The Honda CR-V may be the perfect vehicle. In the CR-V, you get a prime daily commuter, a weekend camping companion, a roomy shuttle for the kids and a relaxing place to escape the rigors of city life. The CR-V has the tall ride height and ground clearance of a small SUV, sips fuel like a midsize car and exhibits a ride that rivals the best sedans in Honda's fleet. Couple these traits with the CR-V's exemplary safety record and optional four-wheel drive and you have one vehicle that can take the place of five.
The CR-V is an easy choice to make and live with. Its styling is reserved yet classic in its design, with an attention to detail that goes well beyond its $20K asking price. To understand what we mean, just look at how tightly the headlamp and taillight assemblies are fitted to the CR-V's body. The machining process is so exact that, other than the obvious color difference, it's difficult to ascertain where steel ends and plastic begins.
Honda has wisely chosen to surrounded the CR-V with thick black bumpers and side molding that won't scratch when bumped by the occasional free-range shopping cart or cell-phone distracted driver. Again, their integration with the CR-V sheetmetal is practically seamless.
Honda offers the CR-V in three variations: LX, LX 4WD and EX 4WD. The base LX is powered by its front wheels, a set up that provides superior traction in snow and rain. The 4WD (four-wheel drive) set up adds a viscous-coupling differential that has the ability to sense when the front wheels are slipping and temporarily routes power to the rear wheels until traction is regained. This system works well on snow or mud-covered roads, but it lacks the true off-road ability of a conventional high/low two-speed transfer case and is not recommended for serious off-roading.
Climb inside the CR-V and discover an open, airy cabin with plentiful head, hip and legroom both front and rear. You'll love the way the CR-V places you up high with a commanding view over lesser vehicles. The seating is simple without fault and the well-designed dash places all controls within easy reach and view of the driver. On CR-V's equipped with the optional automatic transmission, the dash-mounted gear selector may look odd to American eyes, but it is actually preferably to most column-mounted shifters because it does not block or interfere with the radio or HVAC controls. You'll also love the cool flip-up side table with integrated cup holders that reside between the front seats. When not in use, it stows conveniently alongside the driver seat, creating an open path between the front and rear seats.
Rear-seat passengers do not take a backseat to comfort. They are treated to low flat floor, fully retracting rear windows and seatbacks that can be partially reclined for a more comfortable stay. The rear seats also move fore and aft, allowing you to maximize either rear-seat legroom or storage space behind the seat. When not occupied, you can fold and tumble the CR-V's split-rear seats flat to create a spacious 72-cubic foot cargo hold. Access is made easy via the tall rear hatch or through the glass lift gate. There is so much space inside the CR-V that you can actually load in two full-size mountain bikes and still close the hatch.
As brightly as the CR-V shines on the showroom floor, it becomes practically iridescent once you get it on the road. The 160-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder certainly behaves like a small V6. It is smooth beyond measure with excellent low-end torque that pulls hard off the line and is in full force by 3600 rpm. The CR-V's standard five-speed manual glides through its gears as smoothly as a puck over new ice and is really the best way to make the most of the engine's power. If you're not a fan of manual transmissions, you can opt for an all-new four-speed automatic. You'll never feel the CR-V hunting around for the right gear thanks to the preprogrammed shift logic that tells the transmission to hold off upshifting while under load or climbing steep grades. Equally as amazing as its performance is the fact that the CR-V earns an EPA fuel rating of 22-mpg city and 26-mpg highway and still qualifies as a low-emissions vehicle.
Though the LX is technically the base model, you'll find it is extremely well equipped. Standard features include dual side mirrors, front and rear intermittent wipers, air conditioning, cruise control, AM/FM/CD with cassette, anti-theft system with engine immobilizer, power door locks and power windows with one touch up/down driver's window. The EX adds even more to mix with a power glass moonroof, rear privacy glass, side-impact airbags (optional on the LX) and a six-disc CD changer with six speakers.