2011 Honda CR-V Expert Review:Autoblog
The Honda CR-V charged into the breach back in 1996, showing traditional SUV buyers that a rapier could work as well as a broadsword. When gas prices turned the body-on-frame market topsy-turvy, might didn't necessarily equal right. The meek crossover inherited the Earth, or at least a lot of conquest sales from former SUV buyers. The CR-V lead this charge against traditional SUVs and following a complete makeover in 2007 it surged to the top of the sales charts. This supposedly weak little softroader stole the SUV sales crown from atop the Ford Explorer's head where it had sat untouched for 15 years from 1991 through 2006.
But the battlefield has changed and the 2010 Honda CR-V is facing formidable challengers on all sides. Most offer a V6 engine, having grown in size and power to resemble those mid-size SUVs they once displaced. Rather than bulk up the CR-V with an optional V6, Honda did what Honda does best and just made its four-cylinder better. The 2010 model is armed with 14 more horsepower and a long list of standard and optional equipment. So... is the CR-V this segment's once and future king or is time to crown another? Read on to find out.
Photos by Frank Filipponio / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.
All-new back in 2007, the 2010 updates include a redesigned front fascia with fresh horizontal chrome slats in the grille and a honeycomb insert cut into the bumper. It's not bad, except the severe underbite in that front fascia. Think Billy Bob Thornton in Slingblade, minus the homicidal urges. The hood has been re-contoured in the freshening process, although you probably would have missed it if we hadn't told you.
This newest CR-V still has the same Outback-aping lower cladding and controversially curved D-pillar in profile, but the rear bumper gets a bit of liposculpturing to differentiate it from the '09. It's not a bad look overall, but compared to the more straightforward shape of the previous generation, it's no Lancelot either.
Our "Polished Metal Metallic" (new for '10) EX-L also sported the new split five spoke (a.k.a. 10-spoke) 17-inch alloy wheels that you'll find on EX and EX-L models. They look great and although they don't quite fill out the wheel-wells, they do manage to keep this thing from looking too much like a hippo on roller skates.
Once praised for its tidy dimensions, the 2010 CR-V is larger than its forebears, but now finds itself in a class with vehicles like the Chevrolet Equinox that are up to eight inches longer, or ones offering (admittedly compromised) three-row seating like the Toyota RAV-4. Ironically, that means many of these compact CUVs are now just as big as the mid-size SUVs they dethroned. Prices have climbed too, and although this CR-V is competitive at its loaded sticker of $30,455, several of its rivals give you a V6 option for that money, which the CR-V does not.
Besides the aforementioned styling tweaks, the little-SUV-that-could gets a bit more equipment and a much-appreciated boost in power. The 2010 Honda CR-V EX-L w/Navi 4WD (an irksome mouthful) is the top-of-the-line model and comes ready for battle with a sunroof, Bluetooth, touch-screen navigation, TPMS, leather, back-up cam and automatic headlights – a first for the CR-V.
With all that kit, we can't help but think back to the scrappy little cute-ute of 1997 with its picnic table cargo floor and rear-mounted spare. My, how these CUVs have grown up. That MSRP, we might add, is the highest price you can pay for a CR-V. The base model starts at $21,545 and we're guessing most will sell in the mid-$20k range. So what do you get for all that gold? Step inside.
The interior of our EX-L tester was quite surprising. Had you sat us in it blindfolded, we might have guessed this was an Acura. The black leather, brushed aluminum accents and wide array of electronics are fit for royalty, its peasant roots only betrayed by the assortment of plastics in the cabin. We counted at least six different colors, textures and finishes on the dash and doors alone.
Questionable materials aside, the controls are all easy to reach, have a good feel and are logically placed. The steering wheel is nice and thick, with controls for just about everything at your thumb-tip, and a voice-command trigger that makes almost everything else accessible by the spoken word. The electronic "ears" in the Honda system did a great job of listening too, only flubbing our commands once or twice.
The circular door pull design and cornucopia of plastic are among our biggest quibbles, and we wonder how well the metal accents will hold up, but overall the interior is quite regal in this trim level. There's Bluetooth on models with the voice-command touchscreen navigation system and auto on/off headlights on the EX-L, and we also got a USB jack in the glovebox as part of the package.
Despite the Black Knight color scheme of our tester's interior, the environment inside isn't too claustrophobic, except when glancing over our shoulder to check traffic. We had a lengthy debate over the downwardly curving D-pillar and whether or not it really blocked anything important from our rear view. The previous generation's full glass worked just fine, so covering part of it for style's sake seems a bit foolish. Still, it's much better than the reverse upward kink popular among its rivals, which tend to block more of the road with their thicker bases. Overall, it just made us feel like somebody was sitting in back, even when the seats were empty.
Those seats, by the way, are wonderfully firm and supportive. The front thrones are a bit narrow, perhaps, but that's mainly because of their hip-holding bolsters. The 40/20/40 split rear bench is really slick, disappearing with a simple tug and flip act worthy of Merlin's wand. It's a big cargo hold, measuring 35.7 cubic feet even before you fold down the rear bench. Over a week's worth of use, we weren't able to find anything we needed to move that didn't easily fit in there.
Over a few hundred test miles, what stood out was the general lack of complaints we had with this little SUV. The stereo sounded great, the navigation system got us where we needed to go without hassle, the climate control system worked perfectly and calls using the Bluetooth system were clear. The back-up camera really came in handy when we almost ran over a tripod while positioning the CR-V for its photoshoot. We also got a kick out of the large flip-up LCD screen that hides the navigation DVD slot. Its "I'm not a serving tray" graphic when in the horizontal position is priceless.
From command central the view is clear to all corners once you make friends with those D-pillars. The gauges are straightforward analogs bracketing a small information screen that delivers fuel economy, doors ajar and outside temperature on a click-through rotation. The overhead console features a handy conversation mirror/eyeglass holder along with the reading lights and sunroof controls. That sunroof, by the way, did a fair job of letting in some fresh air while keeping buffeting to a minimum – even at full gallop – and gallop it does.
The CR-V's upgraded 2.4-liter DOHC i-VTEC four-cylinder has corralled 14 more horses since last year, with output now rated a more class-worthy 180 horsepower. It never felt lacking, and could even be described as "spritely" at times, especially when you dig your spurs in and the VTEC comes on. Fuel economy has improved to boot, with EPA city/highway going up one mile per gallon across the board. We saw an overall average of 24 mpg and better than 30 mpg on the highway, to the government's 21/27 prediction.
Around town, our grown-up softroader felt like a fortress on wheels. The body was incredibly solid, almost Mercedes-like. While it's a reasonably able handler, there's definitely a bit of body roll to go along with its somewhat harsh ride. The stiff suspension does keep body movements from getting too far out of hand though, so it more than compensated for the extra vibrations in our backsides.
While the 2010 power boost is much appreciated, this CR-V is definitely not as fast as a RAV-4 or Equinox. But what the 2.4-liter four lacks in grunt it makes up for in smoothness and offers more than enough power in most situations. Combined with the sure-footed handling the on-road performance of this CR-V didn't give us much to complain about. The engine even made a nice growl when given the spurs, easily getting up to highway speeds and smoothly summoning velocity for passing at will. If more competitors start dropping their V6 options like the 2011 Hyundai Tucson did, this Honda might find itself right in the sweet-spot once again.
Not only was acceleration was good, but scrubbing off speed wasn't a problem either. The binders felt strong, although there was an initial half-inch or so of travel in the pedal before they started to bite. After that there was a nicely proportional feel to the system. It was the same with the steering, with a degree or two of play before the chunky 225/65R17 Bridgestone Dueller H/L 400 tires heeded our commands. Those tires contributed to the noticeable road noise at freeway speeds, but the CR-V's cabin isn't any louder than its competitors.
Times have certainly changed in the SUV world. The body-on-frame dinosaurs that once ruled these lands have been supplanted by CUVs that offer almost as much room and similar performance. Our admittedly loaded 2010 Honda CR-V EX-L w/Navi 4WD was priced at a healthy $30,455, but offered more amenities than most shoppers will need. As we mentioned, the one thing noticeably lacking from the Honda's spec sheet is a V6. While the competition has been making a big deal of offering a half-dozen firing chambers, we quickly realized that this CUV doesn't really need more than a four-cylinder in the engine room.
The CR-V's numbers, however, don't make it a standout on paper. It's a jack-of-all-trades but master of none, and although that might seem like a deterrent in such a competitive field, its mid-pack horsepower rating, length, width, height, wheelbase and curb weight belie the CR-V's appeal. It has more room inside than you'd expect and a long list of standard and optional features that help set it apart from other suitors.
Make no mistake though, the 2010 Honda CR-V is no Prince Charming. It has a somewhat choppy ride, loud cabin and looks that would make any princess seek a different frog to kiss. But we'd still put it on our short list if we were shopping in this class. Although it's not a champion in any test of mettle, it does a yeoman's job on any everyday task. The CR-V may have bumped the Explorer from its throne and held the sales title for three years running, but it needs to keep its sword sharp to retain that crown. The extra power, equipment and refinement of the 2010 model should keep it near the top a bit longer.
Photos by Frank Filipponio / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.
New Car Test Drive
Fresh new looks, with better power, better economy.
The Honda CR-V is among the best of the compact SUVs and it's hugely popular.
For 2010, Honda CR-V boasts significant changes. The 2010 Honda CR-V has been re-styled, with a look that's smoother and more confident. Inside are new fabrics, new controls, and more standard conveniences.
Some of the changes are less obvious: The 2010 CR-V four-cylinder engine is 8 percent more powerful and 4 percent more fuel-efficient than previously. The CR-V two-wheel-drive models rate 21/28 mpg in the federal government's EPA City/Highway cycles, with all-wheel-drive versions giving up just 1 mpg on the highway.
We've found the CR-V offers a smooth ride and responsive handling. The four-cylinder engine employs variable intake valve timing to optimize horsepower and torque for acceleration and cruising speeds, and it's paired with a five-speed automatic transmission.
The CR-V features one of the nicest cargo compartments in this class. The back seats fold perfectly flat and without the holes that can be hazardous to dogs. Built on a unit-body structure, the CR-V is considered a crossover. All have four doors and seat five.
Buyers choose from three models: the basic LX; mid-range EX; or leather-upholstered EX-L. Real Time 4WD is offered on all three models.
All 2010 Honda CR-V models come with a 180-hp four-cylinder engine and a five-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, and four-wheel drive is available for all models ($1250).
The CR-V LX ($21,545) comes with fabric upholstery, air conditioning, cruise control, powered outside mirrors that fold, power windows, power central locking, driver's-seat height adjustment, 60/40-split rear seat that reclines and folds, tilt-and-telescope steering wheel, four-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA stereo with auxiliary input jack, trip computer/information center, a collapsible tray between the front seats, intermittent rear window wiper/washer, and 17-inch steel wheels with P225/65R17 tires.
The EX ($23,845) adds a tilt-and-slide power moonroof; steering wheel-mounted audio controls for a six-speaker stereo with an in-dash, six-CD changer; variable intermittent wipers up front; dual-deck cargo shelf; a lights-and-horn security system; rear privacy glass; outside ambient temperature gauge; and compass
The EX-L ($26,495) features leather-trimmed seats, armrests, shifter, and steering wheel; heated front seats; heated side mirrors; XM satellite radio with a 90-day trial subscription; front center console with storage for 24 CDs (replacing the collapsible tray); dual-zone automatic climate control; eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat plus power lumbar support; and a 270-watt, seven-speaker (including subwoofer) premium audio system. New for 2010 are a USB audio interface for the stereo, and automatic (on/off) headlights. The EX-L can be equipped with voice-recognition GPS-based navigation, a rearview camera, and Bluetooth ($28,495); the CD changer moves into what was the CD storage space in the console.
Honda-approved accessories available from dealers include wheel locks; attachments/racks for bicycles, kayak, skis, and surfboard; a roof box; auto-dim inside mirror; amplified bass speaker system; and backup sensors.
Safety features that come standard include the required three-point seatbelts at all five seating positions; child safety seat anchors (LATCH); front airbags; front seat-mounted side airbags (to minimize upper body injuries in side impacts); roof-mounted, front and rear-seat side-curtain airbags (to minimize head injuries in side impacts and rollovers); and front-seat active head restraints (to minimize neck injuries in rear impacts). For crash avoidance there are antilock brakes (which let the driver steer during panic stops); electronic brake-force distribution (which optimizes braking power front-to-rear during emergency stops); brake assist (which senses impending emergency brake application and boosts pedal pressure); Vehicle Stability Assist (Honda's electronic stability control system that attempts to minimize skidding in turns); and tire pressure monitors (which warn of dangerous drops in tire pressure).
The Honda CR-V presents a new face for 2010. The individual changes are all subtle, but they add up visually. Starting from the top and working down, the cut-line between the hood and grille has been moved up to where it's level with the top of the grille opening, rather than reaching down around the opening as before. The upper grille itself has been simplified: The centered Honda H-logo remains, but it's now supported by a single, slim chrome blade, in place of last year's heavy-looking chrome double bar. The lower grille has surrendered its horizontal slats in favor of a black honeycomb texture. A piece of bright trim helps define its lower boundary on EX and EX-L models.
Below that, the dark-plastic ersatz skid plate remains, but it's been dialed back considerably, leaving room for an actual body-color bumper beneath the lower grille. The new bumper is very angular in contour which, if anything, further emphasizes the CR-V's trademark jut-jaw expression. (It also adds about an inch and half to the CR-V's overall length.) Fog lights (available as a dealer-installed accessory) are now tunneled into the body-color portion of the bumper, rather than into the pseudo-skid plate.
The same theme echoes around back, where Honda has similarly re-shaped the bumper so that the red reflectors now reside in a thin, body-colored lip above the retreating black cladding.
We like the new look of the 2010 CR-V, particularly the front, which strikes us as cleaner, more integrated, and more car-like. Funny how the same treatment seems to make the back of the CR-V fussier, albeit only a little. But more than any of the body changes we like the CR-V's new alloy wheels: With their five elegantly slim double spokes, they make the old seven-spoke wheels look downright dowdy by comparison.
If nothing else, the new front end does an even better job of pulling the CR-V's visual mass downwards, reducing its perceived height. Unchanged are the large, sharply angled headlight housings that crowd the upper grille and blend down into the lower air intake. Stout fender flares stretch out to wrap tightly around the tires, giving the new CR-V a sturdy, planted stance.
The side aspect, unchanged except for the new wheels, shows most clearly the CR-V's departure from the more common boxy, mini-SUV look. Starting from the gently rounded hood, the relatively fast windshield flows into a roofline that drops ever so slightly as it passes over the sharply tapered glasshouse, ending at the tailgate's top edge, which itself is pulled forward to a point almost directly above the rear wheel well. A strong character line runs from the top of the front wheel well back beneath the full-round door handles to bifurcate the side marker lens of the rear taillight. To us, it looks a little like the Mercedes-Benz R-Class in the overall outline.
Above the new rear bumper, the CR-V's hindquarters still present more of the classic SUV look, with a trapezoidal backlight bookended by the trademark CR-V high taillights and atop a fairly tall and relatively broad, high-relief tailgate panel. The oversize license plate recess will accommodate almost any country's registration telltale.
The interior of the Honda CR-V focuses on function, with a bit of style tossed in to make things interesting. Everything is in its place for the most part, and everything feels the way it should. Quality of materials and fit and finish overall live up to Honda's standards.
For 2010, seat fabrics are new, and there's more bright trim for a cheerier atmosphere without overdoing it. Conversely, models with ivory upholstery now come with a darker-colored (read: dirt hiding) carpet. We particularly like Honda's subtle re-take of the CR-V's big, upright interior door handles: The upper attachment point now looks like a miniature of the lower one, and in between is a rubberized grip. The center folding armrests are now wider, too.
For 2010, the audio panel features a dual-tone gray/black color scheme with blue backlighting; and the premium stereo gets a USB interface. The multi-information display now appears against a blue background as well, matching the radio. Display functions now include a compass on non-navigation models; with navigation, Bluetooth status is displayed.
Otherwise the dashboard and instrument cluster remain classic Honda, as in, friendly to eye and hand, with the only mildly discordant note the placement of the shift lever, sprouting from a pod suspended from the center of the dash. While neither as ergonomic as a floor-mounted lever nor as natural, in an archaic sort of way, as one mounted on the steering column, it is consistent with the emphasis on flexibility in the front seat area. In the LX and EX, the space between the front seats that might otherwise host a console and floor-mounted shift lever is dedicated to a unique, multi-use tray that when not needed folds down against the side of the passenger seat, opening a walk-through access to the rear seat. The EX-L gets a more traditional, fixed center console, with cup holders and storage space for up to 24 CDs. Some of this storage space is lost on EX-L models with navigation, where the console must house the CD changer as well. As if in compensation, a digital audio-card reader is still exclusive to the navigation model.
The front seats seem a little short on thigh support. But to the limited extent the CR-V lends itself to sporty driving, the seatback side bolsters do an adequate job of keeping occupants' upper bodies in place. Not so the seat-bottom bolsters, shaped more for ease of entry and exit than for restraining posteriors. There is, however, a welcome dead pedal against which drivers may brace a left leg as necessary and appropriate.
The rear seat is more moderately contoured, the better to allow it to fold and pivot forward against the backs of the front seats. The seat bottom splits 60/40, with the shorter piece on the left side; the seat backs, however, divide 40/20/40, into three sections, meaning you can fold the right or left side, the center section or any combination of the three. It's a nice touch.
Most drivers will find the standard height-adjustable adjustable seat and two-way adjustable steering give them the best of all worlds: a comfortable posture without compromising outward visibility. A low cowl keeps the edges of the hood in view. Rearward vision, however, sets no new standard and suffers from the stylishly shaped C-pillars.
The rearview video camera that comes with the optional navigation system helps and is an added safety feature because it can help the driver spot children behind the vehicle.
Audio and climate controls on the LX and EX border on retro in their simplicity and arrangement. Large, rotary knobs control the functions that vary by degrees. Buttons are used for on/off or simple selections. However, when in Park, the shift lever obstructs buttons for air conditioning functions and mirror heaters. And by operational necessity, the optional navigation system layers audio and map display controls.
Comparing cargo space, the new CR-V ranks in the top half, regardless of the competitor's seating capacity. It also features one of the nicest cargo compartments, flat and without the holes that can be hazardous to big dogs.
However, the CR-V does not offer a third-row seat, as does the Toyota RAV4 and other competitors, which expand seating to seven or even eight people. The CR-V settles for seating for five.
Incidental storage is routine. All four doors have fixed map pockets with molded-in beverage can separators. Both the foldable tray and fixed center console boast two cup holders. The centerpiece below the shift pod holds a couple of bins. And (something that's becoming increasingly popular) a bi-level glove box fills the middle and lower sections of the passenger-side dash.
Driving the Honda CR-V is pleasant. The CR-V's four-cylinder engine delivers competitive power, especially now that it's been fortified with higher compression, larger intake valves, lower-friction piston rings, and fuel injectors that deliver a finer spray. These and other refinements have boosted peak horsepower from last year's 166 at 5800 rpm to 180 at 6800. Peak torque remains virtually unchanged: the same 161 pounds-feet at a marginally higher 4400 rpm. But fuel economy is actually improved, if only slightly.
Sure, more power is available from V6 engines in other compact SUVs, such as that in the rocket-like Toyota RAV4, as well as from the turbocharged Mazda CX-7, but Honda CR-V performance is more than adequate. The V6s pay a price in fuel economy, but not as much as you might think: Against the 2WD CR-V's EPA-estimated 21/28 mpg, the V6-powered 2WD RAV4 manages 19/27.
Honda's five-speed automatic transmission is a good match for the CR-V four-cylinder engine. It's not best in class but well above average in smoothness of shifts, in controlling hunting for the right gear when climbing grades, and in holding a lower gear when helpful on downgrades.
Honda's Real Time 4WD is a car-style all-wheel-drive system, not a true off-highway truck-type four-wheel drive, as it incorporates no lockable transfer case or ultra-low, off-road gearing. We found it works seamlessly, invisibly allocating power to the tires slipping the least, although always favoring the front wheels by default. The optional Real Time 4WD is a great asset for driving in foul weather, snow and ice.
The Vehicle Stability Assist also helps drivers maintain control in emergency maneuvers or in bad weather. VSA, which comes standard, includes traction control. Coupled with four-wheel disc brakes (vented in front and solid in the rear), ABS, brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution, the standard CR-V is prepared well for rain.
The CR-V handles well, with relatively little body lean in cornering. There's also relatively little head toss over rough and uneven pavement, helping to keep your passengers comfortable. Traversing aged railroad crossings at mildly elevated speeds produced no threatening sounds or gyrations. We found the steering a bit over-assisted for our taste. It seems like it could be backed off a notch or two, closer to that of the RAV4, which might improve directional stability and lessen the need for minor corrections in corners and long sweepers. The power assist makes steering into tight parking spots, however.
We found noise levels minimal. The EX-L version did the best job of insulating occupants from outside irritants. Sounds from under the hood, although low key, left no doubt the engine is a fairly big four-cylinder. Moderate wind whistle leaked into the cabin from the outside mirrors and around the A-pillars. Tire noise correlated with pavement type and conditions.
The Honda CR-V is probably the best vehicle in this class. Its interior is packaged the best, with seats that fold down to provide a completely flat cargo area. Small refinements for 2010 make the interior a bit more user-friendly, and styling revisions freshen its looks.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Tom Lankard filed this report from Vancouver, British Columbia, after his test drive of the CR-V. John F. Katz supplied commentary on the 2010 facelift.
Honda CR-V LX 2WD ($21,545); LX 4WD ($22,795); EX 2WD ($23,845); EX 4WD ($25,095); EX-L 2WD ($26,495); EX-L 4WD ($27,745); EX-L 2WD NAV ($28,495); EX-L 4WD NAV ($29,745).
Options As Tested
Honda CR-V EX 2WD ($23,845).
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