1997 Honda CR-V Review

1997 Honda CR-V - Cute-ute evolution.


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.

Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

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