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
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.
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.