Honda's new CR-V four-wheel-drive sport; utility is like one of those timely, desirable cars Honda regularly came up with while making a big name for itself in this country.
CR-V: The CR-V is the first Honda-made sport; utility and is a home run in Japan, where sport; utes are nearly as hot as they are here. American Honda sells the Honda Passport and Acura SLX sport; utes here, but they're made by Isuzu.
CR-V stands for "Comfortable Runabout Vehicle" in Japan but has no official meaning in this country. Not that Americans care; they're standing in line for a CR-V. While no raving beauty, the CR-V looks trim and comes almost fully equipped for $19,300.
That's cheap for a solid, roomy sport; utility with a venerable nameplate and that is nearly the size of a Jeep Grand Cherokee.
However, the car-like, 126-horsepower CR-V isn't designed to sell against sport; utes such as the more-powerful Grand Cherokee or Ford Explorer. Rather, it competes with the new breed of smaller, more-affordable ones like the Toyota RAV4.
Standard is an innovative four-wheel drive system that operates in front-drive mode except on slippery roads, with no need for driver activation.
Also standard--take a deep breath--are a nice-shifting four-speed automatic transmission, air conditioning, AM; FM stereo, power door locks, windows and mirrors, cruise control, rear window wiper; washer, adjustable steering column and even a fold-out picnic table with legs. The only other model offered is a $20,300 CR-V with anti-lock brakes and chrome wheels.
No wonder people are beating down the doors for a CR-V, which is bigger, quieter, more powerful and roomier than rivals, such as the RAV4 or Suzuki Sidekick.
Like the RAV4, the CR-V is based on a car platform--from the respected Honda Civic. Its 2-liter engine isn't large, but is potent for its size with items such as dual overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder.
While no fireball, the CR-V is reasonably quick, doing 0-60 m.p.h. in 10.9 seconds. It provides decent 65-75 m.p.h. passing times and easily merges into fast traffic.
Moreover, the CR-V delivers an estimated 22 m.p.g. in the city--where larger sport; utes are lucky to get in the mid-teens--and 25 on highways. The engine turns over at nearly 3,000 r.p.m. at 70 m.p.h., but that fairly high r.p.m. level isn't objectionable because the motor is smooth and quiet. As always, Honda is a whiz with engines.
The CR-V's steering is almost too light at highway speeds, but is quick and accurate. There's a fair amount of body sway while taking turns quickly, but handling is good and the supple double-wishbone suspension provides a smooth ride. The brakes inspire confidence, with a pedal that allows very precise modulation.
The slide-out plastic storage box under the front passenger seat looks and feels flimsy. However, the businesslike dashboard contains easily reached controls that work with a delightful fluid feel.
The interior's spartan look indicates how Honda is able to keep the CR-V price low. But convenient location of the power window switches on the dashboard to the left of the steering wheel illustrate the automaker's sound attention to detail. Note the fat anti-ding plastic strip that runs along both sides of this sport; ute.
A 1950s-style steering-column-mounted shifter allows a front occupant access to the rear compartment without having to leave the vehicle, which has a big glass area for good visibility.
The rock-solid CR-V comfortably seats four tall adults, with especially good rear-seat room, and it's a snap to get in and out. Three adults would fit in back if on the slim side, but the center of the rear seat is too stiff to be comfortable.
You can significantly enlarge the cargo area by folding down the rear seat bottom and then flipping the rear seatbacks forward. The cargo area is easily loaded, although the fairly heavy tailgate-mounted spare tire causes that gate to be somewhat awkward to open and close.
The CR-V is all about practicality, not flash. But it provides a good dose of driving fun. Honda predicts CR-V sales will top 50,000 units this year. It probably could sell far more if availability were better.