The Daily Drivers | By Peter Couture and Lyra Solochek, Times staff

The Daily Drivers: Honda CR-V holding on to its good rep

When the Honda CR-V debuted in 1996 as a '97 model, the crossover was an instant hit as an alternative to large SUVs. Its reputation has been solid over the years. (Lyra had a '98 for 11 years.) After more than a decade of refinements, the third-generation CR-V is maintaining its tradition as a reliable, efficient and practical people-mover.

Appearance: Compared to its predecessors, the third-generation CR-V is a stunner. Lyra likes the way the triangular headlights and side windows line up into an elegant arch. The rear end features the signature CR-V vertical taillights that rise alongside the hatch. Peter thinks the design is pleasing — some might even say quirky — but nothing stunning. The lines are only slightly marred by the cladding on the lower side panels and under the bumpers.

Performance: The 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine is adequate for most driving conditions — city driving and family hauling — but Lyra wishes they'd offer a V-6, or a turbo (like its upscale sibling, the Acura RDX), for a bit more pickup on highways. We hardly felt any body lean on tight turns. Our tester was equipped with real-time all-wheel drive, which helped with ride stability and grip. The brakes were exceptional, even during a downpour, with the help of electronic brake distribution and brake assist. And again, the all-wheel drive helps.

Interior: As with most Hondas, the CR-V interior is a blend of quality materials (even the plastics) with functional layout and design. There's a solid feel to everything (go ahead, slam the doors). The CR-V, which seats five, has always been known for its spacious interior. There's plenty of head and legroom, which made Peter happy. The leather seats in the EX-L were plush and comfortable (that made the family happy). The rear seats tilt back for a more comfortable ride. Armrests are standard on both front seats. There's plenty of storage. A deep well in the console between the front seats is big enough for a small bag or camera gear. There are nooks built in under the dash for smaller objects. In the rear, the cargo shelf acts as a tonneau cover as well as a shelf for storage. Need to haul? No problem. The rear seats fold forward for a wide, flat space. Elsewhere, the dash console is intuitively designed with a large LCD touch screen for the navigation. One puzzler: The six-disc CD player stores its discs in a cartridge stored in the floor console, not in the dash players like most other cars.

Good news: Honda says it has boosted horsepower on the 2010 model (still a 4-cylinder) from 166 to 180 while improving fuel economy by 1 mpg. There also will be some cosmetic changes — mostly to the front grille and bumpers.

Our 3 favorites

Peter Couture

Seats: They are comfortable and offer plenty of support.

All-around feel: The CR-V feels planted on the road and solidly built.

Utility: Useful, but not large cargo space. Great crash-test ratings.

Lyra Solochek

Smart storage: Store your belongings under and on top of the cargo shelf. An optional cover can hide the top-shelf items.

Armrests: Passenger armrest is standard now.

Roomy design: There's lots of elbow, leg and head room.

The bottom line: The 2010 CR-V models should be hitting showrooms soon, and the minor tweaks promise to make an already great vehicle even better.







2009 Honda

CR-V EX-L

Price:$21,545 entry LX base, $30,455 as tested

Seats: Five

Powertrain: 2.4-liter 4-cylinder with 5-speed automatic and real-time all-wheel drive

Horsepower: 166hp (180hp for 2010 models)

Torque: 161 pound-feet

Curb weight: 3,549 pounds

Dimensions

in inches:

Wheelbase, 103.1

Length, 177.9

Width, 71.6

Towing capacity: 1,500 pounds

Fuel economy:

20 mpg city, 26 mpg highway (all-wheel drive). 21/27 for 2010 models

Fuel type: Regular unleaded

Safety features: Front and side air bags and curtains, active front head restraints, vehicle stability assist, rollover sensor, ABS.

Other trim

levels: LX and EX in 2WD and 4WD.

Options worth considering: Navigation with rearview camera, roof rack with various attachments, cargo cover.

Web site:

automobiles.honda.com/cr-v/

The Daily Drivers: Honda CR-V holding on to its good rep 10/09/09 [Last modified: Friday, October 9, 2009 5:30am]

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