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The two-wheel-drive 2005 CR-V is rated at 23 miles a gallon in city driving and 29 mpg on the highway.
The four-wheel-drive version is lower at 22/27 mpg.
Men and women buyers
A revamp for the 2002 model year seems to have halted that concern, because Honda spokeswoman Sara Pines says 51 percent of CR-V buyers are men now. They are an older group, with median age of 47, according to Honda.
I think the fact that some other SUVs, such as the Highlander and Chevrolet Equinox, eschew bold, boisterous SUV styling for more pleasant looks helps make the CR-V fit in with newer models, even if the CR-V looks aren't exactly memorable.
There are some improvements for the 2005 CR-V, including making the front-seat side airbags, stability control and anti-lock brakes standard on all CR-Vs, even in the base trim. In addition, the 5-speed automatic transmission is new, and the four-wheel-drive system is upgraded.
Styling is revised slightly in the front and rear; headlights, grille, taillights and rear bumper are changed.
Controls for radio and ventilation are easy to reach in the CR-V. The parking brake lever is close to the driver, too, though its position as one of the stylized supports on the center stack of the dashboard takes some getting used to. I was glad to see the little, white "P" for Park put there to help me recognize this slyly styled support was the parking brake lever.
The other odd thing is the CR-V gearshift lever. Situated to the right of the steering wheel, it looks like it should be mounted on the steering column, but it's not. The long column-type shifter protrudes from a slot on the dashboard, so the sensation of shifting from Park to Drive has a different feel.
But I like that this arrangement opens up the area between the front seats. There's a nifty pull-up or fold-down tray, with two exposed cupholders, between the front seats. This slim tray doesn't clog up the middle space the way a typical center console does, and in a pinch, I could fold down the tray and walk back, hunkered over, of course, to the second-row seats.
Not luxury interior, but …
I enjoyed the open, airy feel that the interior of the test model I had. It included a power moonroof.
All CR-Vs provide a decent view out. For example, even though I wasn't sitting way up high above the pavement, I could look ahead in traffic—sometimes by looking through the sedan in front of me.
The five seats were comfortable for short and long drives, though seat cushions in the tester were short and didn't extend all the way to the backs of my knees. The big knob, positioned at the side of the driver's seat, that had to be turned manually to boost the seat height wasn't very easy to use in the test vehicle.
Three adults in back sit closely but not too snugly. Rear-seat legroom of 39.4 inches is commendable and was enough for me to extend my legs, with the front seat up a bit. Even with the front seats back on their tracks all the way and reclined some, my knees had a couple inches of clearance from the front seatbacks.
I like that the rear seatbacks can recline, the rear floor is flat, and the rear windows go down all the way. But back-seat passengers must watch as they exit, because they can brush against the rear wheelwell protrusion at the doorway, and rear doors don't open as widely as I'd like.
Some other SUVs offer third-row seating. But the CR-V does not. There is, however, a clever double-duty cargo floor in back. Lift this rather lightweight plastic floor out and look under it. There are table legs, so you can use this as a sort of impromptu picnic or work table on the road. There's even a round hole in the center of the table to hold a sun umbrella. Now, what other SUV has that?
Still, I wish the CR-V's rearmost, side-hinged door—it's not a tailgate—would swing open to the left. As it is, it opens to the right, so people loading the cargo area must walk around it curbside.
Maximum cargo space in the CR-V is a competitive 72 cubic feet.
The Highlander as well as Jeep's Liberty and Ford's Escape also offer V6s, but the CR-V has only one engine.
The CR-V's top torque of 162 lb-ft at 3600 rpm provides a rather sprightly feel, especially in city traffic. But the 4 cylinder can sound buzzy when it's pressed as the vehicle goes uphill at highway speeds.
There's some road noise inside the CR-V, and passengers feel road bumps—most of them mildly.
The four-wheel-drive system, which doesn't require any input from the driver, has a new cam-driven mechanism replacing the old pump-type system. The change gives the CR-V better acceleration, especially in hilly terrain.