Background: Honda’s five-seat CR-V wasn’t the first compact, car-based sport utility to enter the market, but it did catch the fancy of the buying public to become one of the most desirable vehicles in its segment.
The first-generation, four-door CR-V debuted in 1997, a year after Toyota introduced the RAV4 compact sport ute. Both were designed for on-road excursions, not off-road brutality and featured a decent-sized cargo area and fold-down second-row seats for hauling stuff. Up to that point, Suzuki’s Samari and the Chevrolet/Geo Tracker occupied the segment, but did not create the same buzz with consumers as CR-V or RAV4.
Fast forward to 2005 and most auto players have a compact or mid-size sport ute or have one on the drawing board. It’s an attractive, cost-effective opportunity for most manufacturers since just about all carry a compact sedan in their lineup. Building a compact SUV off this same small-car platform makes good economic sense. Honda builds CR-V off the popular Civic underpinnings.
When Honda introduced the second-generation, Japan-built CR-V in 2002, the vehicle grew in girth to almost mid-size proportions. For the 2005 edition, minor interior and exterior tweaks are present and a new Special Edition (SE) trim level is added. All trim levels now feature five-speed automatic transmission standard (replacing four-speed automatic). The engine remains unchanged from the 2002 update.
Honda was the first Japanese automaker to build a product in the U.S. when a 1983 Honda Accord rolled off its Marysville, Ohio facility near the state capital of Columbus.
Trim level/Engine: Three CR-V trim levels are available: entry LX, EX and the new SE. The LX is available with the choice of two-wheel or real time four-wheel drive. Both EX and SE are four-wheel drive exclusive vehicles. All are powered by a 2.4-liter, double overhead cam four-cylinder engine delivering 160 horsepower. Regular 87-octane fuel is recommended for the 15.3-gallon fuel tank. Fuel mileage estimates for four-wheel-drive versions check in at 22 miles per gallon city and 27 m.p.g. highway. The front-wheel drive edition offers a mile or two better in both categories.
While five-speed automatic transmission is standard, the EX model does offer a five-speed manual for those interested.
Toyota’s RAV4 and its standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine delivers just about the same horses (161) while a four-cylinder Hyundai Tucson checks in with 140 horsepower.
Price: Honda supplied the Daily Herald with the all-new, well-equipped Special Edition model with a starting price $25,050. No options were added in so the bottom line ended up at $25,565 after factoring in the $515 destination charge.
The lowest-priced CR-V offering, a front-wheel drive LX edition, sneaks in just under $20,000 at $19,995; four-wheel drive versions list at $21,195. A manual-transmissioned EX checks in at $22,450 while a automatic version lists at $23,350. Prices are exclusive of the $515 destination fee.
Comparison wise, the lowest-priced RAV4, a front-wheel-drive, manual transmission entry-level version lists at $18,750 and the all-new Tucson starts at $17,499 with front-wheel drive and manual trans.
Equipment: The CR-V follows a developing trend in the industry of equipping lower-end vehicles with a nice array of standard equipment. All trim levels including base CR-V editions include: rear window defogger, dual power outside mirrors, cruise control, power windows, stereo with compact disc player, air conditioning, adjustable steering column and power locks.
The new luxury-appointed SE includes heated seats, heated door mirrors, leather seating and leather-wrapped steering wheel standard. Power moonroofs are part of SE and EX models.
Inside: Honda is one of the few manufacturers to place the automatic transmission gearshift on the dashboard just to the right of the instrument panel. This location opens up the area between the front bucket seats for a fold-up storage tray featuring molded cup holders. After a few tries, it’s easy to master the ‘move left, than up or down’ pattern needed to switch gears. The flat instrument panel template includes four circular, mostly analog gauges and a secondary, vertically arranged gearshift indicator. One suggestion would be to illuminate the position indicators on the dash better. At night it’s tough to see what gear the vehicle is in.
Headlights monitor from a left-side steering wheel stalk while both front and rear wipers activate from the right-side. Cruise control (where equipped) functions monitor from thumb buttons right of center at 4 o’clock in the inner steering wheel (although the on/off controls are on the dashboard’s far left side). Secondary audio controls ( standard in SE and EX editions) flank the left side at 8 o’clock.
The sound system is found on the top center of the dashboard. Down below are several pull-out storage areas and retracting beverage holder. Towards the bottom are three large dials monitoring ventilation functions.
Fuel and hood release levers are found in the foot-well area to the left side. Door map pocket areas are narrow and not as accomodating as other vehicles. Another button unlocking the rear hatch window is in this map pocket region. Honda incorporates many storage nooks and drawers. The sectioned region atop the glove box is usable for stowing small items.
Along the front of the arm rest are power window switches and power mirror controls. A power lock button is found near the small door handle. The mechanical parking brake is smartly designed right into the center dashboard. The horizontal handle serves as a left-side column flanking a storage area above the ventilation controls and below the stereo.
The spacious interior allows for more-than-enough headroom and excellent visibility in all directions minimizing blind spots. Second-row seatbacks sport a 60/40 split. Seatbacks fold flat onto the cushion, than seats tumble forward enhancing cargo room. This fold-and-tumble procedure can easily be accomplished using just one hand. With seats up, two adult riders travel in optimal comfort. Three would be pushing the envelope.
Probably the most unique aspect of the CR-V is the cargo floor, which removes from the vehicle. Since the floor includes fold out legs, it can be used as table outside of the vehicle when the situation presents itself.
Wheelbase: 103.3 inches
Overall length: 181 inches
Overall height: 66.2 inches
Overall width: 70.2 inches
Curb weight: 3,494 pounds
Towing capacity: 1,500 pounds
Outside: For 2005, Honda redesigned the grille, front lamp housing and front bumper. In back, CR-V retains the high-mounted brake and turning signal light design. These lights are mounted on each side of the hatchback glass. Unlike most rivals, the hatch door is hinged on the right, side, not the top, and opens from left to right. For quick trips into the cargo area, the glass opens independently from the door. Honda also continues mounting the standard-size tire on the hatch door, although it’s low enough not to interfere with rear-view mirror perception. This location makes room for the ‘picnic table’ feature.
During its first generation, CR-V stood taller than most compact sport utilities, and lacked a sporty look. The 2002 second-generation redesign offers more fashion statements.
All five door handles (including the cargo door) are strap-like and body colored.
Safety features: Honda gets high marks for including many popular safety features standard in CR-V. Front air bags come standard as well as driver and front passenger side air bags. Driver and front passenger side curtain airbags are also featured in all trim levels. In addition keyless remote entry, anti-lock brakes, child-proof rear door locks and vehicle stability assist with traction control come standard.
Warranty: Honda’s powertrain and limited warranty are not as long in duration as those from Hyundai, Kia, Mitsubishi, Chrysler Group or Suzuki. Both powertrain and limited warranties are covered for three years or 36,000 miles (whichever comes first). Corrosion coverage is for five years with no mileage restriction.
Final thoughts: As the competition grows in this smaller, car-based sport-ute segment, rivals are finding ways to steel some of CR-V’s thunder. Hyundai introduced the Tucson compact sport utility last year and Kia just redesigned the compact Sportage. Both South Korean-built vehicles offer V-6 engines as well as four-cylinder power. The CR-V is a four-cylinder exclusive model but does come with the choice of front or four-wheel drive.
Engine noise from CR-V’s four-cylinder powertrain is kept at a minimum inside the passenger compartment. This vehicle is not designed for towing, but it does handle quite well and provides a smooth on-pavement ride and experience.