2010 Honda CR-V
The Honda CR-V debuted in 1997 as one of the original crossover vehicles, combining carlike agility with cargo versatility. It's been a hit since then, and the 2010 model has key changes to keep it competitive in an increasingly crowded market.
Major rivals include the Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester, Suzuki Grand Vitara and the CR-V's original prime rival, the Toyota RAV4.
The CR-V never won beauty contests but the 2010 version is more attractive. It has a freshened front fascia with a new grille and bumper design and a resculpted hood. There's also a new rear bumper shape, and a 10-spoke alloy wheel design replaces the previous 7-spoke alloy wheel design on higher-line EX and EX-L trim levels.
Improvements to the attractive interior include modifications to radio functionality and control layout, although radio and climate controls still are mostly small. There's also an upgraded door handle design with a rubberized grip handle and revised trim panel sections for the steering wheel, gear selector, upper glove box and center console.
A Bluetooth hands-free link now is included on models with the available satellite navigation system, which takes time to master, and automatic on/off headlights have been added to the EX-L. Front seats have wider center armrests on all versions, but the fold-down rear armrest, which contains cupholders, seems cheap and sits at an awkward angle when lowered.
That armrest covers the center of the rear seat, which is too stiff for comfort-essentially making the CR-V a four-passenger vehicle. Tall front and rear occupants have plenty of room, but narrow doorways can make getting in and out of the rear difficult.
Gauges can be quickly read, and front seats offer good support during quick maneuvers. The automatic transmission shifter juts from the dashboard to the right of the steering wheel, allowing a narrow passageway to the back seat.
The 179.3-inch-long CR-V is nicely sized for easy maneuvering in traffic and tight spots, and the ride is supple, thanks partly to an independent rear suspension. The variable-assist power rack-and-pinion steering is nicely geared for fast moves, and the brake pedal has a linear action for smooth stops. Electronic brake distribution and brake-assist features help shorten emergency stopping distances.
The CR-V comes with front- or all-wheel drive (AWD), which shoots power to the rear wheels for enhanced traction on slippery surfaces. The entry LX front-drive version costs $21,545, with the AWD LX at $22,795. The mid-range EX goes from $23,845 to $25,095. And the top-line EX-L is priced from $26,495 to $29,745. The top price is for the EX-L with AWD and the navigation system.
All versions are well-equipped. Standard in the quieter interior are air conditioning, keyless entry, tilt/telescopic steering column, cruise control, a four-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system and power windows, door and tailgate locks.
The EX adds a power moonroof with a tilt feature, chrome grille, rear privacy glass, security system, steering-wheel audio controls, dual-deck cargo shelf (which got in the way most of the time), in-dash CD changer, six speakers and new vanity mirror lights.
The top dog EX-L adds leather trimmed seats and armrest, heated front seats, body colored side mirrors and door handles, USB audio interface and an upscale sound system. The satellite navigation system includes a rearview camera.
A sliding 60/40 split second-row seat with a 40/20/40 folding seatback slides forward to increase cargo space, folds forward to accommodate long objects--or folds and tumbles forward to create a large, flat cargo area. That area has a low, wide opening, and there's plenty of cargo room, even with rear seatbacks in an upright position.
Safety features for all include front side air bags, side-curtain air bags with a rollover sensor, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control and vehicle stability assist. Unit body construction uses much high-strength steel to save weight and create a high-rigidity body structure, which contributes to the CR-V's ride, fuel efficiency and safety.
All CR-V versions have a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 180 horsepower. That's a significant 14-horsepower increase from the 2009 model, although torque remains the same at 161 pound-feet. The engine needs high revs to deliver the best performance, but is generally smooth and reasonably quiet.
Honda is an engine whiz, and the CR-V four-cylinder is ultrasophisticated, with its dual overhead camshafts, 16 valves and cleverly engineered variable valve timing. Its compression ratio has been raised to 10.5:1 from 9.7:1, and there are fuel injectors with a finer spray pattern, larger intake valves, spark plugs with extended electrodes, friction-reducing piston rings, higher-precision timing sensor and a higher flow-rate exhaust system.
Despite the added power, estimated fuel economy increases to 21 mpg in the city and 28 on highways with front-drive versions and 21 and 27 with AWD trim levels-for an increase of 1 mpg in both city and highway driving for all trim levels. Only regular-grade fuel is needed.
Accleration is lively, but a smoother V-6 with added punch should be optional, although it would lower fuel economy. The four-cylinder works with a smooth, responsive five-speed automatic transmission, which has grade logic control to help reduce gear "hunting" on hilly roads.
A manual transmission would allow more driving fun, but isn't offered. However, it's doubtful that many CR-V buyers would opt for a manual because most such buyers don't consider this Honda to be a sporty vehicle.
The CR-V has a respected nameplate and remains a strong contender, with a good blend of performance and comfort, convenience and safety features.