2009 Honda CR-V

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Review: 2007 Honda CR-V

This 2007 review is representative of model years 2007 to 2011.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

Honda retains original CR-V design formula while significantly revamping this vehicle.
Pros:
  • Deftly redesigned
  • More stylish
  • Spare tire conveniently relocated
Cons:
  • Average highway acceleration
  • Touchy brake pedal
  • No optional V6

The Honda CR-V has been a pleasant vehicle for mainstream buyers since it was introduced for 1997, just about one year after the arrival of its archrival, the Toyota RAV4.

The car-like CR-V and RAV4 were arguably the first major crossover vehicles, although SUVs were so hot when they were introduced that nobody then thought of calling them "crossovers"—car-like vehicles with SUV attributes. Crossovers now are becoming very popular, especially since last summer's soaring gasoline prices.

The third-generation CR-V is a 2007 model with slicker styling and additional power. But it doesn't follow the redone-for-2006 Toyota RAV4 crossover, which is much sleeker and larger than its predecessor and offers a third-row seat for 7-passenger capacity. The RAV4 offers a 3.5-liter 269-horsepower V6 (its first V6), besides a standard 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine with 166 horsepower.

Following Proven Formula
Honda says "no thanks" to all that. It retains strictly 5-passenger seating and is virtually the same size as its 2002-2006 predecessor. Its only engine is a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder with 166 horsepower—up from 156 in the 2006 model—and a broader torque curve for better throttle response.

No V6 is offered because Honda is a firm believer in 4-cylinder engines. It feels that a V6 with more power than the 4-cylinder would add too much weight, which would adversely affect handling and fuel economy. However, Honda builds outstanding V6s and should at least make one optional for the CR-V.

But who is to say Honda is wrong here? It's stuck with the proven CR-V formula for good reason. It sold 150,219 CR-Vs in America in 2005, up slightly from 2004 sales although many knew a redesigned model was coming. The Ford Escape was the only CR-V rival to beat it in 2005, with sales of 165,122 units. (Toyota sold 70,518 RAV4s here in 2005.)

In all, Honda has sold approximately 2.5 million CR-Vs in 160 countries since the vehicle's introduction, with 1.2 million purchased in America.

Outside Spare Gone
Major changes include removal of the rather heavy full-size spare tire from the rear swing-out cargo door, which could force you to walk into traffic to retrieve cargo. A light-action swing-up tailgate without a spare replaces the old door.

While it has a hefty interior pull-down handle, the tailgate has no opening glass window.

Elimination of the outside spare has made the CR-V about 3.1 inches shorter overall at 177.9 inches, although its wheelbase (distance between axles) remains nearly the same at 103.1 inches. Width is up 1.4 inches, which allows seats to be wider and more supportive.

The spare is now a mini and has been tucked under the cargo floor.

Two Drive Systems
The CR-V is sold with front-wheel drive or an all-wheel-drive system not meant for rough off-road use but reassuring on slippery roads. Base prices range from $20,600 to an even $28,000.

There are LX, ES and top-line EX-L trim levels for the CR-V. All have front-seat side airbags, side-curtain airbags with rollover deployment for outboard occupants and traction/anti-skid control. The anti-lock brakes have electronic brake distribution and brake assist for surer panic stops.

Fairly Well-Equipped
Standard on the LX are air conditioning, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, 60/40 split-folding and tumbling rear seats, AM/FM/CD audio system with MP3/WMA playback and power windows, locks and mirrors.

There's also a new tire-pressure-monitoring system and "Maintenance Minder" that tells when to have standard service performed. Those are good features because studies show many Americans rarely check tire pressures and often put off maintenance for too long.

The EX adds a power sunroof, rear privacy glass, steering wheel audio controls, AM/FM 6-disc in-dash audio system and alloy wheels. There's also a dual-deck cargo shelf that can hold up to 20 pounds and nearly doubles cargo floor space.

Leather upholstery, heated front seats and XM satellite radio are added to the EX-L. It's also offered with an optional navigation system and backup camera, which haven't been available for a CR-V.

However, there are no power seats, automatic climate control and automatic on-off headlights for any CR-V trim level.

Larger 17-inch tires for the 2007 CR-V replace 16-inchers and provide better handling and braking. The brake pedal on my test CR-V was touchy, but Honda said it was an early production model and that production models shouldn't have that fault. In any case, stopping distances during normal driving are short.

Average Highway Performance
Honda is an engine whiz, so the CR-V's high-revving 4-cylinder is smooth and sophisticated. It provides lively in-town performance but average passing on highways, even with only a driver aboard. After all, the CR-V is no lightweight at 3,532 pounds.

The previous model's manual gearbox has been discontinued because few wanted it. The engine works with an alert 5-speed automatic transmission.

Fuel economy is an estimated 23 mpg in the city and 30 on highways with front-wheel drive and 22 and 28 with all-wheel drive. One might expect higher city economy from a compact-size vehicle, but only regular grade fuel is required.

The steering is responsive, and a revised all-independent suspension provides decent—although not especially sporty—handling and a supple ride. However, some freeway surfaces caused the ride to become a little jerky.

The step-in height has been reduced 1.3 inches, but the CR-V still requires extra effort to enter the attractive interior. Four tall adults—or five in a squeeze—fit. But a 6-footer behind a tall driver has little leg room to spare even if the driver's seat is only halfway back.

Interior Revisions
Gauges can be quickly read. Radio controls are small, but climate controls are large. The relocated shifter is easier to use, and controls are conveniently located. The interior is quiet except for some mild tire noise and is full of storage areas. They include bins, door pockets, cubby holes and dual glove boxes. The old-fashioned hand brake has been replaced with a modern one.

A large glass area and big outside mirrors allow good driver visibility.

The tailgate opening is wide and the cargo area is large. But flipping the rear seats entirely forward to enlarge that area involves a little too much effort.

The new CR-V should do well in the growing crossover vehicle market because it does everything better than the last-generation model. However, the lack of a V6 and third-row seat may cause it to lose some sales as that market becomes more competitive.

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BB02 - 7/29/2014 2:04:30 PM